Image: Venetian Interior/Wine Shop – John Singer Sargent (1903)
Experts will tell you that a key to getting into wine and enjoying wine is to find a good wine shop. We agree. Price, selection, and knowledgeable staff are keys to a good wine shop. Convenience is also a key. Enthusiasm for the product can make it great. Most of us swing by someplace to get wine, rather than trekking to stock up by the case, which is why finding a local spot is important.
Here is a list of good shops the help you find a few good bottles in various neighborhoods. The list goes roughly from west to east. If you have a favorite shop you’d like to add, let us know.
MacArthur Beverages – Located in the Palisades. A huge selection across all regions. Very knowledgeable staff. Probably the best shop in D.C.
Glover Park/Georgetown: Three recommendations here:
Bacchus Wine Cellar (High End) – Step in and then slightly down to this cute shop in the north end of Georgetown. Bacchus is serving the high end of the market, though there are some unique and interesting bottles under $30. It has a ridiculous selection of grail wines that may lead you to believe they misplaced a decimal. Knowledgeable staff can help guide you.
Pearson’s (Mid-Range) – It is a local mainstay with a solid inventory of $20-$40 bottles. They can go under $20, but it is not their strength. They are weak in certain regions like Italy and the liquor selection is limited. The staff and owner are engaging.
Social Safeway (Bargain, Entry-level) – This is one of the nicer surprises in D.C. There is probably not staff to help but go to town with the volume discount. Large selection of under $20 spread across three!!! aisles, plus beer and a special climate controlled room for nicer bottles. This advice might be helpful.
Honorable Mention: Wide World of Wines is a small storefront that opens to a larger shop. Selection is somewhat idiosyncratic, or as they say on their site, a “boutique wine merchant.” They do well on France and some West Coast. Italy is weaker and Germany is missing. Stop in and you might find something interesting.
Ace Beverage – The inconspicuous store in the business park has been doing great work for years. Good selection, knowledgeable staff, decent prices.
Magruder’s – The surprisingly large selection serving those before within vicinity of the circle and probably some in the wine wasteland of Maryland.
Calvert Woodley – The beast of booze in D.C. Very strong on California and France and not too bad on German. Even better on distilled. PoPville polled readers for the best “liquor store” with the result that Calvert Woodley triumphed – although he did not really give them another option.
Weygandt Wines – They are limited by those wines that they get direct, but it is still a great and pretty large selection of Old World wines. Honorable Mention: Cleveland Park Wine & Spirits – they have a decent, varied selection and recently have gotten help from a noted D.C. wine figure.
Connecticut Ave Wine and Liquor (Bobby’s) – This little shop plastered on the outside with promo material looks inconspicuous. Inside, there is a dense selection – eyeballing it I’d say in a fifth the space of Pearson’s they carry a broader selection and cover all price points. The owner knows his stock and is helpful.
14th Street: Two suggested places:
Market at Cork – The shop inside the café, inside the restaurant. They carry a very thoughtful, but not large, inventory of Old World wines, with no duds on the shelves.
Cork & Fork – Their selection is broader than Cork (but not huge). Good service and passionate owners. Ironically, Cork and Fork does not serve food, but Cork does.
Grand Cata – The shop focuses on wine from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, but have a few from outside that region. The owner is passionate and smart. Even with its narrower focus, you will still likely do better here than a generic liquor store.
Domestique – The wine is natural, the staff is enthusiastic, selection is focused. Their sweet spot is $20-45.
Schneider’s – A stalwart of D.C. for years. They can handle bulk and single bottles of just about anything. Particularly strong on California and France.
NE/H Street/Union Market:
Cordial – The little spot inside Union Market has built a loyal following. It focuses on small producers with a representative showing from many different countries and locales. It is not a huge selection, but it does cover a lot of ground. The staff, as you would expect, is knowledgeable and dedicated. It might cost a couple dollars more than you are prepared for (though there are some bargain gems), but you will also find something interesting. Craft beer and spirits also available.
A. Litteri – Located in a shop south of the main hall, this Italian deli has a surprisingly robust wine selection. No surprise that they do really well on Italian. But they also carry choices from other regions. It is not comprehensive, but it is pretty solid. The guy who ran the wine program recently took over the whole shop. Large format olive oil also available.
DCanter – Of the two, this is the spiffiest. A boutique wine store with a large room to host classes and tasting. They focus on small producers and organic wines – though not exclusively. The staff is passionate and knows the selection well. There is a separate section just for sub-$15 bottles. So if you are looking for something special, or to bring to something to a party, or to get into wine yourself, this is a great place to start.
Chat’s – This is a deceptively good store. It looks like a beat-up liquor store from the outside, but the selection and staff are excellent. There are unique bottles, fancy bottles, and bargains too.
Wardman Wines – This spot covers a lot of ground. It is a bright open space located near the Brookland-CUA metro stop. The selection is deep in some regions, but also does well covering the full gamut. The staff is serious and smart. They carry beer and spirits too.