I'm a huge fan of wine tasting and the Virginia vineyard scene. What I am NOT such a huge fan of is the hour drive to get to most of our local vineyards (if you live inside the Beltway) and the hour drive home.
The newly opened District Winery makes a phenomenal tasting and dinner just a Lyft away.
D.C.'s first winery opened over Labor Day weekend at its beautiful Navy Yard location and you can bet I was one of the first through its doors. When we arrived on the Saturday before Labor Day, there was already an hour wait for tastings of its Brooklyn-made wines. Its incredible location in the heart of the Navy Yard made that effortless -- we strolled the boardwalk and then got a rosé cocktail at Whaley’s just across the plaza while we waited.
District Winery is the second winery opened by co-owners Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who opened the Brooklyn Winery in 2010 with head winemaker Conor McCormack. On the day we visited, Brian Leventhal was greeting guests, shaking hands, and sweeping up a dropped wineglass. When we stopped to compliment him on the awesomeness of the place, he invited us back to the winery, where Conor McCormack was punching down Pinot Noir. For now, D.C. guests will be enjoying the wines produced from California and Finger Lakes grapes in the Brooklyn winery. But soon, we'll be quaffing wine made right here in the District.
Tasting is a loud but low-pressure experience. The two-story glass walls -- offering views of the Anacostia, the boardwalk and the pretty plaza -- made it a little hard to hear our tasting room host talk about the wines. It fortunately did not affect the flavor. The wines, ranging from a Finger Lakes Reisling to a Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, were delicious and effortlessly drinkable in a way you can’t always guarantee in some further-away Virginia wineries where sometimes the focus seems to be more on the tourism experience than the quality of the wines. The District Winery definitely led with quality first. Two particular favorites were the Suison Valley, CA Pinot Reserve and the Malbec, also from Suison Valley, CA . The skin-contact Chardonnay was also really unique, with a glowy, honey-orange color.
We returned two weeks later to try the restaurant, Ana at District Winery, and -- I'm not kidding -- when you eat there, you will think I buried the lead. Ana offers seasonal American fare that compliments the District Winery wines -- and it's fricking delicious. We started with the Heirloom Tomatoes and the Crab Beignets, which actually complimented each other really well, and we fought over who got to wipe up the beignets' romesco sauce with the last bit of whatever. The tomatoes were served with a goat cheese spread between triangles of sourdough; they were like fancy grilled-cheese sandwiches. My husband got the buttery Amish Chicken -- he always hates it when I out him for ordering the chicken -- but I definitely won with the Pan Roasted Atlantic Cod. The skin-crisped fish was served in a bowl with an outstanding dashi at the bottom and two chanterelle ravioli. The filling of the ravioli was sweet and creamy and a perfect compliment for the salty broth and fish. I got obnoxious with my yummy sounds.
The glass windows don't seem to create the same noise issues in the dining room -- hubby and I had no problem hearing each other and we had a fabulous view of the lit-up South Capital Street bridge and the riverwalk along the Anacostia River. Pedestrians outside stopped to take in the painted portraits of American presidents lined up on the dining room wall -- painted by a Brooklyn Winery bartender, they literally supplied 30 minutes of conversation for us and also sparked chatter with the next table -- and its fun to look at the people passing by while they look at you while you look at them...
I forgot to mention -- when we entered the dining room that night, co-owner Brian Leventhal was also there, holding the door for us and shaking the hands of entering dinner guests. One thing I've always enjoyed about Virginia wine tasting is the welcoming atmosphere. District Winery is making sure you get that same experience in the bustle of D.C.
Tasting Bar Hours: There is a substantial wait on the weekends. Come prepared to stroll...
- Mon to Thurs, 1pm - 9pm
- Fri to Sat, 12pm - 11pm
- Sun, 12pm - 9pm
Ana at District Winery:
- Mon to Thurs, 5pm - 10pm
- Fri to Sat, 5pm - 11pm
- Sun, 5pm - 9pm
Want to discover more fun to-dos in the Navy Yard? Check out my blog An Awesome Anacostia Riverwalk Walk.