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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Tasting Room Wine Bar

Plaudits: None
Friendship Heights

The Setup

Invited to a free tasting, I dragged Official Friend of DCWD HR Intern along with me. But given the nature of the event and the Tasting Room itself, this is going to be a little bit different of a review. The food was catered by M Cafe, and so this one will focus more on the vibe.

The Vibe

The Tasting Room is actually a branch of the Boxwood Winery and is one of three Tasting Rooms, the others in Reston and at the vineyard in Middleburg. The setup of this one is a little more modern than the others but all are fairly similar variations of the same concept. A concept that both me and HR Intern loved.

Sitting in the back of a shopping plaza in Friendship Heights, I probably would have never seen the Tasting Room despite it being an area of town I visit fairly frequently. It's a small modern place in tones of dark blue-grey, silver, and black lit by full-pane windows and hanging white cylinder lanterns. Seating is pretty abundant despite the small size of the dining room: four round tables out front on the patio to about seven two- and four-tops inside plus counter seating at the marble-top bar and along the left side of the dining area.

But the real key that makes this place lovable and date-friendly is the method that you get your wine. Unlike other wine bars, there is no gatekeeper sommelier as the divider between you and the booze. Instead the wines are all laid out in front of you and accessible by way of two very fancy Italian machines. The Tasting Room is very much like Vapiano, but reverse; each user is given a smart card that instead of tracking money can have money put on it like a laundry card. You stick the card into one of two machines (one white/rose and one red), pick from any of ten or so bottles and then a serving size (1 oz, 3oz, 5oz), and out the wine comes.

While a line can quickly form, it definitely beats the normal system of trying to flag your server down to get a new glass of wine. It also removes some of the class and knowledge divide of the sommelier, putting the whole thing within arm's reach. Plus the 1oz size, which I drank all night, means you never have to worry about making a mistake with a wine. If you don't like it, you've only bought yourself a small portion anyway. And with the relatively cheap prices for the samples, it's an instant conversation starter as you go through a whole bevy of interesting and carefully chosen wines.

The Food

Normally this is where we'd talk about the food, but here's the thing: The Tasting Room actually doesn't really have a kitchen. What cheese, hummus, and fruit they do serve is picked up from Whole Foods (which isn't the worst thing) and the event was catered by M Cafe. So this might be the first place I have to give a N/A for the food rating. We did have some fairly good wine there, (see: 2006 Brooks Riesling, 2008 Los Ailos Syrah/Malbec, 2008 Neudorf Pinot Noir). But here's some light food porn anyway.

Jumbo lump crab meat, English cucumbers, Manila mango in Parmesan crisp roll

Ahi tuna tartare, Hass avocado, toasted sesame seeds, Meyer lemon on toasted brioche

Spicy lamb sausages

Braised duck confit sliders with Mission figs and aged balsamic syrup

The Verdict

I love the concept and I love the place for a date, especially for a oenophile.

Food Rating: N/A

Date Rating:
5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Quiet Drinks to Classy Crowd
Calm to chatty
(out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: The wine tasting is enough of a date, but should you need to do more, just stroll around the rest of the shopping plaza which is upscale and a nice walk.

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