Vino Volo, a wine bar that operates mainly out of airports (with the cute play-on words of having a flight of wine before your flight), opened up a brick-and-mortar store in Bethesda (one of two - the other is located in Tyson's Corner). As part of the grand opening, we were invited to participate to check out the new spot.
The cozy wine bar is situated so that you can see all of the wines clearly as they sit around the space, while not feeling overly cluttered by their presence. The bar is large enough for several people to sit and sip, while the cafe space has enough seating for probably 50 people. There is also a patio area that seats even more for some of those great spring, summer and fall days that should be sent outside with a glass of wine in hand.
One of the big perks of Vino Volo is that you can try a glass of the wine and then purchase a bottle of it right there on the spot. While you still experience some mark up, because of the blend of wine shop and cafe, it's not as much as you would pay in a true restaurant. Though it is more than you would find in a wine shop, the convenience of being there and not having to remember, in conjunction with the ability to sample a glass and then ask the knowledgeable staff about the wine is well worth the price.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of sparkling chardonnay from Spain. As a primarily red drinker and a non-aficionado of chard in general, I was skeptical. Boy was I was wrong. For anyone who enjoys a good glass of champagne on a warm summer's day, this is the way to go. That definitely started us off on the right path.
Following the initial mood-setter, we dived right into our wines. We had a flight of white waiting for us. Rather than setting a direction, the server said that Vino Volo doesn't believe in steering you one way or another, but encouraged healthy exploration. The wines here included a 2013 Blanco from Solar Teules Winery from Spain, a 2012 Veltlinsky from Graf Hardegg Winery from Austria and a 2009 Divinity from Jankris Winery from California. Again, my red preference was out in full force before arriving, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that these bright and fruity wines were the perfect match for the heat.
This was later followed by a flight of reds, all of which were handpicked from Sonoma by the staff on an earlier trip to the region. The flight included a 2012 Pinot Noir from La Follette winery from North Coast, a 2012 Estate Syrah from Alexander Valley Vineyards from Alexander Valley and an Angela's Table Zinfandel from Seghesio Winery from Sonoma County. Based on my palate, these were the real winners of the evening, particularly the Zinfandel. I would have gladly had a second glass of the reds as the night settled in.
To keep us satiated and help our minds wrap up the best matches for our beverages out in our daily lives, the chef had prepared a summer menu that he was pairing with all of the wines. This included a watermelon, feta and mint salad, delicious chicken pate (which was my personal favorite), lamb meatballs with mint pistou and Atlantic salmon rolls.
When you're looking for a great date spot to enjoy a glass of wine, the options abound at Vino Volo. Likewise, you can earn some points by finding something you like and then subsequently taking it home. Not a bad way to go, right? The food was solid, and very handy in case you need a snack to go with that glass (or two), so you could definitely make a night out of it.
Wine Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Food Rating: N/A (Editor's Note: The food was great paired with the wine. However, I never seek out a wine bar specifically for the food, so it's hard to rate it on it's own.)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Wine + Food? Seems like a great pairing to me. If you're looking for more, the Barnes & Noble across the street could be of interest, and for anyone with a sweet tooth, there is (naturally) a Georgetown Cupcake location right around the corner.