Wine Bar Review: Vinoteca

1940 11th St. NW
Wash, DC 20001

My first installment in a running series started at Vinoteca in the U Street Corridor. I've been to Vinoteca a number of times, and have always been a fan of its wine program and vibe.

1) Bottle/Wine by the Glass Selection: 38 points

Vinoteca's bottle and wine by the glass selection is exciting. While its selection of the "standard" types of wines is, well, standard, its selection of "unique reds/whites" is where they excel. The Trivento torrontes from Mendoza on the menu (glass is $7) was showing well last night as was the Paco & Lola albarino. I think Vinoteca should continue down this path of finding value driven wines from regions of the world that are sometimes unknown to the casual wine drinker. Vinoteca's reputation around DC is that it's the place to go to find a unique offering of wine, not just the standard Napa Chardonnay's and Pinot Noir's. It also offers tastes of their wines for half of the glass price - a FANTASTIC way to experience 10+ wines in an evening.

2)Staff Knowledge: 14 points

The easiest way to judge the staff behind the bar at a wine establishment is to ask them what they recommend. If they immediately offer a suggestion without asking what YOU like, they lose major points. After asking this question last night I was given a glass of the Stag's Leap Viognier (I'm a big viognier fan, so on paper it was looking like a good recommendation) - problem was the wine wasn't showing well at all. I think the bottle might have been open too long...and for $16, I wasn't impressed AT ALL.

3)Ambiance: 8 points
I like the bar area of Vinoteca, but it can be a bit tight during their busiest times. Our group of 4 felt squashed a bit, and we were asked to shift our bar stools around a number of times to allow for more guests to pack in and to move out of the staff's way.

4) Price: 16 points
Finding reasonable prices in wine bars isn't easy. Vinoteca's offering of the K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah is a great example of this - I have 4 bottles at home and I paid $80 for all of them. If I bought the same bottle at Vinoteca, I'd pay $84/bottle. I understand the markups on wine, but this is a bit excessive in my opinion. What saves Vinoteca is their tasting option. The staff is generous with their tasting pours.

5) Stemware: 10
Vinoteca uses over-sized Bordeaux glasses for most of their wines and also have over-sized pinot noir glasses. I'm a big fan of over-sized wine glasses, so Vinoteca scores points with me here.

OVERALL: 86 points
It's worth noting that Vinoteca offers a great Tuesday night wine class. I've attended these classes to anyone interested in wine. $35/person may sound steep, but you do receive a $5 gift card and are able to drink A LOT of wine during the class - definitely a GREAT value.

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