March 6, 2015

The Best Bottles for Your Buck

The Washington Humane Society presents the 9th annual Fashion For Paws runway show on May 2 at the Grand Hyatt, DC. Tickets and tables still available. Click here.

No doubt Iron GateCasa Luca and The Red Hen have drool-worthy bottles that are worth splurging for from time to time, but they also have a significant number of bottles priced at $50 or less. Get to know these three area restaurants making interesting wine more accessible.

Iron Gate

A charming, romantic Greek and Italian inspired restaurant housed inside what was the oldest operating restaurant in DC.

Number of Bottles for $50 or Less: 80

Overview: A carefully curated, lengthy list featuring Greek, Italian, French, domestic, and local wine from Virginia.

Highlights: Greek wine from nine regions including Santorini and Etna.

Who's in charge: Neighborhood Restaurant Group Wine Director Brent Kroll (pictured)

Brent's Best Bet: Wine Art Estate, Malagousia, Macedonia, Greece, $40

Why: "This is an up-and-coming estate that I visited last year. They use one of my favorite Greek white varietals that almost went extinct in the '70s. I'm confident any Viognier drinker will love the value."

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The Red Hen

A cozy Bloomingdale restaurant serving seasonal cuisine and fresh pasta.

Number of Bottles for $50 or Less: 25

Overview: An eclectic wine program bouncing from Italy to lesser-known appellations in places like Croatia and Hungary.

Highlights: One of the largest selections of orange wine in the city, including one priced at $50 from Slovenia.

Who's in charge: Sommelier and partner Sebastian Zutant

Sebastian's Best Bet: Le Roc Des Anges Carignan Blend, Roussillon, France, $45

Why: "Natural wine making, organic biodynamic farming and very old vines make this a hard to beat bottle at any price. It's got everything you want, from fruit to funk, mineral laden spine, it's just a pleasure to drink."

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Casa Luca

Mia DeSimone

Fabio and Maria Trabocchi's more casual osteria serving rustic Italian cuisine.

Number of Bottles for $50 or Less: 23

Overview: A list boasting predominantly Italian wine with other representation from the Old World.

Highlights: Seven wines on tap or “vino alla spina.”

Who's in charge: Sommelier and manager Sarah Bengtson

Sarah's Best Bet: Fattoria Le Pupile Sangiovese, Morellino di Scansano, Bolgheri, Italia, $50

Why: "This is a Sangiovese from the Maremma area of Tuscany. The wine is full of red berries and violet with a touch of balsamic. It's a delicious alternative to Chianti."

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Introducing Stanton & Greene

“From staffers to senators, we want to be a real hub on the Hill,” says August Paro. He's readying to open Stanton & Greene at 319 Pennsylvania Ave SE on Monday, March 9. We snapped him (right) with business partner Jared Rager before mock service on Tuesday. The team is also behind the nearby Beuchert's Saloon and Sonoma. August headed up the dramatic makeover from the dark and dank Pour House to a naturally lit space with a classic feel. The first floor has a bistro atmosphere, but while food is a focus, Stanton & Greene is first and foremost a cocktail bar.

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Talented barman Erik Holzherr was called upon to build the drink program. He's behind well-regarded bars like Wisdom and Church & State. Drinks lean a little towards brown liquor, but gin makes an appearance in what August predicts will be a big seller—the Rochambeau with Bluecoat Gin, Aperol and Maurin Quina. “Erik's attitude and palette are perfect for us,” August tells us. “His drinks aren't ingredients slapped together with kitschy names.” Drinks can be enjoyed on the first floor, and the rustic and expansive second floor when a private event isn't underway. Down the line, the basement level will morph into a higher-end cocktail experience they're reluctant to call a speakeasy.

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DC and Military Chefs Cook Together

DC area chefs cooked alongside military chefs from various branches at the Blue Star Families 5th anniversary celebration at the US Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 24. We snapped Bayou Bakery's David Guas with U.S. Navy CS1 Ian Brown. The two hit it off after discovering their mutual Louisiana roots. Also preparing dishes were Vidalia's Jeff Buben, Volt's Bryan Voltaggio, Marcel's Robert Wiedmaier, Restaurant Eve's Cathal Armstrong and America Eats Tavern's Nate Waugaman. Dessert, in the form of apple pie, was provided by Dog Tag Bakery. The Georgetown bakery trains, educates and employs wounded veterans. Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening military families by connecting communities and fostering leadership.

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Ballston's New Wine Mecca

A new Ballston restaurant could double as a wine school. One that helps you discern your likes and dislikes once and for all, and on the cheap. That's because Pizza Vinoteca offers 36 wines by the glass for $10 or less. CEO Ari Malcolm, whom we snapped behind the bar, tells us he tasted 1,000 wines before penning the list. “It's hard to find big name, mainstream wine at that price, so we scoured the globe to find grapes expressive of their varietal that taste great with pizza,” he tells us. That's why you'll only find one California wine, for example.

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Pizza Vinoteca is so vino obsessed that they even fold red wine into the crust of their oblong shaped gourmet pizzas. It helps the dough become hearty enough to stand up the heat of an 800-degree grill that takes less than three minutes to finish a pizza. The Hawaiian, with its addictive vanilla, sherry glaze, will warp your opinion on pineapple and ham pie if you were previously a hater. Traditional ham is replaced with prosciutto, and arugula cuts the sweetness. Also try the Brussels sprouts pizza (pictured) with ricotta, walnuts and lemon before moving onto filled Italian donuts called bombolonis for dessert. Pizza Vinoteca is located at 800 N Glebe Rd.

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