Okay, no pictures today. Just a good old fashioned opinion. I have to write this. Last week a few girls and I went to a wine tasting at a well-known wine bar in the 14th/U Street area in DC. Not just well known, but one of the best, winner of many awards. And it sucked. This wine bar recently added a tasting room and market, and had a space above the market to taste the wines. They brought in a group of wine importers, based in Italy, who spoke about the wines they selected and why. I was excited. I love Italy, and all things Italian (see my pasta addiction…). The instructor studied winemaking at UC Davis and moved to Italy. He spoke Italian fluently. Amazing. But when we had one wine glass on the table, and ten wines to taste, I should have known something was wrong.

I’ve been to wine samplings where you are given one glass. I say samplings because that’s what they were. They were free. Because the point was to just taste something, see if you liked it, and purchase something. Not to teach the participants about wine.  At Bottle Rocket in NYC, Christina and I went to a self-guided sampling, where the bottles and the descriptions were set out and they had staff on hand to answer any questions. But, with one wine glass, there were pitchers of water to rinse the glasses. Considering Bottle Rocket is a bottle shop, it made perfect sense to have a less fancy setup. And the point was to taste the wines to find a bottle to buy. At the Whole Foods in Fairfax, Virginia, they have an enomatic machine, where you can squirt out little single tastings of the 50+ wines they have and try before you buy. Same at Union Square Wines in NYC.

At this DC wine bar, I felt like I was in an infomercial. After every tasting, we heard: “this wine is available downstairs”. Great, but put it out there that what we’re doing is trying to find a bottle of wine for you to go buy. Don’t call it a guided wine tasting. Say, I’m going to give you a sip of 15 bottles of wine for you to figure out what you like. Good luck, sort it out, and if you want to learn about wines, go somewhere else.

If you happened to not like the wine that was in the glass, or drank a little slow, you were finding yourself having to chug the wine before the guy came around with the next bottle. The descriptions were all out of order and I honestly stopped paying attention halfway through the reds section.

The point of tastings is to learn what you like to drink, so you can start to recognize characteristics in wine that you like or don’t like. You start to learn things about what you’re tasting. For instance, as you may know, I don’t like sweet wines. So once I understood the adjectives that described these wines, like “has residual sugars”, or the region that makes these wines like Germany or Austria, I knew which wines to  stay away from. But if you don’t spend any time on the characteristics of the wine itself, and only focus on the pricepoint and anecdotes about the grower, what really is the point?

So in short, I was super disappointed. Really, DC, this is all you have to offer? Email me if you want to know what wine bar it was, to save you the trouble and money. And email me if you have some suggestions for good wine tastings in DC — I’m not giving up yet.

Here are a few places that have outstanding tastings.

Guided:

Artisanal Cheese, NYC

483 10th Avenue
New York, NY

Institute of Culinary Education, NYC

50 West 23rd Street
New York, NY

Murray’s Cheese Shop, NYC

254 Bleeker Street
New York, NY

Self Guided:

Bottle Rocket, NYC

5 West 19th Street
New York, NY

Bin 38, San Francisco

3232 Scott St
San Francisco, CA

Bin 36, Chicago

339 North Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL

Whole Foods Wine Market, Fairfax, VA

4501 Market Commons Dr
Fairfax, VA 22033

Union Square Wines, NYC

140 4th Avenue
New York, NY

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