The Best Places to Drink Wine in Washington, D.C.

At the turn of the millennium, Washington, D.C. was a culinary wasteland. For fine dining, the city had steak houses and hotels. For casual dining, D.C. offered chain restaurants and cheap ethnic dives. But over the past decade, thanks to an influx of young professionals moving into the city, the restaurant scene has exploded.

The wine scene has mirrored this trend. Whereas wine lists were once predictable and overpriced, the city is now home to a growing number of sommeliers who are eager to showcase small-production, interesting wines at fair prices. From high-end spots like Plume and Proof—with their deep lists of blue-chip classics—to D.C.’s mid-range range restaurants—like Red Hen, Partisan, Ripple and Etto—the city is finally developing its own unique perspective on what it means to drink well. —David White

  • 1

    Cork Wine Bar

    When it opened in 2008, Cork Wine Bar was a pioneer along D.C.'s now-bustling 14th Street corridor. Dozens of restaurants have opened since, but Cork remains packed most nights thanks, primarily, to its affordable wine list. The Eurocentric list offers about 160 options—most of which fall between $35 and $65 per bottle—including 50 by-the-glass pours.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • low wine markups
    • champagne
    • outdoor / patio
    • full menu
  • 2

    Etto

    A newcomer on D.C.'s popular 14th Street corridor, Etto already has a reputation for offering the city's best pizza. But it's also home to the city's gutsiest wine list. Drawing almost exclusively from Sicily and Beaujolais, the restaurant offers just 35 wines, half of which are offered by the glass.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • outdoor / patio
    • full menu
  • 3

    Plume

    Located inside The Jefferson, a boutique hotel just five blocks from the White House, Plume could easily pass as a one of Paris's toniest dining destinations. The 1300-label wine list, which is heavy on Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne, is equally luxurious. (Even a tame meal for two with a humble wine will cost more than $300.) But while the list is geared to those with deep pockets—offering verticals of Bordeaux estates like Château Mouton-Rothschild and cult Napa producers like Araujo and Harlan—budget-conscious wine lovers won't be disappointed. In fact, the list offers wines from producers like Radikon and The ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • hotel bar
    • grower Champagne
    • vintage wine
    • full menu
  • 4

    Proof

    A wine-focused restaurant that's both warm and sophisticated, Proof is the handiwork of Mark Kuller, a legendary tax attorney who was eager to find a place for his 7,000-bottle wine cellar. The list goes heavy on many of the predictable blue-chip California wines, but if you look past the obvious you'll find a fantastic list of Bordeaux and one of the best collections of grower Champagne in the city. While it might not be the city's most cutting-edge wine list, it's just about the best place to go deep on the classics.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • grower Champagne
    • low wine markups
    • outdoor / patio
  • 5

    Red Hen

    When Red Hen opened its doors in 2013, the initial buzz was centered on the restaurant's quirky wine list. And while this wasn't fair to the chef, Michael Friedman, who makes some of the finest pasta in D.C., it makes sense. With about 100 labels on offer, Red Hen's beverage director and co-owner, Sebastian Zutant, can take credit for introducing D.C. to orange wine, as well as cult natural wine producers like Frank Cornelissen. While most of list's real estate is owned by northern Italy and Sicily, it also has a notable selection of off-the-beaten path wines from Virginia, New York, Croatia and Hungary, all at very ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • Champagne
    • low wine markups
    • full menu
  • 6

    Ripple

    For many D.C. wine folk, Ripple is a second home. General manager and beverage director, Danny Fisher's wine list opens with a declaration: "We focus on small-production wineries that employ (S)ustainable, (O)rganic, & (B)iodynamic viticulture practices. We champion real people, who make real wine." From there, it becomes a who's who list of geeky producers from across the world, each one is anointed with an "S," "O" or "B" depending on their practices. With about 30 by-the-glass pours and 250 different wines on offer, the program is strongest in Oregon and the Loire, but only because few other restaurants in D.C. ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • champagne
    • low wine markups
    • full menu
  • 7

    The Partisan

    With 400 options and 50 by-the-glass pours featuring wines stretching back to 1950s, the wine list at The Partisan can be a bit overwhelming. But the list is as deep as it is affordable (particularly on the high-end), and with a little guidance it's a goldmine for wine nerds and novices alike.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • vintage wine
    • low wine markups
    • full menu

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