It’s handled — Scandal returns tonight! We admire Olivia Pope for so many reasons, but perhaps most of all because she never spills a drop of red wine on her show-stopping white outfits – no matter what world-shattering drama is going down. Though she only makes the rarest of allusions to what’s in her glass, she has enjoyed a 1994 Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a tear-inducing Bordeaux, so it stands to reason that she loves full-bodied reds. But where would she sip them if she allowed herself a night out on the town in the Capital? We’ve picked out six grand cru D.C. wine bars and asked their experts to select something special for the Gladiator-in-Chief to sip.
Consider it a liquid atlas of wines from around the world. Flight’s menu has 450 selections – including 40 by the glass – from America and Hungary to South Africa, Argentina, and many, many points in between. Situated across the street from the Verizon Center in Chinatown, the vino bar makes it easy for indecisive drinkers by offering 25 carefully curated flights.
What Olivia would drink: “A full-bodied blend from Priorat, Spain – 50 percent Garnacha, 30 percent Carinena, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10 percent Syrah. The wine is produced by Bodegas Los 800, which gets its name from the fact that they source fruit only from 800 meters above sea level or higher from the hills of Priorato, where they believe the quality of the fruit truly reflects the terroir and best of the region. This wine is a little more Old World in style. Big but restrained. Fruit-forward, but balanced by delicate tannins.” – Swati Bose, owner/sommelier. Make a reservation at Flight.
Tucked away in Cleveland Park, its list focuses on sustainable, organic, and biodynamic options from boutique winemakers. The wine selection is well-matched by breathtaking fare from recently installed executive chef Ryan Ratino, who made an unexpected splash at Masa 14 with his wow-worthy tasting menu dinners.
What Olivia would drink: “Retro Cellars’s Petite Sirah from Howell Mountain, made by Randy Dunn’s son. Randy Dunn is an icon in Napa Valley and his son has seemingly picked up on his father’s talent to make concentrated, full-bodied wines that showcase much more than just ripe, saturated fruit. The wine shows lovely floral aromatics and intense blue and dark fruit, as well as white pepper notes alongside a graphite mineral component. Big, bold — but also delineated.” – Jose Aguirre, general manager and wine director. Make a reservation at Ripple.
Before Kerry Washington was a household name thanks to Scandal, she was spotted enjoying a glass of wine at this 14th Street favorite. That’s because you don’t need a Hollywood A-Lister’s budget to sip here. Wines by the glass are presented and priced in an approachable manner. If you need guidance, the friendly staff is happy to help in a way that makes even the most novice of wine drinkers feel at ease.
What Olivia would drink: “I would serve her a French classic that’s at little off the beaten path, the Château La Caminade’s 2010 “La Commandery” from Cahors, France. It’s a French Malbec – classic, but bold, rich flavors.” Dianne Gross, owner. Make a reservation at Cork.
The list at this long-loved wine bar on the U Street corridor emphasizes Old World producers, though there are a number of continental labels and a few far-flung winemakers showcased alongside them. Best of all, the vast majority of the options are available as either 2.5- or 5-ounce pours, so commitment-phobes will feel comfortable.
What Olivia would drink: “I think Olivia’s ‘everyday’ wine would be the Lamadrid Malbec from the Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza. It’s rich, powerful, and intense, yet it maintains a softness that makes it almost oddly comforting. It’s a wine you want to tuck into after a long day. When you think about it, it’s basically Olivia Pope in wine-form.” – Kate Chrisman, wine director. Make a reservation at Vinoteca.
Oenophiles love the world-class bar à vin in Penn Quarter just steps from the Verizon Center. More than 1,000 different bottles vie for tipplers’ attentions, as well as 40 offerings by the glass. No matter what’s decided upon, the wines are well complemented by bites from executive chef Austin Fausett, who combines Old World technique with a New World outlook.
What Olivia would drink: “Ridge’s 2014 ‘East Bench’ Zinfandel from Dry Creek in Sonoma County. I went out there two years ago and the place is amazing. I’m normally not one to recommend Zin.” Brent Kroll, general manager. Make a reservation at Proof.
Slate Wine Bar
Reading through the wine list, it’s hard not to smile. Categories include “Interesting Whites” and “Red – Other Awesome Grapes.” Situated in Glover Park, regulars love the happy hour specials, which are available at the bar from 3-7PM daily and from 10PM until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
What Olivia would drink: “Anomaly’s Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena, in Napa. It’s a full-bodied Napa Cabernet, which combines power and elegance.” – Danny Lledó, chef-sommelier. Make a reservation at Slate Wine Bar.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Moshe Zusman [(c)] (Cork); Joy Asico (Ripple).