Type “Wine Dinners D.C.” into an Internet search engine like Google, and a surprising number of hits come up. You wouldn’t have guessed it, but Washington, D.C., and Georgetown are wine dinner havens. Consider yourself lucky to have a wide range of multiple course dinners paired with various wines for each course available to the area diner. Essentially, that is what a wine dinner is: a dinner thrown by a host or a restaurant consisting of different food courses paired with wines set at fixed price. Sometimes, the menu is offered to individual parties as part of a regular dinner service menu, and other times, it is a special event held in a private room of the establishment.
I had the opportunity to spend a pleasant evening at one such private wine dinner at 901 Restaurant and Bar on 9th Street, NW, several weeks ago. Washington state based winery Saint Michelle had dropped by to show off some of their latest offerings. 901’s Chef Thomas Hall paired them with his new wine dinner menu. My dining companion and I were the first to arrive in the private dinning room featuring a long table set with many place settings. This is usually the case at a private wine dinner with a host or wine educator. Attendees usually sit at one long table in sort of a family dinning room table manner. This setup facilitates talking among the attendees who may not know each other. As we waited on the other unknown guests to arrive, 901’s dashing bar manager, Dean Feddaoui served us some perfectly chilled sparkling wine. Soon, we were joined by some bubbly 20-something-year-olds from a local event company. Once all the introductions where made and they took their seats, the conversation turned to food and Washington’s booming restaurant scene.
These girls were foodies, and we soon were discussing weekend-long girlfriends’ food road trips and debated who made the best hot sauces (Frank’s, Krystal or Tabasco). When Fran “Pineapple” Schmitz (and yes, that’s the name that’s actually on his business card), Saint Michelle’s business development manager, took his place at the head of the table and began discussing the night’s wines, the conversation ceased. Everyone was eager to taste, not talk.
We were first served the white wines as Pineapple told us about the history of the wineries, the terroir of its north Western American vineyards and basic wine tasting techniques. Once the Ste. Michelle Pinot Grigio as was served, we discussed the classic characteristics of Pinot Grigio and Pineapple Schmitz instructed us to look for pear and apple aromas. The chef paired it with the first course “Tuna Two Ways.” This dish was beautifully presented and consisted of versions of two of 901’s tuna appetizers. The standout among them is the yellow-fin tartare with Japanese aioli and crispy wontons. This Pinot Grigio paired nicely with the Asian flavors and will also go well with South Western fare.
Other notable wine and entrée pairings were Citrus XO Shrimp with lemon, sesame oil and dried chili threads paired with Saint Michelle’s Gewurztraminer. The sweet “jelly doughnut without the jelly” flavors of the wine were a great foil to the spicy hot “chili threads” that adorned the shrimp. Another menu and wine pairing standout is the Hoisin Duck with Asian Five spice, glove and apple paired with their Artist Series wine. The artist Series red is a Cabernet blend that just begs to be drunk with food.
If the wine dinner concept appeals to you, here are some more wine dinners in the District, to check out:
1600 Rhode Island Ave., NW, 202-448-8005
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday chef tastings
3-course tasting $40 add wine pairing for $15
4-course tasting $45 add wine pairing for $20
1330 Maryland Ave., SW, 202-787-6006
6-course meal, vegetarian option available
$85 per person
1509 17th St., NW, 202-332-9200
$135 per person, $70 extra for wine pairing
775 G St., NW, 202-737-7663
4-course tasting menu with wine pairings, $95 per person
818 Connecticut Ave., NW 202-331-8118
chef’s tasting menu
4-course with wine pairings, $95
6-course with wine pairings, $125