I arrived shortly after its opening one recent Saturday eve. I was greeted warmly by the staff and encouraged to explore the newly opened space that is now Eno Wine Bar next to the Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Not many patrons or guests from the Four Seasons had ambled in yet.
Immediately, I noticed the warm wood décor. The classic Georgetown townhouse has been completely transformed into a sleek modern exposed brick space. Apparently the building is a great upgrade from a former jewelry store and a one-time doctor’s office. The second floor provides more seating and the center of this floor is cut into an atrium to showcase the massive “exploding barrel” sculpture suspended from the ceiling. People sitting at the bar look up into the shattered staves of a reclaimed oak wine barrel turned into art.
With eight wines on tap, more than 25 wines by the glass, more than 200 bottles presently in its international cellar, with the list continually growing to 500 bottles ultimately, there’s plenty of variety at Eno.
Looking at the wine menu, I was greeted by a page of cleverly named wine flights with titles like “50 Shades of Gris” and “The Other Washington.” There is also a “Cheat Sheet” in the back of the menu that describes a hand full of popular varietals and their classic characteristics to help beginner wine drinkers. What a brilliant and refreshing idea for a wine menu.
Feeling assured that the wine evening was off to a good start, the first dilemma arose. Which cleverly named flight would I choose? I decided to begin with the “Float Like a Butterfly” on the recommendation of Fabienne, the most charming knife-welding Frenchwoman I have ever met. She was running the bar that night. The name of the flight suggests that the wines in it are light in style. The first in the series was a pinot noir from Biggio Hamina Cellars in Willamette, Oregon. It was pleasant and light with a slightly oily or lanolin like mouth feel. Classic pinot noir cherry flavors were there as well.
As I chatted about wine with Fabienne, she deftly sliced charcuterie, cheeses and wonderfully fresh baguette and brown breads with her large knife for orders that steadily picked up as more guests flowed inside. I moved on from my “Float Like a Butterfly” flight, but the favorites of the trio were the Mondeuse from Franck Peillot in Bugey, France and the nebbiolo from Laretti. Mondeuse is not normally seen on wine lists here and it was chosen for its acidity and fruit to go with charcuterie. It expressed hints of cedar upon tasting. The Laretti Nebbiolo is from Piedmont, Italy, and Eno saved the best for last in this flight. The color is beautiful deep purple. Rose aromas abound. A simply delicious wine.
The next flight chosen to sample was the “Jefferson’s Heirs.” This flight’s theme features medium-bodied Virginia wines. A 2011 Cabernet Franc from Tarara Winery in Leesburg started off the line up. It encompasses all the best qualities of cabernet franc (soft tannins, understated finesse, red and black fruit flavors). It also has a bonus-a hint of mocha. Second favorite wine in the flight was the 2009 Lovingston, a merlot based blend. It tastes rustic with a mixture of blackberry notes and hint of tobacco. A pesky fruit fly tried to share this wine with me and seemed to enjoy it, too. Third was the Sangiovese Reserve from Barboursville Vineyards in Monticello, Va. This classic Italian varietal is done well at Barboursville. It has a pleasant “dusty” (think smoky) cherry nose and red fruit flavors with soft tannin.
The final wine flight was “The Other Washington.” This flight was the fullest bodied of the red wine flights. The wines hail from Washington State. They are made exclusively for Eno by Dusted Valley Winery. The flight is comprised of a cabernet sauvignon, a Rhone-styled blend dominated by grenache and a merlot based Bordeaux styled blend called Columbeaux.
Fabienne encouraged me to stay for small plates, featuring brioche grilled cheese sandwiches with duck confit and deviled eggs. And I was tempted by the extensive cheese and bruschetta flights. Everything on the menu looked so equally tempting, I could not narrow down the choices.
But when you go be sure: 1) NOT to skip out on the Chocolate Flight and pair it with “Three Kings” dessert wine flight, featuring sherry and Madeira, 2) sit at the bar and gaze up at the “Exploding Barrel” and 3) tell Fabienne I sent you. Enjoy. Cheers!