Set in a storefront along a busy stretch of Columbia Pike, Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro looks the part of the hip neighborhood spot -- white Christmas lights outline the large front windows, which are hung with heavy red curtains. Chalkboards behind the bar list six or seven red and white wines, ports and beers available by the glass, and the night's specials.
You'll find moms with babies, women sharing prosecco, couples on dates. And probably, Christian Licona, a 25-year-old IT professional who has been to the bar about once a week since moving to Arlington from Gainesville, Fla., last month. "I love the look of the place," he says. "It's pretty chic. And the wine selection is really good, especially as far as price goes." His tip: Stop by on Thursday, when all beer is half-price from 4 to 7 p.m., including 22-ounce bottles of Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar for only $5, or on Tuesday for $5 glasses of wine.
Before owner Sybil Robinson and her husband, Josh, thought of opening Twisted Vines, she says, they were in love with wine, taking classes and touring France and Italy to learn more. One night, in Mendoza, Argentina, while watching the sunset after finishing "a five-course meal paired with amazing wines," the couple decided they wanted to bring that atmosphere back to Arlington's Columbia Pike neighborhood, where the couple has lived "for a long time."
They used their knowledge of wine to pick about 100 bottles, two dozen of which are sold by the glass. The selections change monthly, while the flights are more seasonal. The current offering of Ra Ra Reds -- "perfect for a tailgate" -- mixed big, rich pinot, tempranillo and red zinfandel flavors, all of which are available on the by-the-glass list. (At Friday's happy hour, flights of three wines are $9.50, or $5 off the regular price.) My only complaint: The boards don't have vintages on them, so you have to ask if you're curious.
Unlike other venues that combine a bar and takeout operation, Twisted Vines doesn't overemphasize the shop, which is tucked in the back. It's easier to order from the bistro's wine list: Pick a bottle you like and take it home for $15 less than the restaurant's price.
Twisted Vines has a real community feel; on Wednesday, the bar holds its second Stroller Happy Hour for neighborhood moms from 3 to 5 p.m. "We had about 30 moms and 30-plus kids" at the first one in September, Robinson says, adding that it will probably become a monthly fixture.
-- Fritz Hahn (Friday, Oct. 8, 2010)