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(Allison Dinner)

Best wine bars

Fritz Hahn -- The Washington Post  |  Updated 04/05/2010

Wine bars have exploded in the Washington area in recent years, but the ones that follow offer something extra -- great flight selections, free tastings -- that set them apart.

 

Bistrot Lepic

Washington, DC

The dimly lighted second-floor wine bar is prime date territory, whether in a cozy booth or perched at the round bar. Lepic's well-curated collection of French wines by the glass shines, and on Tuesdays, experts lead tastings with free samples.

 

Cork Wine Bar

Washington, DC

One of the hottest restaurants on 14th Street, Cork has a thoughtful wine list focused on old-world classics from France and Italy. Check the chalkboard behind the bustling bar for the newest additions and suggested flights.

 

Grapeseed

Bethesda, MD

Grapeseed's impressive menu boasts almost 100 wines by the glass - offered as full pours or half-size "tastes" - and around 500 by the bottle, from trendy South Americans to cult classics from Napa Valley. Be warned: There are just 10 seats at the bar.

 

Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Warrenton, VA

Though they are almost 75 miles apart, the sister wine bars have a lot in common: pretty, rural locations, a lively, jazzy atmosphere, and a wide selection of glasses that should suit any taste or budget. A bonus: Both are also shops, so if you like what you try, you can grab a bottle to go.

 

Proof

Washington, DC

Proof draws a younger, hip crowd to its stylish bar and lounge, where 40 wines are offered in two-, five- or eight-ounce pours. The knowledgeable staff makes exploring easy, and the kitchen's inventive small plates are the perfect accompaniment.

 

Screwtop Wine Bar and Cheese Shop

Arlington, VA

It can be hard to find a seat at Screwtop, a gourmet wine-and-cheese shop with an adjoining 40-seat bar and restaurant, but it's easy to see why the neighbors have taken to the place: the focus on small, independent producers means you're likely to discover a new favorite, and the charcuterie plates are fantastic.

 

Sonoma

Washington, DC

There are more than three dozen wines available by the glass in the crowded downstairs dining area, but it's more enjoyable to escape to the airy upstairs lounge, where stylish couches surround a fireplace. The wine selection is slightly smaller (only a dozen choices), but you can snack on small plates.

 

Veritas

Washington, DC

It's always loud and bustling, but the prime Dupont location and broad assortment - 68 wines by the glass, dozens of flights organized by grape and origin - make up for any problems with volume.

 

Vinoteca

Washington, DC

A sunny room and sunnier outdoor patio are the perfect setting for Vinoteca's pleasant, affordable wines. Stop by for happy hour, when around 20 glasses go for $5 each. Broaden your knowledge at intimate Tuesday night classes.

 

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