Grand Cru Wine Store and Vineria Cafe is set in the prettiest courtyard in Ballston, steps from a tall, bubbling fountain.
Flower baskets hang on metal fences, and some tables are shaded by trees in planters. The appeal was immediate for Michael Scott and Brett Basile, who were having drinks with a group of friends recently. "It's an open courtyard right in the middle of Ballston," Scott marveled. "Usually [at outdoor bars in] in Arlington, there are cars driving by you."
"It has a great atmosphere," said Basile, a technology consultant. "And it was in the 80s earlier, and we had a nice little breeze."
Of course, Grand Cru is more than just a pretty face. It has nine house wines (one sauvignon blanc, shiraz, chardonnay, etc., selected from the store's racks) and a small number of rotating "featured glasses" worth checking out. (Last week, there were a few sparklers on the list, including a fizzy shiraz from Australia's Rumball.) There are also flights (sorry, "Wine Tours") that offer tastes of three wines for around $15. If you discover a new favorite, they're all available by the glass or, because this is a wine store, by the bottle to take home.
At happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, selected house wines are $5 per glass, and bottled beers are $3. Appetizers are $5 each.
Grand Cru's only downside is that service on the patio can be squirrelly; servers don't come as frequently as you might like, and when it's busy, you might be asked if you want your check before you've finished your wine.
-- Fritz Hahn (June 20, 2008; Updated 2012)