Sonoma has 450 wineries, 50 wine varietals and 17 appellations, or geographically defined regions, Rick Myllenbeck said.
"That's a world's worth of wine," he said. He believes there aren't enough Sonoma wines being offered in the area, and some of the more than 150 labels at Sonoma Cellar will be making their local debut. The Myllenbecks -- he, a marketing executive and Navy veteran and she, a teacher -- have personally selected all the wines in their new venture. (Fittingly, they met at a California winery.)
A tasting room and retail space occupies the first floor of the historic 1810 home. Around a counter crafted from curly maple recovered from Mount Vernon, three servers will pour wines as part of two tasting menus. The select menu will offer five pours for $10, the reserve five for $15. Bottles will also be available to buy to drink on- (with a $10 corkage fee) or off-site. While there's an emphasis on Sonoma, expect to see wines from other parts of California, in addition to Virginia, New York, Oregon and Washington state.
The rear brick patio will serve as a wine garden, with a second tasting stand as well as a fountain and fire pit.
Lunch and small plates will be available on the first floor. Upstairs is the main dining room, a converted ballroom with pale blue walls and high ceilings that seats up to 28. An adjacent private dining room will host a variety of events, including for Sonoma Cellar's wine club.
While Sonoma Cellar has a small kitchen, chef Bernard Henry will be preparing some items elsewhere. The Myllenbecks describe the food as "California craft," with plenty of international influence in items such as Asian crab cakes and Moroccan kebabs. The offerings will also include California cheese and charcuterie from local favorite Stachowski's.
The list of what Sonoma Cellar is pouring will change every week or two, and the food menu will change seasonally. The owners are already thinking about cooler nights when s'mores may be cooked over the outdoor fire -- an example of how (other than the adult coloring books that will be for sale) Rick and Elizabeth Myllenbeck said they're trying not to take themselves, and wine, too seriously.
"We're creating a friendly, welcoming environment," Rick Myllenbeck said.
Sonoma Cellar, 207 King St., Alexandria, 703-966-3550. www.mysonomacellar.com. Opening Aug. 17. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.