Before you ask: No, winemakers at District Winery don’t use their feet to crush grapes.
“It’s a question I get all the time,” head winemaker Conor McCormack says.
Instead, the complex — the District’s first winery, which opens in the Yards, a Southeast Washington neighborhood, on Wednesday — relies on a complex system of crushers, extractors and towering fermentation tanks to produce up to 72,000 bottles of wine per harvest.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. The enormous 17,000-square-foot building is a full-blown wine factory, albeit one with sleek interior design, a strong menu of creative American dishes and a terrace with views of the city that would make the Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol jealous.
The project comes from Brian Leventhal and John Stires, two friends who left their corporate gigs to found Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg in 2010. The D.C. outpost is twice as large as the one in New York. “There’s a reason we didn’t call this Brooklyn Winery,” Leventhal says. “It was important for us that D.C. residents had a place they could call their own.”
The glass-encased complex has three levels: The first resembles a boutique hotel lobby, with board and batten walls, brass hardware accents and a chandelier made of what looks like illuminated ice cubes. It also houses the production facility (tours start Sept. 9), the restaurant (more on that later) and a sleek tasting bar where guests can sample up to five wines for $10 to $15. The mezzanine and top floor — home to that spectacular terrace — are only accessible during private events.
For those eager for waterside views, there’s Ana, the winery’s restaurant on the first level and a visual homage to the river, with shades of blue and vintage maps of the Anacostia on its menus. With near-360-degree views, it’s a gorgeous setting for eclectic dishes from executive chef Michael Gordon (formerly of the Mandarin Oriental in New York) and chef de cuisine Benjamin Lambert (from 701 Restaurant and Restaurant Nora); think corn cappelletti with rabbit sausage and charred onion petals ($26) and smoked duck with salsa verde and plantains ($32).
The winery will pour 20 different types of wine produced years ago at the Brooklyn facility. The first D.C.-produced release will be a dry rosé, probably ready to pour in March, and wines will be made with grapes brought in from New York, California, Washington state and Virginia. The restaurant will also offer a handful of cocktails, many of which are mixed with byproducts of the winemaking process, like raw grape juice.
On one of Ana’s walls, there’s a gallery of abstract presidential portraits (including a gold-flecked one of Donald Trump) that lends a touch of humor and color to the space. Outside, guests can dine on the patio or enjoy a glass or two on the outdoor lounge seats and private fire pits. All those elements can make for an oenophile’s dream.
385 Water St. SE, 202 484 9210, districtwinery.com.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article said the winery's rosé will be made with several grapes. It will be made with one type of grape.