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Wine and Cheese Bar in NoVA?

I used to go to a lovely wine and cheese bar in the SF Bay area years ago and would like to find something on par with that experience.
What I am looking for is a bar that only serves cheese and wine and maybe a few small tapas plates like olives or roasted peppers or nuts to go along with a large cheese and wine selection.

I do not want a restaurant that has a cheese platter on the menu, especially the ones that charge $20 for three slivers of dried up cheese with 40 crackers and an apple.

This should be an ala carte selection of cheeses to order and a fair quantity when you do order.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Is there not a single wine and cheese bar in the entire NoVa area? What about DC?

    4 Replies
    1. re: LoveFood2Much

      The liquor laws in MD, VA & DC are different from California. There is probably some rule that the establishment has to serve "food" to gain license. And in Montgomery County they have to buy from the gov't distrubutor so there is a limited selection. Don't even try to have a wine shipped to you in Maryland.

      That being said there are some wines bars/resturants starting to open in DC. Haven't been but heard good things about Proof , please search board for recs. There are a couple more either just opened or soon to be in Dupont area.

      1. re: LoveFood2Much

        What about Veritas in Dupont Circle? I haven't been yet, but it fits your description. http://www.veritasdc.com/

        1. re: LoveFood2Much

          Wegman's (a huge fancy grocery store) in Fairfax has a wine bar. I suppose you could buy some cheese in the cheese department and have it along with your wine. Not much atmosphere, thought.

          1. re: LoveFood2Much

            I think finewine in McLean has a small wine bar now; the one in Gaithersburg has had a bar for years but the McLean store is much smaller. In Gaithersburg, they generally have 8-10 options by the glass and anything in the store by the bottle. They serve cheese plate from $6-15 and have some small plates (olives, etc) as well.

          2. Mendocino on M Street in Georgetown is exactly what you're looking for, except for exact location.

            1. While not in NoVa, Sonoma on Cap. Hill might fit the bill. It has a larger menu, but does have an a la carte cheese menu and an interesting wine list.

              1. Thatnks everyone-I will look the three of them up and report on the one I select to try.

                5 Replies
                1. re: LoveFood2Much

                  Are you also open to restaurants with great wine lists and nice cheese plates? I can think of a number of those, but they aren't exclusive wine and cheese bars.

                  1. re: jpschust

                    jpschust-When you say "nice cheese plate" the answer is probably no. I've found that if the focus isn't on the cheese, it's usually not that good, fresh, or a decent quantity.
                    I went to the website of the three recommended bistro's; Sonoma, Mendocino, and Proof and they all look great in terms of ability to order ala carte. Proof appeals the most at this point. Sonoma has lot's of people who love it but also some who say it's not as good as the reputation. Mendocino looks great also.
                    I will probably try Proof first.
                    If you feel you have a recommendation similar to those three, I'm all ears!

                    1. re: LoveFood2Much

                      We were recently at Sonoma and disappointed with quality of cheese, one piece was off. Also the range didn't seem very deep. The wine list is great and the food is good.

                      1. re: LoveFood2Much

                        Proof has a great selection of cheeses, and their waitstaff is very knowledgable about the cheeses on the plate. I was very pleased when I was there two weeks ago. Their serving sizes are a bit smaller than I'd prefer, but three of us enjoyed a plate of six cheeses for something like $22 at the end of a light appetizers meal and we were satisfied.

                        If you find yourself at Central (Michel Richard's bistro-style restaurant on Pennsylvania Ave., NW), their cheese plate is a DEAL at $13. Six high-end (mostly) French cheeses including Epoisses and great portion size. Their servers don't seem to have a great grasp on the cheeses they're serving and you need to ask for bread (no crackers served despite the spreadable nature of two or three of the cheeses), but it is a great value considering the prices there.

                        I wrote a blog entry at DC Foodies about this recently - you might want to check it out: http://www.dcfoodies.com/2007/11/rest....

                        And you may also want to check out Dino in Woodley Park if you like Italian cheeses...they really put a lot of thought into their offerings.

                      2. re: jpschust

                        P.S. I also checked out the website of Veritas and it also looks good. Forget that one first go around.

                    2. Dino's in Cleveland Park has , what I beleive, to be one of the best cheese selections in the City. The wine list is also one of the best. It was #8 on Food & Wine's
                      "50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences"

                      Most of the cheese there is direct sourced and hard to find.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: william Tansmith

                        Dino's bar is really quite small. Almost an afterthought. And the reason that you won't find bars in the Commonwealth is that free-standing bars are not allowed - they must be part of a food establishment.

                        Agree with JoeHoya and others above about Proof , Mendocino and Central. Classy wine bars all. Also, I recommend you try the wine bar at Marcel's in Foggy Bottom. Between those four, you should find one that fits your taste and style.

                      2. There's a wine bar on Old Dominion in McLean, just up the street from Balducci's. They used to have a tiny corner spot but recently expanded when Le Petit Mistral moved. I've never been but am curious about it. Anyone, anyone?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Meg

                          Corner Bistro is the wine bar that was begun by a group that eventually fractured with some folks going off to start the now-hot Evo Bistro and the rest expanding the original tiny corner spot. Even when the wine bar was packed with patrons, The Corner Bistro was always a quieter experience than the one we had at Evo Saturday night. Now that some former patrons at the Corner Bistro have transferred their allegiance to Evo, the difference in noise levels is marked.

                          At The Corner Bistro, the food is excellent and the wine options are wide-ranging, although somewhat less extensive compared to those at Evo and definitely without the high-tech wine dispenser. We've found a wine that we love and we just stick to that. CB's Sangria is divine and powerful. Even if you're used to splitting a bottle of wine for two, do not order a whole pitcher of Sangria.

                          CB's marinated olives (with cornichons and cocktails olives added) are simply the best olives I've ever eaten in any restaurant in any country. My husband who hates olives has become addicted to Corner Bistro's olives.

                          I can't think of a dish we've ordered at CB that we haven't enjoyed and we eat there every two-three weeks. Frankly, the only down side of The Corner Bistro is the parking. There's street parking and a parking lot behind the restaurant. That parking lot if often occupied by vans from the stores in this tiny strip mall. In addition, the parking spaces are so narrow that people are forced to occupy more than one space. Fortunately, there's an office building directly across Old Dominion from the restaurant with lots of parking. I wouldn't cross Old Dominion in the middle of the block during the day, but there's no problem doing this at night.

                        2. How about Evo Bistro in McLean. Enoteca wine system, Tapas menu...not sure about cheese though. Love the ambience, food, and owners. Great little place.

                          1. What about Eat Bar in Arlington? It's a "gastro pub" linked with Tallulah. I've had exactly the type of meal you're talking about. A nice glass of wine, good cheese, roasted olives - oh, and a big slab of pork belly.

                            1. Sometime when you are in the city check out Cowgirl Creamery which is between the Chinatown & Metro center metro stops on F Street. You walk in and it smells totally like feet...like any respectable cheese shop does!! The selections are phenomenal and they let you sample. Warning though: it' s very spendy! And they have wine too and crackers, olives, etc. Would be great for a picnic sometime.

                              1. I promised I would right a review the moment I tried Proof, my first choice after so many wonderful recommendations from everyone and here it is:
                                I decided to drive into DC from NoVa for the Wizards game and get there early enough to try Proof. Easy drive in, easy to park, and over an hour to eat. When I arrived at Proof at 5:45 pm, I was very happy to see the restaurant and bar only around 35-40% full at that time. I made my way to the end seat at the bar next to the wine cooler and immediately was offered the menu and wine selection. Kudo's for service. I ordered up the regular pour of Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2006. Think it was $12. Very nice flavor with a clean, dry finish. Nice start. After looking over the menu and deciding I wanted to keep to my original goal of wine and cheese rather than a full meal, I ordered the full Charcuterie Board for $28 and selected 6 cheeses for $22. I remember the following cheeses: a delicious semi-soft Cana de Cabra from Spain which was my absolute favorite, a Cashmel Blue from Ireland which came in second with an incredible soft flavor that was tasty for a blue but not overwhelming like some heavier ones can be, I ordered the Nettle Meadow Kunik cow/sheep blend, also semi soft, from Upstate New York which was very good, I had a local cow's milk variety from Virginia that I can not remember that was very good and orange in color, a French semi soft also good, and the only cheese that was bland was a hard Swiss-like variety not from Switzerland and I can't remember, that lacked much of anything and had only a very small trace of pecorino like flavors. I also had the Lemon Herb Marinated Olives for $5 that were delicious. Along with the accompanying prunes, cornichon, mustard, crispy bread, this meal was an absolute winner.
                                I traded up for a glass and a half of California Cabernet Sauvignon for $19 to help offset the heaviness of the meats and it worked wonderfully well. The Serano Ham was so full of flavor and smokiness, the prosciutto melted in my mouth, and the dried salumi and other meats were just incredible, especially the Speck and Coppa.

                                What was funny was that when my two boards and olives were brought out, everyone at the bar was ogling them and then everyone ordered something after see my feast!

                                The meal came to $88 without a tip. The restaurant also was getting crowded very quickly as I left at 6:55 pm.

                                This restaurant was a 10 and my high expectations were not only met but exceeded!!! The amount of food you receive, especially the amount of cheese is a very big portion in comparison to any other place I've tried. Each cheese wedge was a 3-5 portion piece. The meat was also plentiful. Next time I may order a meal but if the cheeses are a new variety, it may be tough! Thanks to all who recommeded this wonderful place.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: LoveFood2Much

                                  Thanks for the details, but Cheeze Loueeze! A hundred bucks for wine and cheese? You must be a real fan, and a big eater, too. That sounds like a heap of food. I probably would have taken some back to much during the game. <g>

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    Yes, I am BOTH a huge fan of small plate style appetizers, tapas, cheeses and wines as well as a big eater. (Notice my nom de plume) This meal served as both lunch and dinner and believe it or not, was not that heavy compared to some entrees I've eaten in the past. Didn't leave feeling full at all. I was very thirsty however by evenings end from all the salt from the cured meats.
                                    The cheese and meats were $50 and then wines pushed the bill to $88. Well worth every penny IMHO.
                                    DCDOLL-Veritas was another on my list but the only thing that I keep reading that doesn't thrill me is the noise level. I'm not thrilled with the new "yelling" style of discussion that we need at many retsaurants to carry on a conversation.
                                    Does anyone, especially the 20-30 generation know how to whisper or talk softly? I am amazed at the intimate details that some people are willing to share with a room full of strangers these days. LOL

                                    Thanks again for everyone's wonderful suggestions. I really utilize Chowhound and think most recommendations are spot on as opposed to the food critics.

                                  2. re: LoveFood2Much

                                    I agree, Proof's wine & cheese are some of the best around. didn't try the charcuterie though. Your next "foray" should be Veritas, in Dupont, right around the corner from Russia House on Fla Ave. It is STRICTLY wine, cheese & charcuterie. The venue is very small & noisy but the wine is in a phone book type of thing and cheese recommendations are next to each type. You can order the cheese ala carte and the charcuterie looked good too although we didn't partake. Cheese was really yummy -- right temp (so was the wine) both of which are VERY important to me. You could order half glasses or full and there were a bunch of really fun flights, or you could create your own. We were there on a friday at 5:30 and by the time we left at 6:45 it was really crowded...not "Proof crowded" because it isn't a restaurant but crowded nonetheless. All in all a great experience. I just wish we'd stayed totally "local" and gone to Russia House...our meal at Nora afterward was not quite as memorable as Veritas. Also, dont know if you have heard but Cork & Enoteca (i think that's the name) are opening after the first of the year, both claiming to be high end wine bars.

                                  3. if you happen to be in Maryland, there are 2 great wine bars. One is Iron Bridge in Columbia. Walls of wine for you to perouse. This is where I first discovered Pontet-Canet years ago. And great tapas. Not much for cheese. But good tapas. Prosciutto wrapped Scallop with Fennel Reduction and such.

                                    In Baltimore, there is the Wine Market. More a restaurant. But the bar is always tended by wonderful and knowledgeable folks. They turned me onto Mollydooker and much more. Amazing food. Good cheese. And damn good brandade. Also, housemade Rice Crispie Treat w/ panna cotta in the center. Need I say more.