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Seeking wine shop with knowledgeable, helpful staff NOVA or DC

k
KeithW Nov 16, 2012 10:12 AM

I would like to find a wine shop where I can explain to the staff there what I am looking for and get some good recommendations in various price ranges. In my experience, one sign of staff who are knowledgeable and helpful is that they will ask for details about the food that the wine will be paired with. Another good sign is an ability to find quality wines in just about any price range, and discuss the trade-offs of spending more or less.

I would find a place like this in the Springfield/Burke/Lorton/Fairfax area or downtown DC (Metro Center/Chinatown/Union Station/NOMA areas ideally).

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  1. t
    Teddybear RE: KeithW Nov 16, 2012 12:55 PM

    Schneiders of Capitol Hill, on Mass Ave, walkable from Union Station:

    http://cellar.com/

    6 Replies
    1. re: Teddybear
      k
      KeithW RE: Teddybear Dec 14, 2012 07:05 AM

      Thanks for all the suggestions. I went to Schneiders and asked for a recommendation based on the meal we had planned. They recommended just one bottle, no other options, but said it was a great wine at an amazing value. I generally prefer having a discussion of some options, but since they were so sure about this recommendation I went ahead and bought it. Got it home with great anticipation and… eh. It was OK. I’m not going to shun them based on just one bottle, and my price range ($20-$25) was on the low side, but if someone hands me a bottle and says “here’s your wine” I expect to love it.

      Bottom line, I’ll go back because it’s convenient and they obviously have some good wines there, but I’ll try to have more of a conversation about my options.

      1. re: KeithW
        v
        VaPaula RE: KeithW Dec 17, 2012 11:49 AM

        I'm just seeing this thread and have a few recommendations for you for next time:

        Oakton Wine Shop
        The Wine House in Downtown Fairfax- although I can only vouch for the owner, since I've only chatted with him. I think his name is Michael.
        It may be out of the area you want, but I had a good experience at The Vineyard in McLean. Not many wine shop owners open up a $100 bottle of Burgundy and offer you a taste.

        1. re: KeithW
          k
          KeithW RE: KeithW Aug 28, 2013 06:01 AM

          In fairness to Schneiders I feel I should offer an update. I actually bought 2 bottles of the same wine (the one they recommended) back in December. The second bottle stayed in the wine rack until last night when I pulled it out, thinking "I didn't love this wine in December, but it's a casual Tuesday night dinner so why not". And I ended up really liking it -- much more than I did back in December. Maybe it was the food match or just my mood and expectations. So I want to upgrade my "eh, OK" to "good or very good, and good value".

          Another bit of evidence about my (low) qualifications as a wine critic.

          1. re: KeithW
            m
            mscoffee1 RE: KeithW Aug 28, 2013 06:29 AM

            Excellent follow up. Thanks.

        2. re: Teddybear
          e
          eam531 RE: Teddybear Dec 19, 2012 01:15 PM

          Yesterday I went in to Schneiders to get some aquavit. The first person who helped me didn't know what it was and had to ask someone else.

          I've gotten some really good wine and spirits there, but I generally go in with something already in mind.

          1. re: eam531
            t
            Teddybear RE: eam531 Dec 19, 2012 01:24 PM

            Well I guess times have changed -- and that's really too bad because they often steered me to the best quality wines and spirits that my budget could afford.

        3. fishie RE: KeithW Nov 19, 2012 01:17 PM

          Calvert Woodley. But wine only not spirits. They are near the van ness metro.

          1. w
            wholefoodie315 RE: KeithW Nov 20, 2012 04:31 AM

            Cork & Fork on 14th st in DC is great.

            1. b
              Bart Hound RE: KeithW Nov 20, 2012 08:17 AM

              I like Unwind. THey have 2 locations both in Alexandria. Helpful staff and nice variety. My favorite area in the shop is the "$10 and under" shelf.

              http://www.unwinedva.com/

              Bradlee Shopping Center:
              3690-J King Street Alexandria,
              VA 22307 Phone: 703-820-8600

              Belle view Shopping Center:
              1600-A Belle View Blvd. Alexandria,
              VA 22302 Phone: 571-384-6880

              1. alkapal RE: KeithW Nov 20, 2012 11:16 AM

                arrowine in arlington

                2 Replies
                1. re: alkapal
                  z
                  Ziv RE: alkapal Dec 24, 2012 07:03 AM

                  Alkapal, I really like Arrowine too. And their meats and cheeses are excellent as well. But the wine team, though usually very good, can be a bit hit or miss. I was informed by one of them that extra dry champagnes were generally drier than brut champagnes. I just stood there going, "What should I say now..." The same guy later acted dismissively when I asked if they had Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. I realize it is not a great wine, but for the price I kind of like it.
                  Hmm... I didn't mean to be so dismissive myself! I still like Arrowine a lot, and they have a very good selection of wines and champagnes, plus the extras the shop offers are very cool.
                  Plus olive oils on tap, how cool is that? LOL!

                  1. re: Ziv
                    alkapal RE: Ziv Dec 25, 2012 06:31 AM

                    ziv, if i had to pick either their wine or their cheese/charcuterie, i'm with the cheese/charcuterie. their wine is fine, and as you say, some of their wine personnel are better than others. they do have a huge selection, too.

                    i can't stand wine snobs who work as salespersons. maybe, too, in general. Ha!

                    ~~~~~
                    as an aside, red, white & bleu does cheese and charcuterie, but are not nearly as knowledgeable or package cheeses with name, price per pound, and price per item, as does arrowine. maybe RWB is on a learning curve. hope so!

                2. h
                  hotel RE: KeithW Nov 20, 2012 12:21 PM

                  Addy Bassin on MacArthur is among the best.

                  1. b
                    bzookaj RE: KeithW Nov 20, 2012 05:06 PM

                    Rick's Wine and Gourmet.

                    1. d
                      DCDOLL RE: KeithW Dec 18, 2012 12:22 PM

                      i may get some doo doo for this, (given the fact that it is more or less like a big wine barn...) but i also live in Springfield and have found some knowledgeable folks at the Total Wine is Springfield. Not to say EVERYONE there is, but there have been at least 3 folks there that i've consulted with on the subject of wine and food pairings and found them helpful and spot on. The prices are good, and it's in your target area. Good luck...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DCDOLL
                        k
                        KeithW RE: DCDOLL Dec 19, 2012 06:45 AM

                        Yes I've been to Total Wine in Springfield a few times. I'm happy with a big wine barn if I know what I'm looking for and of course I've gotten some very good wine there. I have gotten one or two good suggestions and other times encountered people who didn't give any helpful suggestions. It's the large number of staff who come and go and the uncertainty about what type of help I might get on any given day that is leading me to look elsewhere.

                        (Also I have never once had a good wine at their tasting bar, which doesn't inspire much confidence.)

                      2. Manassas64 RE: KeithW Dec 19, 2012 09:42 AM

                        A friend of mine works at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean. She's very good and knows her wine.

                        http://www.chainbridgecellars.com/

                        1. r
                          rozziesmom RE: KeithW Dec 19, 2012 10:46 AM

                          Screwtop is a great shop/wine bar in Arlington. The staff is pretty knowledgeable but the owner Leah is definitely the best! Arrowine nearby is also great and lots of other non wine goodies to buy at both

                          1. j
                            Just Visiting RE: KeithW Dec 24, 2012 05:29 AM

                            Just wanted to share an experience at Total Wine in McLean. We went there to buy half-bottles for my mother. You would think there would be a big market for half-bottles, given all the people who might want a single glass of wine with dinner on occasion but don't want to then store the rest in the refrigerator for days or weeks, which doesn't always do a great job of preserving the wine. Single people or couples who don't want to drain an entire bottle at once...

                            Well, apparently not. Because in a huge warehouse of a store, they had approximately a dozen wines by the half-bottle. And they were not cheap compared to the standard-sized bottles.

                            We usually buy our South African wine at the Vineyard but decided to at least check out the selection at TotalWine as long as we were there. They don't bother to keep the South African wines in a separate place. The sales clerk told us they are kept by varietal. Interesting, as most SA wines are blends, not varietal and in any case, don't always align with the varietals of other countries. But who wants to hunt through hundreds of shelves and dozens of bottles in each section to try to find South African wines.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Just Visiting
                              m
                              MikeR RE: Just Visiting Aug 28, 2013 12:40 PM

                              There's a new wine and beer shop in Falls Church called Dominion Wine and Beer that specializes in craft beers and mostly California wines. It's not huge, but the guy at the counter was friendly and talked enough about what they sell so that I figure he knows the business. I did notice that there was one shelf of half-bottles, maybe 25 different ones.

                              It looks like it's on Broad Street, but the little courtyard that it's in actually has a name, Rowell Court. It's where the old Dominion Jewelers used to b be before they built a new big building right next door. Nothing useful on the web site yet except the address, but:

                              http://dominionwineandbeer.com/

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