There’s no shortage of great wine or great music in DC. Recent years have seen a surge in the number of music venues showcasing artists of all genres, wine bars, Michelin-starred restaurants with stellar wine programs, and even wineries. City Winery, with locations in New York, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and Boston, is the latest hot venture to put down roots in DC, settling in Northeast’s Ivy City.
“More than anything, what made me fall in love with Ivy City was the maker mentality in this area,” says City Winery Founder Michael Dorf. “There are three distilleries, a brewery, a fish market and a coffee roaster. It’s a food maker’s area with a specialty in alcoholic beverages. Adding a winemaker seemed like a natural fit for the area.”
Dorf, who has spent more than 20 years in the live music business, has always been a fan of wine, and has even had an opportunity to work harvest in California.
“I had such a fantastic experience participating in actual production,” he says. “The full process made me realize that wine is a living, breathing thing. You can make connections from the vineyard all the way to the bottle. I wanted to try to incorporate that into a New York, urban winery.”
And from there, City Winery was born. The opportunity to fuse a winery with a music venue felt like a natural fit to Dorf.
“Every time I was in a winery, I would think, ‘This would be a great location for a show.’”
Locals can expect to see artists from all over the globe headlining City Winery while enjoying international wines. David Lecomte, a native of the Rhône Valley, has been with City Winery since its founding, and oversees the entire City Winery winemaking program. He’s worked at a number of esteemed wine estates throughout France, China and the U.S. Pascal Valadier will work with Lecomte and oversee winemaking operations in DC.
“We have about 35 different vineyards under contact currently, and source about 400 to 500 tons of grapes annually,” Dorf says. “We love to think of ourselves as ‘terroirists.’ We have the luxury of going to where the best varieties are grown and thriving.”
Additionally, many of City Winery’s proprietary wines are available on tap.
“We may go through 1,500 glasses of wine on a busy night – that’s a truckload of bottles,” Dorf continues. “We’re proud of the green value of [the tap] service.”
The styles of wines that Lecomte and his team make are meant to be fruit-forward and easy to drink, and account for about 50 percent of wine sales. Dorf says City Winery is making a lot of great wine, but as wine aficionados, he and his team know they can’t make that really old Barolo.
“We love the fact that we’re able to put together a wine list for our fans to explore all the terroirs of the globe.”
The wine program at City Winery’s DC location currently has a 500-bottle list, with plans to continue expanding – the New York location currently has over 1,200 labels. The goal is to have a wine to please every wine palate and budget, connoisseur or no.
City Winery has been opening in phases but is already proving to be an excellent addition to the rapidly expanding scene in Ivy City. Concerts are already in full swing in the second floor’s music venue, and the Barrel Room restaurant on the first floor is slated to open this month. And last, but certainly not least, the third floor’s wine garden will open later this summer.
Whether you go for the music, food or wine – or a combination of all three – you’re sure to leave the venue already planning your next trip.
City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; 202-250-2531; www.citywinery.com/washingtondc