This is part 2 of a 3-part series on Wining in DC. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
Happy Hour is a bit of a ritual in DC. It doesn’t really matter what day of the week it is, but if it is between 5 and 7 p.m., you can be sure that you will be able to find a bar or a restaurant with Happy Hour specials within a one-block radius. Happy Hour is a great way for a business to attract customers, and an excellent way for customers to try out an establishment’s menu and ambiance, and potentially stay for dinner.
We started out at a wine bar called Vinoteca. It made me realize that there are very few wine bars in Ottawa, and this made me sad, but it also made me want to really take advantage of the fact that it was Friday afternoon, it was warm out, and I had a list of decent wines in front of me, all of which were only $5 a glass!
I wanted something refreshing ,so I started out with the bubbly: the Paul Louis Blanc de Blancs.
Here’s a bit of background: Champagne is a blend of three different types of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The first is a white grape, while the latter two are red. To ensure that no red colour infiltrates champagne, the grapes are pressed and the skins (which provide the colour in a wine) are immediately removed. In a Blanc de blancs, only the white grape of the blend is used. So traditionally, a Blanc des blancs is a sparkling chardonnay made in the champagne style.
The Blanc des blancs I drank in DC was a bit different in two ways.
- It is not made out of chardonnay at all, but out of Chenin Blanc grapes.
- Though made using the traditional Méthode Champenoise, it is not from Champagne, but from the Loire Valley. Fun fact: the Loire Valley, not Champagne, is the region in France with the highest production of sparkling wine.
Theory aside, it was delicious! Perfectly refreshing and light, it was exactly what I was craving after a long day of walking.
After our first glass, we ordered a cheese plate so I asked the bartender for a recommendation. Cheese and wine pairings can be tricky. It is sometimes difficult to find a good match for both the texture and consistency of the cheese, in addition to the flavour, especially when you’re going to be partaking in several different cheeses. Plus you never want the wine to overpower the cheese, or vice versa, which is easy to do. There are some pretty strong cheeses out there. Someone once told me that beer is actually a better pairing than wine for cheeses, and the bartender at Vinoteca originally recommended a cider to go with the cheese. But let’s be honest, I didn’t come to a wine bar to drink cider.
I decided to go with the lightest red they had: the Kaltern K Rosso, a red blend from the Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Italian wines, particularly those from the North, tend to be food friendly. Which makes sense, when you think that the Italians have been making wine for so many centuries (if not millenia). Of course they are masters in wine and food pairing! This particular wine was no exception. It went well with the cheeses, and was nice on its own as well once the cheese was gone (which happened very quickly, by the way).
Happy Hour was over and I had a hankering for Italian food (perhaps the influence of Wine #2). We went to a restaurant nearby called Dino’s. Mere and I sat at the bar, both ordered a glass of Montepulciano and shared the charcuterie plate, as we chatted with other patrons and the bartenders.
This is where things start to get a bit hazy. The bartenders were friendly. We switched wines at this point, to an Italian wine I’d never even heard of before: the Piano del Cerro Aglianico del Vulture. It comes from the Italian Basilicata region, which can be thought of geographically as the “instep” of the Italian boot. The wines of southern Italy tend to be richer and fuller-bodied. The Aglianico grape has a thick skin and therefore has a lot of tannin. Throw in some fruity and woody aromas and you’ve got yourself a pretty tasty wine. I can attest that it was veeeeeeeeeery drinkable. I had the foresight to take a picture, but not enough to take any tasting notes.
Luckily, the wine is available at the SAQ, so I may grab a bottle next time I’m across the bridge and take notes this time!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of Wining in DC, where we have a delicious dinner at a geriatric hour and bottomless mimosas for breakfast.