A Tale of Two Wine Shops

Cork Market & Tasting Room, a wine and specialty food shop, on 14th Street in D.C. is popular. I base this conclusion on the fact that it was packed the one time I went, this past Saturday, and the fact that the Washington Post covers it like mold on a hunk of cheese.

My impressions of the place? As you know, the wine doesn’t interest me, so I went straight for the small tins and tiny glass jars and carefully wrapped crackers. I found it to be a rather precious collection, a very expensive precious collection. Which means that it includes the requisite black truffle worship: An itty bitty jar of artichoke spread retails for $18, because 3% of it is the diamond shroom. And truffle butter, and truffle oil, and truffle salt, oh my!

What I’m about to tell you will save you between $20 and $50. Do not waste your time with truffle salt. It will impart no truffle flavor; truffle oil is superior. For a salt with punch, try a smoked salt like this Kentucky bourbon smoked salt. Yum!

And, so of Cork Market, I say too dark, too crowded, too expensive, although I appreciate the classes, tastings, and so forth. But I would appreciate them much more if there were no alternative in town.

A.M. Wine Shoppe on 18th Street in Adams Morgan is not as popular. This conclusion I base on the fact that it is empty every time I visit. Again, I pass by the wine, but I enjoy their selection of sliced meats and the free samples. I’ve always like the space—bright and open—and wished the owner, Justin Abad, also of Cashion’s Eat Place, well.

This Saturday I found the shop familiar (yes, empty), albeit with a shot of adrenaline in the arm. A.M. Wine Shoppe now carries a thoughtfully curated selection of liquor, including organic booze, white dogs, small batches, unusual mixers—basically covering all of the interesting things happening in liquor today. (Ask and you shall receive!)

Add to that our fearless and tireless tour guide, Andrew Akre, a few champagne flutes—the only way to taste, we are told—and several open bottles, and our group left lighter in wallet but with a new wealth of knowledge and spirits (both kinds). We were taken with a white un-aged oat whiskey from High West in Park City, UT; a traditional Kentucky bourbon from Corner Creek; Regan’s Orange bitters; Dolin Vermouth, both Rouge and Blanc; and a sweet, yet not cloying, and smooth, read: you can drink it straight, Italian aperitif called Amaro Montenegro.

A.M. Wine Shoppe also has wine tastings on Mondays—or any kind of tasting (hint: whiskey) any time you’d like—hosts White House meat-ups, and offers a neighborhood discount. Tough to beat a personalized, customized, and downright friendly experience like this one. I’m even willing to help make it a little more crowded.

This entry was posted in DC Scene, Drinks, Gifts, Restaurant Reviews and tagged .

5 Responses to A Tale of Two Wine Shops

  1. Paul St. Amson says:

    Spot on post. One additional selling point RE: A.M. for your readers…I go to so many wine stores that attempt to be everything to everyone and as a result have too much selection. I appreciate A.M.’s thoughtful wine selection — a few bottles of each varietal in a few price ranges. It makes the experience of wine buying much less intimidating and also guarantees the staff will actually be knowledgeable about the actual product they are selling. Its a curated approach…

  2. belmontmedina says:

    I like Cork Market- not for wine, but for more plebeian foodstuffs. That’s where I buy milk and eggs and their crazy good paisley fig granola and lemon ricotta cookies.

    Also, in the realm of awesome wine stores, check out Ansonia Wines, further down 18th. It’s in a little basement, and the two guys that run it are very hands on. Lots of great wines, in a variety of price points, and I know last summer at least, they had a tasting almost every evening.

  3. Emily says:

    Thanks for that suggestion. I’m not actually into wine at all, but here’s the site for readers: http://www.ansoniawines.com/store.html

    I do however enjoy vineyards and wine tastings, of course, and pairings! I just don’t like to think about it myself.

    Can we agree the de vinos on 18th is the most ridiculously over-priced wine shop around?

    • belmontmedina says:

      YES. The one in Columbia Heights is a little better, but to be honest, I buy most of my wine at the grocery store closest to my house, or Trader Joe’s. I miss the Best Cellars in Dupont a LOT.

  4. Emily says:

    Have you tried Rodman’s? http://www.rodmans.com/

    I wrote about it: http://www.supertastes.com/blog/2011/03/21/the-mirage-in-my-food-desert/

    Seriously, they have champagne sales. Real ones. Good bottles, $30 kind of thing.

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