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Posted at 2:33 PM ET, 06/19/2008

Wine, American Style

By Fritz Hahn

The Buzz: Washington's newest wine bar is an all-American affair. Enology, which has just replaced the old Zebra Lounge at the corner of Macomb Street and Wisconsin Avenue, pours 60 wines by the glass, hundreds by the bottle and about a dozen gin and vodka cocktails. Plates of charcuterie and funky small-producer cheeses roll out of the kitchen on their way to guests at the bar or on the patio. And every bite of food and drop of liquid -- as well as every song playing on the stereo -- is made right here in the U.S. of A.

Enology is a sister to Veritas, the ever-popular Dupont Circle charcuterie-and-cabernet destination, but it's everything that space isn't: the feel is light and airy, with soft colors and huge windows, and it's spacious, thanks to a sunroom-like dining area, outdoor patio and a long marble bar. The modern decor -- lots of white, from tables to booths to barstools -- feels inviting enough for dates as well as large groups.

In Your Glass: Sixty wines by the glass, with slightly more reds than whites, plus six "sparklers," all of which are grown and produced in America. Naturally, the list is heavy on California wineries, but there are a number from Virginia and Maryland represented, too.

Like Veritas -- and unlike Proof, Vinoteca and most other new wine bars -- Enology doesn't sell its wines by the half-glass. If you see something that sounds interesting, you have to take the plunge. It makes sense, then, to explore the 29 flights, which offer a trio of small pours. Some are built around a self-explanatory theme, like "Rhone Reds" or "Chardonnay Trio," but I'd lean towards the broader selections: "Pacific Northwest" pairs Willamette Valley pinot blanc and auxerrois with a gewürztraminer from Washington state. My favorite flight thus far is the Staff Favorites, an eclectic mix of California reds. It's good value, too -- the flight was $16 and contained the 2004 Audesirk Signature, a smooth, dark cassis-ish blend that sells for $14 a glass by itself.

The bottle list can be intimidating -- these are Americans beyond the $9.99 Californian bottles that you see marked down at your local liquor store, and the menu doesn't have much more than the style, the name of the vineyard and the vintage. When in doubt, ask.

Of course, there's more than wine. The cocktail list features drinks made with Gale Force Gin (Nantucket, Mass.), Square One Vodka (Novato, Calif.) and Rogue Rum (Newport, Ore.) plus a number of bourbons. The bottle-only beers are somewhat ho-hum -- Brooklyn Lager, Abita Amber, Dogfish Head.

On Your Plate: Don't think of Enology as a place to do dinner, but as a European-style wine bar where you snack on cheese and cured meats while linging over a few glasses of wine. The choices are limited, but I'm not complaining: The menu consists of cheese plates, charcuterie plates, chocolate plates and a selection of pizza-style flatbreads. The meat and cheese descriptions include details about the farms and dairies of origin.

Price Points: Most glasses cost between $8 and 11, with a good number under $10. Flights cost around $15, though some, like the Cabernet Threeway, contain pricier tastes and edge over $20. Surprisingly -- in a good way -- the majority of bottles seem to fall around $35 to $50. Food-wise, a choice of four cheeses is $18 and any two meats are $12 -- you're probably better off getting one of each for a snack.

At happy hour (4-7 on weekdays) specials include $2 off all glasses of wine, beers and cocktails, $7 off charcuterie and $8 off cheese plates. Those specials are in effect all night Monday, but I'm more intrigued by Tuesday night: half-off every bottle on the list.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 19, 2008; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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