Curiously hidden within a West End hotel along the bustling Pennsylvania Avenue NW corridor, Bottles Wine Garden saunters into town tonight with a tight but thoughtful opening list of six by-the-glass options and devotion to women-owned wineries.
The 120-seat city oasis, nestled between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom, is accessed through Placemakr’s mod lobby lined with framed photos of Sophia Loren and George Clooney (2500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW). Open a set of mysteriously mirrored doors to encounter a sleek new wine bar that leads out to an enchanting private patio.
“It’s a little play on the ‘secret garden’ aspect, with not knowing what you’re going to expect past the frosted doors,” says Bottles Wine Garden’s resident sommelier Erika Parjus.
The same block ironically got another unmarked speakeasy of sorts last fall with the arrival of the Setting, a tiny tasting room and cocktail den in the depths of a jewelry store.
The dense Northwest neighborhood’s latest hidden gem comes from Parjus and fellow Centrolina alum Angie Duran, who cater to serious oenophiles and novices alike with curated picks from both pioneering and rising wineries around the world. Guests can order at their chosen seats or the bar, with a compact selection of six by-the-glass options ($12-$15) and 39 bottles ($27 to $135) to start. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight from Wednesdays to Sundays, and opening night on Wednesday, May 11 kicks off at 7 p.m.
“My focus is on serious juice without any pretension,” says Parjus, adding “not all great wine is expensive, and not all expensive wine is great.”
The selection showcases female winemakers and owners; organic; biodynamic; minimal intervention from the vineyard to the cellar; and sustainable varietals, with each wine labeled as such. Each written description also comes with conversational notes, fun facts, and tidbits about each pour. Parjus sums up the appeal of Italian sparkler La Gioiosa, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore with a few words: “Valdobbiadene is THE best hillside in Prosecco, and only a select few can get grapes from it.”
She also encourages customers to ask away, as “no question is silly or unwelcome.”
A handful of highlights include Filipa Pato’s “Dinamica,” Bairrada Branca and Ampeleia “Unlitro” from Italian powerhouse Elisabetta Foradori. A rare Austrian rosé by the bottle, birthed in a medieval winery run by Cistercian monks, is “zesty and delicious and reaches all aspects of the palate,” she says.
Duran was the original general manager at CityCenterDC’s Italian showpiece Centrolina in 2015 and helped chef Amy Brandwein open its wood-fired sibling Piccolina across the way. After honing her restaurant wine skills at tightly-run ships Zaytinya and RPM Italian, Parjus got to know grapes firsthand while working a harvest at Oregon’s Willamette Valley during the peak of the pandemic. She returned to D.C. to be beverage manager at Centrolina.
Bottles Wine Garden’s clear menu headliner is wine, accented with an intentionally short showing of food, beer, and spirits. There’s charcuterie, cheeses, spreads, and a seasonal prosciutto flatbread; three rotating draft lines repping area states (HeavySeas for Maryland; Tröegs Independent Brewing for Pennsylvania; and Devil’s Backbone for Virginia); and one mid-shelf label per spirit — think: Ketel One, Tanqueray, and Glenmorangie 10-year scotch — to stick to straight classics over specialty cocktails.
“It is a hotel bar at the end of the day, and the whole program keeps in mind everyone who comes in. We don’t want people to feel slighted or unwelcome in any way,” says Duran.
When Duran was first introduced to the isolated space that formerly housed La Piazza, she was sold by its surprise patio out back.
“I was immediately like, ‘I need a glass of sparkling wine right now while the sun is hitting me.’ I felt so relaxed in a quiet place away from the city,” says Duran.
The breezy respite, dotted with teardrop swing seats and old wine barrels-turned-tables, is expected to add daytime hours soon.
“I don’t want to go the entire summer without enjoying it out there,” she says.