Last week, I joined a private group of writers and foodies to enjoy a tour around DC’s best restaurants, sampling wines through the Coravin System.
The Coravin uses technology that keeps the cork in the bottle, where it’s been since the bottle was sealed. Pour glasses whenever you like, and know that instead of oxidizing, the remaining wine will continue to age naturally.
The Coravin System was inspired founder Greg Lambrecht’s love of wine and the never-ending discovery in taste and aroma that it provides. His dream was to magically pour wine from bottles without ever pulling the cork so the remaining wine could then go back in the cellar to be enjoyed whenever he desired at a later date. What followed was a decade of development and testing until he had a system that left the cork in place, but still delivered great glasses of wine, indistinguishable from untouched bottles.
The tour began at ENO, and continued to Kapnos. I joined the group at its third stop, Barmini, the libations laboratory associated with Jose Andres’ storied Minibar right next door. The ambiance is eclectic chic, with Spanish furniture and mesmerizing cocktail contraptions all over the sleek white space. Atop a funky couch printed to look like a shrub cactus, I sampled the most fabulous 2003 Château d’Yquem Sauternes. Michael Echeveste, the Beverage Manager (a commanding station at such a renowned venue) informed us that the golden sweet French wine is sold at $35/ounce. Clocking in just under $900 a bottle, the Coravin has allowed Barmini to serve the precious wine without having to sacrifice the contents of the bottle for every pour.
The wine, of course, was fantastic. Paired with Andres’ innovative foieffle, the cuisine experience at Barmini is one of the best I’ve experienced. It’s hard to go wrong with a foie gras-stuffed waffle, which is exactly what the foieffle is. Balancing sweet and savory, creamy and crunch, the foieffle paired with the Sauternes exquisitely.
Our chauffeur then drove us to 701. Located in Washington DC’s historic downtown, 701 is steps from Capitol Hill and the White House, and nestled along the sprawling esplanade of National Archives. We enjoyed our tasting al fresco, soaking up one of the last summer evenings. Riojas were 701′s offerings that night, and we tried a Reserva 2003 and Reserva 2002, both from the López de Heredia family. The wines had been breathing for 30 minutes prior to our arrival, as Beverage Director Chris McNeal advised for both wines.
The (2003) had a beautiful deep ruby color. The nose was strong but not overpowering, yielding to a full bodied taste rich with matured fruits. Overall, a very smooth wine. Using the Coravin, I enjoyed a glass that would retail at $20. An entire bottle goes for $80.
The Viña Tondonia (2002) provided a counterbalance, with a light nose of vanilla and dried berries. Firm tannins provided balance to the taste, which was also very smooth though quite dry. Aged in the barrel for six years, this wine goes for $24/glass, and $90 for the bottle.
Pair with these delicious wines were 701′s dry aged strip loin, carrot marrow, braised oxtail, red wine jus, and creamed swiss chard, all superbly savory with the bold reds.
Following the sunset on 701′s patio, we hopped back in our arranged transportation and headed to the Oval Room, a sister restaurant to 701. Located a stone’s throw from the White house, the Oval Room is classic Washington, with a swanky dining room and six-seat bar. At the Oval Room, we sampled two wines with the Coravin. The first, a white wine, was A Coroa Godello from Valdeorras, Spain. The perfect summer sipping wine, the nose was citrusy and bright, with herbaceous minerals on the palette. This boldly-finishing wine paired perfectly with crisped, light mushroom eggrolls served on the bar.
Alek Milford, Oval Room’s sommelier, then Coravin-poured us the Denis Bachelet Cote de Nuits Villages, a 2008 from Burgundy. Paired with heartier shrimp toast, the elegant wine had a fragrant nose with minerality and earthiness. Medium bodied on the palate, the wine had a sophisticated tannin finish that extended well.
The tour continued at Del Campo, but I stuck around Oval Room with a friend and tried more lovely cocktails from Ross, the mixologist. The evening was a lovely night of fine wines at some of the city’s best restaurants, all poured through the game changing Coravin that has benefitted consumers and restaurant professionals alike.