Originally published in August 2016
Sarita Cheaves is a DC native with a passion for food and wine. When not writing, Sarita devotes her time to building her brand, Vine Me Up, where she plans events and discovers wine throughout the Mid-Atlantic States.
Old Town Alexandria is known for its historical architecture, elegant boutiques and critically acclaimed restaurants. This walkable town also has quite the wine scene, so my husband and I recently decided to have a day-date and bar-hop for wine in Old Town. We visited three vin-centric spots within walking distance, each with their own unique vibe, and I was reminded of the story of the Three Bears.
207 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314
Sonoma is a quaint, California-based wine bar and restaurant right in the heart of Old Town. The bar is perfect for an intimate tasting experience. The menu has 14 California wines, divided into Select and Reserve sections. Patrons can chose to have a glass, bottle or flight. We opted for a Reserve flight. To save space, glassware and focus our attention, the staff poured the flight one wine at a time. The wines were impressive and the uniformed staff knowledgeable. We got a chance to taste a rare wine completely foreign to me -- a blueberry-infused sparkling wine that shimmered like Tinkerbell.
In the back of the restaurant there is an adorable, dog-friendly patio, with water stations for pets and their owners. We have a pup at home so this certainly made us smile.
Sonoma also offers a wine club, Club SoCel. Members choose from four levels:
Level 1 Crew: two bottles per quarter
Level 2 Captain: four bottles (two from the Crew category and two other)
Level 3 Master: six bottles (four from Crew and Captain and two other)
Level 4 Admiral: 12 bottles (six from previous levels and six other)
A few of the major perks are invitations to special tastings and wine pick-up parties.
Sonoma is great for:
Lunch to impress the mother-in-law
Dinner with a fellow wine lover
Drinks with a four-legged friend
Even though Sonoma Cellar has yet to hit its first birthday, it seems like the Mama Bear of this list. It’s organized and the details are well thought out, yet warm and cozy.
118 South Royal Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Grape and Bean gave me more of an organic feel. This eclectic establishment focuses on unique wines, freshly brewed coffee and tea. Reggae played in the background as we talked wine with the relaxed and friendly staff. Regulars seem to flow in and out, grabbing their favorite bottle or chatting with a cup of coffee. The shop has been around for eight years and is a charming neighborhood spot.
Grape and Bean is also big on brunch paired with rosés and boutique wines. They hold a variety of classes with winemakers and wine educators on the second-floor tasting space.
My husband sipped a 2013 Dolcetto while I embraced a Rhone rosé.
Grape and Bean would be ideal for:
Small, private events
Grape and Bean seems to me the Papa Bear of the wine bars. They have the experience and know what consumers like. We found it very easy to converse with the staff and learned a few facts between sips.
277 South Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
There is a vibrancy at Society Fair that I haven’t seen at many wine bars. It’s young, chic and diverse. Society Fair is not only a wine bar, but a market with a butchery and a decadent bakery. The décor is bright and inviting. There are cocktails, beers and wines on the menu. All palates can be pleased. There was even a full changing table in the restroom, which makes me think families are welcome.
My husband ordered the Falafel on a house-made pita and a Belgian-style beer. He likes wine, but was excited to see beer on the menu. I ordered the Walter Reloaded, which is a turkey sandwich and a glass of Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay from Virginia. The food and sips were fresh, simple and tasty.
Society Fair would be perfect for:
Private parties (baby and bridal showers)
Girls night out
Although Society Fair is four years old, I think it falls in the Baby Bear category. It gives off a fun, urban feel, and I know my 14-year-old niece would love to visit.
At the end of our wine bar hopping, I reflected on each establishment. They all brought something different to Old Town. The Mama Bear, Sonoma does an excellent job embodying of the spirit of California wine country. The Papa Bear, Grape and Bean brings wisdom to Alexandria with hand-crafted coffees and unique wines from all over the world. Baby Bear Society Fair brings a fresh and fun approach to dining and wine. Old Town should be very proud of its wine scene and I’m looking forward to my return.