Screwtop Twists Open in Clarendon

Enjoy a neighborhood vibe as you get, well ... you know

By Carissa DiMargo
|  Tuesday, Dec 15, 2009  |  Updated 10:46 AM EDT
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A Sneak Peek at Screwtop, Clarendon's New Wine Bar

NBCWashington.com

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If there's one thing Clarendon needs more of, it's obviously wine and artisanal cheeses. Hey, it's yuppie heaven, might as well have a new wine bar, right? Screwtop opens at 11 a.m. today at 1025 N. Fillmore Street, with a clever set-up that blends wine store and bar in a sleek, modern space.

Screwtop wine's definitely coming into its own, but that's not all you'll find here. "Eighty-five percent [of the wines here] are from really small production, boutique wineries, really wonderful, thoughtfully made wines," said Wendy Buckley, owner and self-declared chief executive wino. "I chose the name to give the place a casual, approachable feel, but I do really love screwtop wine."

Screwtop is poised to blend into a neighborhood that includes the classic Pottery-Barn-across-the-street-from-Crate-and-Barrel set-up. "I think people really want to see the small business owners succeed here," Buckley said. "In Clarendon it's really hard since the rent's gone sky-high around here, but thanks to the recession it's become more manageable."

In keeping with the neighborhood vibe, Screwtop is also launching an old-school wine club. "We really wanted to do something within our neighborhood, and we thought a wine club -- we could retro that back in. To me wine clubs sounded a little bit passé, but people will come together for a pickup party one night a month."

Members receive two bottles of wine that retail for around $40, plus cheese, charcuterie or chocolate that pairs well. At the pickup party, they'll meet other wine lovers and qualify for discounts, especially on the ones in the club. More than 50 people have signed up for the club already, and the place doesn't even open until today.

The L-shaped space, done in a cool lime green with twinkling lights, will include a bar counter and table service. The bar also serves up 15 different microbrews. Most wines on the store side are less than $25, catering to a neighborhood of residents who are mostly young, but sophisticated.

Buckley's recommendations include Brooklyn Oenology's Social Club White, around $13 a bottle. The grapes are grown on Long Island and the labels feature work by New York artists.

But she's keeping the local vibe alive, with goodies like Charlottesville, Va.'s Thibaut Janisson, racked in large quantities near the entrance and recently served at the White House State Dinner. For a more elite sip, she suggests Ahnfeldt's Quid Pro Quo (about $50 a bottle), with a label adorned with the scales of justice -- "perfect for all those D.C. lawyer types," she reports. See, this place is local through and through.

Buckley left a cushy job at AOL to launch the endeavor, but AOL's conveniently following the process with their online reality series, The Startup.

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