Three years ago, beer garden guy Peyton Sherwood (owner of Midlands) and wine guy Frederick Uku (formerly of the Red Hen) visited a wine garden in New Orleans called Bacchanal. The concept was simple but revelatory: you shop for wine, cheese, and meats like you’re in a store, then grab a table out back while the staff pop open your bottle and plate up your spread. They fell in love with the idyllic backyard where groups hung out under the trees with an acoustic guitar player performing on a small stage.
“It was the most comfortable, relaxed place we’d ever been. I was like, ‘Why don’t we have this at home?,'” Sherwood says. “We looked at each other and said, ‘We can do this.'”
And now they have. Their new spot, St. Vincent Wine, opened in part last week in Park View with a bottle shop. When the spacious backyard and deck debuts on Nov. 27, patrons will be able sip their bottles al fresco with staff supplying glasses and buckets of ice. A two-story indoor space will open sometime down the line.
The wine list takes a something-for-everyone approach with no particular geographic or style focus. “The upside to having worked exclusively in wine in the city for the last 13 years is you get a breadth of knowledge from wines all over the world,” says Uku, who’s also worked at places like Ripple and Vinoteca (both now closed). St. Vincent’s 185 labels (and counting) range in price from $20 to $200, but if you’re just purchasing the wine to-go, every bottle is 25-percent off. The goal is to offer some wines by the glass when the indoor bar opens.
Beyond wine, St. Vincent also sells beers, ciders, meads, and hard seltzer. A batched cocktail menu from bartender E. Jay Apaga is coming in the next week or so. Meanwhile, chef Sam Molavi, formerly of St. Anselm and Ripple, has put together a lineup of cheeses and charcuterie. When the kitchen gets all its permits, look for an expanded menu. Everything can be ordered in advance online, and reservations will soon be available via Resy.
The owners have revamped the former Union Drinkery space, removing the plaster and fake ceilings and adding dark wood finishes. They’re looking to start seating some indoor tables in the next month, depending on what happens with Covid restrictions. In a post-pandemic world, Uku and Sherwood envision tastings at the downstairs bar and live music at the stage upstairs. Some day, they hope people will be able to congregate around the 12-foot long community tables outside too.
“The thing that Covid has impacted the most is how we wanted to make this a community space for people to sit with strangers. You get a bottle of wine, and you end up talking to someone else. People start pouring each other wine from their bottles and sharing and getting to know each other,” Sherwood says. “It’s hard to do that now.”
St. Vincent Wine. 3212 Georgia Ave., NW. 202-413-9763.