Face it, there are lots of places to buy a bottle of wine.
At Avenue Wine Shop, “it’s more personable,” said Tony Antoniades, who 22 years ago bought the store at 1728 Cleveland Avenue NW with his wife, Theresa. “I get people from all over who enjoy coming here who want a little knowledge about wine and some service that they don’t get at the box stores.
“For oenophiles, part of enjoying wine is having conversations about it. We know the wines we sell. We don’t put anything out unless we’ve tried it.” With a chuckle, Antoniades added, “It’s a hard job I have, trying all these wines.”
Avenue Wine stocks international wines—from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Israel and other regions, along with plenty of wines from California and other domestic vineyards. “California is the biggest seller,” Antoniades said. “When I took over here, French and Italian wines were the most popular, but a lot of those people are gone now. The younger generation, people in their 30s and 40s, has grown up with California wines. Sometimes they’ll ask about Old World wines. They’ll ask me to point them to a good Spanish wine. Italian wines are still holding on; French ones have really dropped off.”
The shop also sells what Antoniades calls “bubblies,” port wines, craft and import beers, premium cigars and supplies for making beer and wine at home. From 4:30 to 7 p.m. each Friday from September through May, Avenue Wine hosts an open house-style wine tasting with four or five wines of different styles and prices, along with hors d’oeuvres, for $12 per person.
Here, Antoniades recommends three bottles that would be good to give the host of a holiday dinner party or other celebration.
1. BUBBLY. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, $39.99. “Bubblies are always appropriate. This is an excellent one from California, without spending the $150 for Perrier Jouet or $180 for Dom.”
2. RED. Raymond Merlot, $29.99. “This is one I’ve recently tried and really liked, from Napa. It’s got all the right stuff that I love in merlot—plum and cherry, a good backbone and a bit of earthiness.” A recommended lower-priced bottle of red is Sharecroppers Cabernet ($15.99) from Owen Roe in Washington State.
3. WHITE. La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $17.99. “It’s a little bit buttery, with a light oak note and a crisp finish. It’s excellent with a variety of things—seafood, chicken and pork.” Also St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc, $19.99. “Sau blancs used to be strictly for spring, summer, early fall, but now people seem to be drinking them year-round.”