No matter how busy Sona is, there has never been a time when owners Conan & Genevieve O’Sullivan don’t stop to greet me with a smile.
The Capitol Hill outpost has just celebrated 100 days of being open to the public and has already cultivated a devoted group of regulars.
Happy hour lasts from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM every day, featuring generous $6 pours of bubbly, white, rosé, and red wines.
My favorites are the Chardonnay from Macon- crisp with apple and pear notes, and refreshing minerality- and the recent addition of a French rosé- aromatic with red fruit and a classic, Provençal blend perfect for spring sipping.
These two Pacific Northwesterners made the cross country move to be closer to family, finding DC to be nothing but “kind, open, and welcoming,” words that aren’t generally used to describe this town.
When Conan used those words to describe their DC initiation I was surprised, because they’re the exact words I would use to describe Sona and it’s affable proprietors.
“This is our dream,” said Gen, of opening Sona.
They’ve put together a team that works seamlessly, “dividing and conquering” the crowds that come in for a bite to eat or a glass of wine. Even though they seem to have come as a package deal, the managerial team is actually just a fortuitous conglomeration- and it’s one that clearly works. “These are people I would want to hang out with,” says Gen.
Chef Frank D. Paris, III churns out impeccable small plates to accompany the wine list. Here he shows off his affinity for swine, which makes frequent appearances on the outstanding menu.
Originally from Virginia, this Mid-Atlantic native has spent plenty of time in the real south (no, VA doesn’t count, Chef!). These Dixie culinary influences are consistent throughout the menu, most notably (and deliciously) in the Pig Ear and Pimento Cheese Crostini- a dish I have trouble not ordering each time I come in. The Fried Chicken, Mac & Cheese and Turkey Burger are other menu standouts, although I haven’t tried anything that I didn’t enjoy immensely.
Pig Ear and Pimento Cheese Crostini. Trust me, just try it.
DC’s best Turkey Burger. Available at lunch until 5:00 PM.
In approximately 2 weeks, diners and sippers can enjoy patio seating, and more wine dinners are in initial planning stages. While the wine list currently focuses on by the glass selections, there are plans to introduce a reserve bottle list- the result of careful listening to what their patrons want.
After the recent loss of Cowgirl Creamery’s DC outpost, Sona will be the only creamery in Washington, DC. It’s a process that has taken years of planning, permitting, engineering, and consulting with veteran cheese makers from France, Canada, Holland and across the States.
Cheese making vat
For now, they are working on the last step- the boiler installation process; no small feat that involves engineers, permits, and precise science. Once it has been installed they’ll start the cheese making process immediately. Some cheeses, like Chevre, take a mere 24 hours, while aged Goudas can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to produce.
For now the temperature and humidity controlled cheese cave houses wine.
When I asked, “Why cheese?”, Chef Frank was quick to quip “because you can’t raise a pig in a vat.” Conan, laughed, adding, “we fell in love with the process….It’s 80% process and 20% magic.”
Just a small selection of Sona’s cheese offerings.
When they’re not dividing and conquering, you can see the team laughing and joking together in rare down time like old friends.
It’s a place I like to do the same, taking friends and family members to enjoy what has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
Have you tried Sona yet? If you’re on the hill, be sure to stop by in honor of National Small Business Week- you won’t regret it!
One of the first things that strikes me at North Gate Vineyard is the sense of hospitality and warmth- something this Georgia girl often misses dearly in a time when the little things seem to mean less.
This hospitality (or lack thereof!) is the first quality I notice when scouting potential wineries for custom excursions for Bon Vivant DC clients- even before tasting the wine.
I first experienced North Gate at the intimate rehearsal dinner of some dear friends in 2012, and was delighted to experience it again as a guest on a recent tasting visit. The tasting room manager, Dave, puts everyone at ease and is quick with a smile, a story, or even an original recipe to go along with your tasting.
Dave is quick with an anecdote, or even an original recipe to go along with his favorite wines!
A case of locally sourced chocolate truffles greets you at the door- available for purchase as gifts, or a custom pairing with your wine tasting for an additional $5.
Viognier with white truffle pairing
North Gate has an overwhelming commitment to operating a “green” winery. The Leed Certified property produces all of the energy they consume, thanks to careful planning and solar panels. The materials used to build the winery are green too, right down to the beautiful bar imbedded with recycled wine bottles (pictured above).
The owners, Mark and Vicki Fedor, are at the forefront of the “green” wine making movement, stating on their website, “From the tasting room to the wine production to the vineyard, we strive to be the most environmentally friendly winery on the planet.”
Vicki told me that it’s important for she and Mark to “live off the land, to sustain us, to be respectful of the land.” They are also in touch with viticulture specialists at Cornell University who have produced the first hybrid grape varietal with the ability to be grown organically in Virginia’s notoriously difficult climate.
North Gate produces reasonably priced and quality wine- their 2011 Meritage landed a coveted spot in the Governor’s case this year at $22/bottle! This Bordeaux blend is well-balanced and easy drinking, despite being a notoriously difficult vintage for Virginia wine. I enjoyed it so much, a bottle came home with me!
2013 Governor’s Case Cup Winner
It’s the little things that go a long way at this small winery in Loudoun County- their commitment to sustainability, hospitality, sourcing local products, and even supporting community charity.
$1 from the sale of each bottle of Apple Wine goes to the local Greyhound Rescue Organization, where they adopted their own dog, Josie. Crisp and refreshing, the Apple Wine is quite similar to a hard cider, produced from locally sourced fruit. At $14 a bottle it’s a “taste good, do good” treat for animal and wine lovers, alike!
Mark and Vicki’s rescue greyhound”Josie” running through the vineyard. Photo Courtesy of Vicki Fedor.
North Gate is open Thursday through Monday, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Their tasting fee is $7/person.
Have you visited North Gate yet? What was your favorite wine?
There are a lot of wine blogs out there, and I want to make sure I’m giving you more of what YOU want to read about! Let me know what you want to see more of on the Bon Vivant Blog and feel free to sound off in the comments section!
These cold winter days call for slow cooked, rib sticking meals and equally substantive wines.
This Valpolicella Ripasso was an excellent pairing with a new bison chili recipe. With jammy red fruit, this wine is ripe with raspberry notes on the nose and cherry on the finish. The fruit notes are balanced by coffee, chocolate, and leather notes that complemented the chili beautifully. As the wine opens up, it transforms, rewarding drinkers with a lengthy finish.
With a quarter of the fat of ground beef, bison is a great alternative for lightening up chili, burgers, spaghetti and more!
*add extra chicken stock to achieve desired thickness
In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bison and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, to brown the meat, 3-5 minutes.
In the slow cooker layer onions and garlic.
Remove the bison from the saucepan and drain extra fat.
Layer bison on top of vegetables in the slow cooker.
Add tomatoes, beans, chicken stock and all herbs and spices, except fresh oregano.
Cover and let cook for 2-3 hours.
After cooking time is done, set slow cooker to warm until ready to serve.
Stir in fresh oregano just before serving.
We served the chili over rice, with a side of cornbread and garnished with the usual suspects- sour cream, cheese, along with quick pickled red onions.
To pickle the onions, slice thinly, then place in a mason jar, adding 1.5 tablespoons of Herbes de Provence, filling the jar with white vinegar. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours & enjoy! (The left overs are absolutely delicious on sandwiches!)
What are some of your favorite winter recipes and wines?
Double up on the anti-oxidant factors in wine and chocolate for an indulgent pairing!
This is a great time to pull out your fortified wines! Ruby Port and Pedro Ximenez Sherry pair beautifully with chocolate!
Champagne + milk chocolate covered strawberries is another classic pairing. Try a rosé sparkling wine to bring out the red berry flavors!
Lambrusco, the slightly effervescent sweet red wine from Italy, is another great option.
If you want to drink local and knock out 2 birds with one stone, try Cooper Vineyard’s Noche Chocolate Wine. This Norton dessert wine infused with chocolate is like a chocolate dessert in a wine glass!
If you prefer to stick to dry red wines, a fruit forward Syrah or Zinfandel is the way to go!
Finally, if beer is more your style, try “The Fix” at Bluejacket, a DC microbrewery.
If you’re still unsure, there are a ton of FREE Valentine’s day wine tastings this weekend around the District!
Paul’s Wine and Spirits will be hosting a sparkling wine & chocolate tasting this evening in Friendship Heights from 5:30-8:00 PM, featuring 12 different wines!
Wagshal’s will be pairing Austrian wines with Godiva Chocolate from 5-7 PM.
There is a Valentine’s Day Showcase at Chat’s Liquors on Saturday 3-6 PM. Be sure to say hi to my former colleague, Jody!
Check back early next week for some great wine events over Valentine’s Day weekend and an exciting giveaway!