Europe’s Swankiest Private Wine Club Hits American Soil in DC

Austa Somvichian-Clausen
·3 min read
winelair dc
winelair dc

While the past several months have given Washingtonians enough of a reason to be passionate about wine consumption, there are those who get a buzz from far more than just that first glorious sip. Referred to as oenophiles, these fervent wine lovers pay attention to things like mouthfeel and terroir and the “legs” of a wine as they run down the glass. And if any of this is ringing bells in your head, you are probably one of them.

Luckily, wineLAIR just opened right next to the Ritz Carlton in West End, a member’s-only wine club for those who can’t get enough of the stuff — from professional sommeliers to at-home collectors.

An import from Europe, wineLAIR is the brainchild of Christian Ress, a fifth-generation part-owner of Balthasar Wine Estate, one of the leading wine producers in Germany since the 1870s. In cities all over Central Europe such as Frankfurt, Vienna and Basel, Ress has brought oenophiles together under one roof with his concept known as WineBANK. There, members are able to store their wine in a climate-controlled personal bank, connect with other wine lovers, attend exclusive events and, in some locations, enjoy pours at the club’s wine bar.

Now, in an effort led by general manager Stephane Norbert, wineLAIR has touched down in D.C. as the brand’s first ever American location, providing Washingtonians with a new place to escape after the work day to enjoy a luxe, unique and unstuffy location to love wine in peace.

Norbert tells InsideHook that Washington is the ideal first location for wineLAIR — a city with an unparalleled international presence and a food-and-beverage culture continually on the rise. Besides the fact that D.C. is one of only four cities in the country bestowed with a Michelin guide, it often ranks within the top three cities in the country for wine consumption per capita. And it’s a place that offers not only a glut of passionate oenophiles, but an array of award-winning wineries for wineLAIR to add to their portfolio thanks to the burgeoning Virginia wine scene.

winelair dc
A comfy place to get acquainted with your next bottle
Jennifer Hughes

Access to local talent is especially important considering the club’s emphasis on programming, which, while on hold for now given current events, promises to provide members with opportunities for talks with award-winning winemakers, tastings, educational events, sommelier meet-ups and more.

Past events at wineBANK locations across the pond have brought in talent like Ernie Loosen, the owner and winemaker at Dr. Loosen in the Mosel Valley of Germany, or Matthieu Perrin of Chateau Beaucastel in the Rhone Valley in France, who discussed his partner venture with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for Miraval in Provence.

Beyond event opportunities, those who sign on at wineLAIR will receive one of the more than 350 climate-perfected personal wine lockers, access to the 5,500-square-foot lounge, restaurant and wine bar, and crucially, admission to any wineBANK location in Europe. Norbert tells us that eager Washingtonians might even consider signing their companies up for a corporate membership, which would give your company access to the club and allow for teams to meet there for board meetings or team power lunches and happy hours.

The best way to impress a potential client? Bring them to the in-club wine bar (once D.C. regulations allow for it to open), where they’ll be pouring up predominantly Old World bottles of rare, high-quality wine, such as an Agrapart “Mineral” Grand Cru Champagne from 2012 or the 2013 Domaine de Bonserine “La Viallière” Côte-Rôtie. Norbert tells us that while the producers and labels may vary through the upcoming seasons, they’re always on the hunt for “gems” as they become available — a pursuit we’ll eagerly raise our glasses to.

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