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Screwtop Wine Bar, Clarendon - Owner Wendy Buckley's Wine Bar and Retail Store


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Hi Ya'll

I'm Wendy Buckley from Arlington.
I stumbled across this forum over a year ago while searching for wine bars in he D.C. area. Now I'm starting one of my own here in Clarendon.
I also have pugs, whom I dearly love (hence the icon).

Give my site a look if you are interested: www.screwtopwinebar.com
From there you can get to my facebook and twitter pages.

Thanks for welcoming me into the group.

Cheers,
-Wendy


That's great! I'm really excited to hear about your wine and cheese place joining all the other new businesses that are coming to the Zoso building. I took a look at your AOL "The Start Up" postings http://smallbusiness.aol.com/startup/profile/wendy and found them really interesting because I have no idea what all needs to be considered when starting a new business. It sounds like being able to work at Cheesetique to learn the business was/is a great opportunity.
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That's great! I'm really excited to hear about your wine and cheese place joining all the other new businesses that are coming to the Zoso building. I took a look at your AOL "The Start Up" postings http://smallbusiness.aol.com/startup/profile/wendy and found them really interesting because I have no idea what all needs to be considered when starting a new business. It sounds like being able to work at Cheesetique to learn the business was/is a great opportunity.

Hi Wendy!

I just read your info. Congratulations on taking a big step on fulfilling a dream. I also live in the vicinity and work for a locally owned specialty food distributor. When you start to think abt those kind of details, i would love to bring you information about our company.

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Thanks. Jill, the owner of Cheesetique, was really good to me and has given me some really sound advice not to mention she's just a fantastic lady in general!

Stay tuned for construction photos on the site.

-Wendy

www.screwtopwinebar.com

Let me or Mark know if you want intros to any of the VA wine reps that'll take best care of you or the small ones that are hard to track down.

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Thanks Michael, I really appreciate that. I work for a boutique distributor right now, called Nice Legs, and will probably continue that job until the end of October. But I'm always up for locating more "small-production" distributors. Can you or Mark email me? wendyatscrewtopwinebar.com

Thanks so much.

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Best Cellars, after it had been open for awhile, ran afoul of some provision in VA's alcoholic beverage regs regarding the amount/types of food that need to be available at an establishment serving alcohol. What kind of food will be served at Screwtop?

[ETA - never mind: www.screwtopwinebar.com]

But, Wendy, you mind want to check with the folks at Best Cellars about exactly what they needed to do in order to get back in the good graces of the authorities when they were shut down. My recollection is that although they were offering some kind of light fare with the wine by the glass they served, it wasn't sufficient.

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Best Cellars, after it had been open for awhile, ran afoul of some provision in VA's alcoholic beverage regs regarding the amount/types of food that need to be available at an establishment serving alcohol. What kind of food will be served at Screwtop?

[ETA - never mind: www.screwtopwinebar.com]

But, Wendy, you mind want to check with the folks at Best Cellars about exactly what they needed to do in order to get back in the good graces of the authorities when they were shut down. My recollection is that although they were offering some kind of light fare with the wine by the glass they served, it wasn't sufficient.

You know John it's funny you mention Best Cellars because I too remember when they lost their bar license and had to temporarily shut down. A very sad ordeal for them at the time but you would have thought someone at their corporate headquarters would have looked into the VABC reqs.? I'm on the phone about once a week with our agent asking questions about this and that to ensure I'm meeting all their guidelines.

also I have to ask about your W.F.B. icon and quotes?

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I caught sight of a post by Wendy earlier this week here about her plans to conduct a limited, soft opening test run for her staff on Saturday, Dec 12. I quickly wrote her offering myself up as test customer, and was invited to a 7:30 PM seating at Screwtop this evening. What follows are my impressions of the space and the menu.

The entrance to Screwtop is next to the resident entrance to Zoso Flats. As you walk in, on your left is the retail area, with a large number of wines displayed along the wall. The display cases for the selections of cheeses and other offerings (beers, sodas, cured meats, etc.) occupy the floor area, with plenty of room to walk around while deciding what to buy. When I came in, they were still in the process of stocking products and finalizing the displays (Screwtop is scheduled to open on Tuesday the 15th).

The winebar proper is straight ahead when you enter, with a long bar lined with comfortably padded bar chairs (not stools - these have comfortable backs to allow you to spend some time there). There are also a number of tables for larger groups next to the windows facing the street. I found the lighting in the early evening to be comfortably subdued without being too dark to see both the food and your dining companions.

Now to the food and drink. Before sharing my observations/opinions, you should know that for this night's test run the food and non-alcoholic drinks were complementary. Guests only had to pay for the alcohol they ordered and were asked to tip thier servers. The menu offered was limited compared to what will be available when they open next week, but there was still quite a lot to choose from.

The first item on my personal menu was a cheese and charcuterie plate with three generous samples of cheese and two different cured meats. I'm not an experienced 'cheese person', having been raised in the midwest in the 50's and 60's when if it wasn't Velveeta, it was a Kraft cheddar or american cheese on the table. But to my mind it was a wonderful introduction into what kind of dining experience Screwtop seems to want to provide to its customers. It started out with a Drunken Goat cheese from Spain that was mild and creamy, followed by a more assertive Abbaye De Belloc from France (I really don't know cheeses folks - I'm copying these names from tonight's menu). The best was the last - a cheese called Oregonzola with just a few veins of blue running thru the wedge. It was just teriffic.

Next was an appetizer of baked camembert with a shallot and black currant compote. I've never had baked camembert before, but I sure will again. This was a remarkable pot of soft, warm, buttery, delicious goodness with a little dollop of currants on top. The only problem was that I was dining alone and there was just too much of the dish for me to eat by myself. It may be listed as an appetizer, but there was enought to satisfy a table of four. Fortunately, several other guests had just been seated behind me and were willing to finish the dish. It would have been a shame to let any of it go to waste.

Thanks to their 'sacrifice', I was able to order a Buffaloaf (hey, that's how it's spelled on the menu!) sandwich. It's Wendy's Mother-in Law's meatloaf recipe, with ground buffalo substituting for the beef. It was a teriffic sandwich, and has me thinking of substituting buffalo for beef the next time we make our own meatloaf at home.

I was kind of staggering to the finish line at this point (who knew good cheese could fill you up so quickly?), so I passed on the Texas Sheet Cake and settled for the Mexican Vanilla gelato, which I was told was made by Boccato Gelato in Clarendon exclusively for Screwtop. It was delicious, and just the right amount to finish my meal.

I won't talk about the two wines I had with my meal (one white, one red) except for the fact that they paired perfectly with the food, because I cannot remember the names. The pour on each was generous, more than enough to accompany the meal.

To sum up, a very enjoyable experience, one I plan on repeating and expanding on after they open for business next week.

TSchaad

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Just a quick update to let you know that we are opening tomorrow at 11am. Woo hoo! :angry:

Here are our hours this month.

Tuesday-Thursday: 11am - 10pm

Friday-Saturday: 11am - 11pm

Sunday: 11am - 6pm

Monday: closed

* December 24th - closing early at 6pm

* December 25th - closed for the day

* January 1 - closing early at 6pm

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Well I just came back from a very busy evening at Srewtop Wine Bar. It was so nice to see such a large crowd there. I hope the general public doesn't find out about the parking situation too fast. We came in around 5:45 and got a table before it got too crowded. I took one of my favorite wine and cheese connoisseurs with me for a last happy hour before the holidays. We both ordered tempranillos, hers was a little more fruity from the process and mine more earthy. I forget the exact names (I will update this later with correct names). We then had the chicken liver pate and a cheese plate with Grayson from Virginia a nice semi-soft cheese with a little stink, but not too much. This would be a nice cheese for someone who is just starting to dabble in the more exotic cheeses. We also had the clothbound cheddar from Vermont which had a wonderful nuttiness to it, with an almost creamy taste to it, very nice. We also had the truffle tremor which I loved. Very soft and tangy with very nice richness from the truffle. We had fig compote and honey to go with. What I thought was very nice was that you could purchase the accompaniments if you wanted to recreate the cheese plate at home. We also were treated to some popcorn with truffle oil that was salty and savory. We also had some of "Momma's Toffee" at the end. I purchased some of that for my "Momma."

Anyway I really liked the ambiance of the place. It was just dark enough to have nice ambiance, but you could still read everything easily. The wine selection was varied, it isn't a huge space, so they will need to really work hard to keep a good value and nice selection, but I liked the picks. I liked the selection of cheese and meats and they had nice small food and other gifts. I really hope they do well. I can't wait to check out Artisan Confections. That building is a small little treasure trove on that side of Clarendon.

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I didn't eat, but I had a few glasses there tonight. It has an interesting wine list and is eager to please. If you live nearby, this is you new favorite wine bar.

I do have a suggestion, though. Wines from the retail operation should be available at the bar for a small corkage fee.

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Stopped by Screwtop last night. When I came in a little past 5, I was the first at the bar, but within about 20 minutes the bar was full and nearly all the tables were also takenm, so Wendy is off to a roaring start. Half the space is devoted to the retailing of wine and chees and the rest to the Bar. Nice selection of cheeses, and the wine list available at the bar covers all the bases. Congrats, Wendy.

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Stopped by Screwtop last night.

Say hi next time :angry:

We stopped in around 5:30 and noticed, like FunnyJohn, that it quickly filled up around us. In addition to wines they have about fifteen or so beers behind the bar, including two rotating taps. The beer list has a good selection of microbrews, but the only one I recall is the Racer 5 that I had. We enjoyed the cheese plate. $15 for three cheeses (+ $3.50 for each accoutrement...about a half dozen to choose from) seemed a bit pricey at first, but the generous portions and three types of bread made us quite happy. Most cheese plates don't come with enough bread...not at Screwtop. Service was eager and friendly. No happy hour specials, but maybe that will change after they settle in. Another nice addition to the neighborhood. Congratulations, Wendy!

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Thanks so much! I'm definitely pleased with the turnout and trying to offer the best value possible...i.e. cheese plates.

My staff has been encourage never to serve an anemic cheese plate, so I am glad you were pleased with the portions.

John, it was a delight to meet you in the flesh! :angry:

Take care,

-Wendy

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We stopped by at 7:30 and 8:30 last night and there wasn't a seat free either time. Rather than waiting we ended up going home with a couple bottles of wine (High Def Riesling, and La Bastide Saint Dominique Les Argiles Rouges) , the Drunken Goat Cheese, Smoked Prosciutto, and Onion Confit. Everything was spectacular! I will certainly be going back (hopefully when there are a few seats free). Congrats on a wonderful place Wendy!

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Tried lunch at Screwtop yesterday. Been thinking about the Buffaloaf sandwich since I saw it described above. Did not disappoint. A great way to fill yer belly on a cold winter's day. There are some additions to the sandwich options such as grilled cheese sliders. They need some patronage at lunchtime so I hope those inclined will keep it in mind as a good option for the midday meal.

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I would second FunnyJohn's observation on lunchtime at Screwtop. I was there last Saturday, and had no trouble finding a seat at the bar. Ordered the French Onion Melt sandwich, which was delicious - warm and rich with the carmelized onions on a nicely crisp cibatta.

Went back last night to try out thier first Beer tasting (great flavors), and got a sample of a new item Wendy is selling in the retail section, the pickled raisins from the additions list on the menu. I wasn't sure what to expect, but they were very tasty and I'll be sure to add them to my next cheeseplate order. I saw the new cheese sliders going to a table, and they look like they may be worth a try too.

TSchaad

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Regarding the comments on the parking situation--- I live in the Zoso building, and there's ALWAYS free parking available in the garage, first floor.

I'm not into wine, but I'll be coming down to try this sandwich, sounds delicious--

Sophia’s Serenade....11 Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, greens on Ciabatta.

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Communal Table Added!!

Well, while I love the steady business in the evening, I feel awful to have people come in and not be able to get a seat.

So I did a little makeover of my retail area and there is now a beautiful communal table with seating for 6-7 there.

I love this table (it actually came from my very own dining room!) :angry:

Also I am trying to boost the lunch business. So here are some coupons for you guys this month as a little incentive.

http://www.screwtopwinebar.com/january_lunch_coupons_screwtop.pdf

Thanks to everyone for the support.

Have a great night.

-Wendy

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after having registered many moons ago, i think this is my first actual post. damn if i won't be stopping through screwtop by weeks end.

i've yet to venture from courthouse over to the Zaso complex but man does it seem like there are some winners. thread is inspiring -- seems like a place i need to support asap! see you soon, wendy!

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after having registered many moons ago, i think this is my first actual post. damn if i won't be stopping through screwtop by weeks end.

i've yet to venture from courthouse over to the Zaso complex but man does it seem like there are some winners. thread is inspiring -- seems like a place i need to support asap! see you soon, wendy!

I know It's a cold walk down from Courthouse these days, so I truly appreciate your support! :angry:

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It's not necessarily the cold -- it's the damned hill (you're "up" from Courthouse).

she's right though -- in the winter, it's more that the hill is transformed into a vicious wind tunnel! the walk to the metro slays me on a daily basis. still -- i'm coming.

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Went to Screwtop for lunch last Saturday. It was on the later side--1:30ish--and there were only a few other tables occupied. While I was waiting for my friend to arrive, the guy behind the counter (who I later found out was the "cheese expert") poured me some samples of Sparkling Wines they had on sale. Once seated my friend and I shared a small plate of Cheddar Bacon Bruschetta. It was delicious--melty cheddar, crispy bacon bits, and scallions on top.

We then wanted to build our own cheese and meat plate. We had a few questions about some of the options and the waitress was nice enough to bring us a few samples to help us make up our minds. We ended up with a French salami, wasabi cheddar, taleggio, and buttermilk blue. They added a ramekin of tupelo honey to pour over the blue cheese because the "cheese expert" said it was too good to miss. The plate also came with slices of white, fruit and nut bread, as well as seasoned flatbread crackers.

I will definitely go back to Screwtop. The service was friendly and knowledgeable. Everything we ate was excellent. This is just the type of place you hope succeeds in the neighborhood. The "cheese expert" said that business has been very good at night, but a little slow at lunch. If you live/work near Clarendon, I urge you to check it out.

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Finally made it up there yesterday. We strolled in just before 3 and browsed around a bit, sat down a few minutes later. Took a look at the menu and decided on that yummy buffalo mozz/parma ham sandwich when suddenly heard the words no one wants to hear! "The kitchen is actually closed now." D'oh! I hadn't really paid attention to the hours. Shouldn't have doddled on the way over there I guess.

That said, we had a pretty great experience. Friendly, attentive service and first rate product. Started off with a glass of the HighDef Riesling, sweet but very tasty. My lady had the raspberry/lemon Fizzy Lizzy -- delicious! Hadn't had that one before.

Ended up going with the 3 cheese/meat plate: Drunken Goat, Seahive Cheddar and Rosette de Lyon dry sausage. All outstanding. Seahive Cheddar had a great salty tang to it. Bread was fresh and crusty and the crackers very flavorful, kinda everything bagelish. My lone gripe is that I felt the portion of Rosette was a little puny. A few more slices would have rounded out the plate -- the cheese portions were just right though.

I'll be back soon though and look forward to making my way through the menu! Great new spot.

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I was wandering around Clarendon killing some time on a frigid Friday afternoon and decided to stop into Screwtop. I was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Wendy, who was super friendly and quite helpful in helping me pick some bottles of wine to give as gifts. I bought her recommendations for myself as well and found them to be both quite good. I am not a wine expert by any stretch but I like the selection at this shop. According to Wendy, they offer many selections from smaller producers, which probably explains why I see wines here that I don't see at other stores. The handwritten descriptions that accompany each wine on display are also written in decidedly non-oenophile language, which i find quite helpful as well. I didn't eat but I plan to come back with wife and kids, brunch would be easiest by Wendy's reckoning, so I'll report back when we have.

To sum it up: A nice person, who is taking risk opening her own business, has created a unique shop that deserves at least some of our business. These are the people we are supposed to be supporting.

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SEATING FUN -

Well, the seating situation at our wine bar has gone full scale Pentagon City Costco Parking lot. It's enough to give anyone bar rage. ;)

Sooo this past Saturday we tried a wait-list, which worked wonders :P , and from now on if you come in when it's busy Amy, my awesome bar manager will take your name down and you will get the next seat/table available. I'm also working on installing a drink rail near the door within the next month, so that you have a place to sit your glass down while you wait.

Also to clear up any confusion about the two large tables in my retail area. Yes those are communal tables 90% of the time. So feel free to have a seat and make some new friends.

Each table seats 8 comfortably. Those two tables can also be reserved for parties of 5 or more, just call us at the shop 703-888-0845.

Thanks so much for all the wonderful support and feedback. It's been a wonderful two months and I look forward to many more years as an Independent Clarendon Business!

-Wendy

Wendy Buckley, Chief Executive Wino

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Went to Screwtop last night to try out the new (to me) happy hour specials. I ordered the Cheddar Bacon Bruschetta appetizer and a glass of Siema Pino Grigio. Each was only $4 - a real bargain. It was my first time trying the Bruschetta, and I have to say it was wasn't anything like the ones I have had at Italian resturants. I don"t know what Wendy puts on her toasted baugette besides the garlic rub and the mix of Cheddar cheeses and Bacon Bits mentioned on the menu, but there was an unexpected 'spiceness' to the dish that was a welcome suprise. The Pino Grigio was a perfect match, and the fact that the total cost was only $8 made it even more enjoyable. Well done!

TSchaad

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Well, the seating situation at our wine bar has gone full scale Pentagon City Costco Parking lot. It's enough to give anyone bar rage. :lol:

I've been into Screwtop before and purchased at retail, but last night I finally made it in "for real."

I ever-so-conveniently dropped Matt off at Jason Andelman's Chocolate Tasting (*), and gosh ... Screwtop just happened to be right next door, so what else was I to do? :D

At 7:30, the bar area was completely full, including all the tables, so I stood around wondering what to do for a couple of minutes before asking. They frown (justifiably) on people queuing up behind the bar, so I was advised to wait at a communal table. So I took a seat, and waited. Finally my server came over and took my order: I went with two of Wendy's glowing recommendations: a glass of 2009 Domaine Ricard "Le Petiot" ($9 by the glass, $32 by the bottle) - a Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine that she says (on the menu) is her favorite wine in the store. Also an order of Sicilian Castelvetrano Olives ($6.50) which had the exuberant praise, "these olives are phenomenal."

It was nearly impossible to sit at the communal table and see what was opening up at the bar, so at some point, I walked over and found an empty bar stool. While I was waiting for the olives, I got a thoughtful little bag of (ferociously salty) popcorn, truffled, I believe. The wine (imported by Simon N Cellars in Charlotteville) was better than I'd hoped - many young SBs are plagued by excessive levels of sulphur, but not this one. It was clean as a whistle, and in perfect balance. And the olives lived up to their praise - they were incredible, and tasted almost buttery. $6.50 might sound like a lot of money for a bowl of olives, but I would urge anyone going here to try these.

Getting more and more confident in Wendy's recommendations, I went with the Toked Goat ($11), a sandwich made with roasted chicken breast, herbed chevre, pesto, balsamic red onion compote, the whole thing pressed between Firehook sourdough. Diners get their choice of kettle chips or salad, with the three dressings being Balsamic Dijon, Blue Cheese, or my choice, the Champagne Vinaigrette. The recommended wine pairing was the Le Petiot, so I ordered a second glass of that, too. This was a disappointing course, because the sandwich itself was merely decent, the wine pairing didn't work, and the salad came out completely dry, with the dressing on the side, leaving the diner the choice of "dipping or drizzling," neither of which works. I'm also fairly certain that I got the Balsamic Dijon by mistake. These are very small plates, and these salads desperately need to come out properly pre-dressed.

I liked the wine so much that I ordered a bottle "to go," and the carryout price is $19.99 - since I had dinner there, I got a 5% discount on that. When the check arrived, everything (including the carryout wine) was included in the line before the tip - I couldn't bring myself to tip on the carryout bottle, but did leave 20% on the rest.

So it was a mixed bag last night, with impressive highs (the wine, the olives, the bustling atmosphere at the bar, the pleasant tag-team service at the bar, the free popcorn), and other things slightly disappointing (the blind wait at the communal table, the sandwich, the salad, the salty popcorn). I'm willing to bet that before Wendy opened, she was thinking "more retail during the day," and "less bar crowds during the evening," but that doesn't appear to be the case. Great care has gone into the raw ingredients of this food (I observed many plates going by); now the trick is execution, and that won't be as easy to pull off.

Cheers,

Rocks

(*) At 9:30 PM last night, Matt spent 20 minutes jumping up and down because of his chocolate buzz when he was supposed to be in bed. Thanks a lot.

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Went to Screwtop with my wife for lunch on a hot, Hot, HOT Saturday. They have added some items to the weekend Brunch menu, and I decided it was a perfect day to try Wendy's version of a BLT, while Marianne had a single cheese platter. Both choices were winners.

The BLT came on bread lightly toasted, with just the right proportions of bacon, lettuce, mayo and thinly sliced, prefectly ripe tomato slices. With the accompanying side salad topped by a champagne/mustard vinagrette, I was pleasantly full and refreshed (although the Pomegranate Mimosa probably helped). Marianne's cheese plate had plenty of bread and crackers to accompany her Italian red pepper cheese. All in all, a great excuse to go out, whatever the weather.

TSchaad

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Patio Seating has arrived!!

I'm proud to say that only 6 short months after filing for patio seating with Arlington County, we are finally legit!

Hallelujah!

Although I would have preferred opening our patio in early May, this time of year we have found that it is quite delightful and shaded for an early lunch or evening glass of wine.

Celebrate with us "this weekend" by mentioning Don Rockwell to your server and we'll give you a free mimosa or glass of cava when you by one at the regular price!

In other news, a TV (on mute) will be available during football season.

Thanks so much for all your support & have a fantastic weekend, wherever your stomachs may lead you!

-Wendy

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Celebrate with us "this weekend" by mentioning Don Rockwell to your server and we'll give you a free mimosa or glass of cava when you by one at the regular price!

Thanks so much for all your support & have a fantastic weekend, wherever your stomachs may lead you!

-Wendy

Well, I enjoyed mine! :)

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Hey Wendy,

Can I ask how the seating/crowds are going now? I used to try to come by and it was always too packed to get a seat without a very long wait. I hope of course this is still the case for your business :( just wondering when the best times to stop by are, especially because Hubby's work schedule makes it hard to come by at non-rush hour times, but I would really like to bring him by.

Thanks.

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Hey Wendy,

Can I ask how the seating/crowds are going now? I used to try to come by and it was always too packed to get a seat without a very long wait. I hope of course this is still the case for your business :( just wondering when the best times to stop by are, especially because Hubby's work schedule makes it hard to come by at non-rush hour times, but I would really like to bring him by.

Thanks.

You know Kate it is just so random. But it's definitely a lot better (for diners) than it was in Feb & March. Much less of a wait, which is good.

I can't guarantee (no wait) but less of one and we have a much better system in place which makes for a more enjoyable experience for all!

August would be a great time to bring him in.

-Wendy

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Arl County Sign Nazi targeting Sidewalk Signs. Screwtop and Bakeshop got their signs tossed.

Merchants in Old Town Alexandria went through similar nonsense for a while. Eventually, the city (in a rare business-friendly move) allowed sandwich boards, specifically to allow businesses that are off the main drag (King St) a way to make potential customers aware of them. Hopefully the Clarendon area merchants will be able to get similar allowances from Arlington County.

(seems like a win-win to me: more customers=more revenue=more taxes in the county coffers)

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Merchants in Old Town Alexandria went through similar nonsense for a while. Eventually, the city (in a rare business-friendly move) allowed sandwich boards, specifically to allow businesses that are off the main drag (King St) a way to make potential customers aware of them. Hopefully the Clarendon area merchants will be able to get similar allowances from Arlington County.

(seems like a win-win to me: more customers=more revenue=more taxes in the county coffers)

What's really annoying is that the County Commissioner claims the ower was given threee notices that the sandwich boards were a violation, but Wendy says, "show em to me." She never heard a thing from the county. Even if there was a serious reason for this ordinance, there must be a better way to handle enforcement than confiscating property. Simply snatching the sign and depositing it in a dumpster smacks of the tactics of "les petites fonctioneres" of the Hapsburg Empire.

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