On Tap Field Trip: Crystal City Wine Shop

Jim Barker is a wine know-it-all. In a recent  visit to Crystal City Wine Shop  for an office tasting, On Tap got to know the man behind Crystal City Wine Shop and Washington Wine Academy’s success by way of bubbly champagne, heavy reds, sparkling whites and fun facts and parlor tricks the connoisseur has picked up over  the years.

Crystal City Wine Shop opened in March and remains the only wine (and gourmet) store within Crystal City and Pentagon City. Virginia is home to many a restaurant bar and grocery store wine aisle, but Crystal City Wine Shop is alone in its offerings. The shop is an atypical wine shop, the “opposite of the wine shop I grew up around,” says Jim Barker, President of the Washington Wine Academy. The shop is organized, uncluttered, and yet filled to the brim with wines and craft beers. The wall-length windows remain uncovered. Barker says he wanted to retain the “fish-tank” feel; why cover up the shop’s best form of advertisement?

Besides the wine and craft beer, there are often tastings and in-shop seminars. If you’re interested in something more comprehensive, The Washington Wine Academy, now in its thirteenth year, is conveniently located next door. Classes range from hour-long seminars on wine, beer and whiskey, to certification classes that last for months. The wine seminars focus on wine in general (how it’s made, different types) or on wine from specific regions of the world. And there is a beer class which focuses on the ingredients of beer and how beer is affected by those ingredients.

Here are a few fun facts we learned:

How many twists does it take to open a wine cage? Five and ½ turns exactly. This is because there is only one manufacturer of those cages in the world and the machine is calibrated so that every wine cage is always the same.

The right glass matters. Cheap glasses are fine for drinking wine on a budget, but drinking wine from real crystal glasses is best. They allow the wine to seep into the glass when swilled, making the aroma of the wine a bigger part of the drinking experience.  And more and more, the right glass matters for beer, too. The Belgian beers have long had unique vessels designed to enhance the aroma and flavor of the beer, and many of today’s specialty beers benefit from being consumed outside the bottle.

The Washington Wine Academy is also host to fun events centered on the love of wine (and beer). Coming up in January are the ever-popular 1K Wine Walk and 1K Beer Walk. Distance cowards have nothing to fear; the walks are un-timed and located completely indoors in the Crystal City Shops, where tables for tastings are set up every few yards. It’s a leisurely drinking experience, not a race. And best of all, each walk ends with a party.

Learn more about the Washington Wine Academy at www.washingtonwineacademy.org and visit the Crystal City Wine Shop: 401 12th St. South Ste. 4 Arlington, VA;
571-312-7628; www.crystalcitywineshop.com.

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