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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Real Thing 90: Carafe Wine Makers

Did you read about the Shenandoah Brewing Company and think "that sounds pretty good, but I don't really like beer."? Well, boy do I have good news for you! There's a new shop in Old Town Alexandria that does what SBC does, but with wine!

The Boyfriend and I were doing a little window shopping down King Street after work, when a chalkboard sign announcing Carafe Wine Makers' grand opening caught our fancy. We entered the shop where an enthusiastic salesman told us the process for wine making. First, you get to drink wine (woo!). You try several different kinds of their finished products until you find the one you like best, then you go into the back and cook up your batch with the "juice" and some yeast and something or other. The whole process only takes 20 minutes. Then you return in four to six weeks and you have 30 bottles of your very own homemade wine! Depending on the type of wine you make, the price shakes out to between $8 and $25 a bottle.

The shop is also a wine store, with rows of bottles made on the premises and assorted wine paraphernalia -- glasses, wine openers, gift bags for bottles. The bottles are moderately priced, between $11 and $13 a bottle, but perhaps the best part is that you can taste the different types of wine at the small wine bar before you buy. That way you can be fairly sure you're going to like what you bring home.

The Boyfriend and I decided to stick around and get a post-work drink at the bar. They have a special deal that gets you one three ounce flight of three wines for $10, and you get to keep the small, branded wine glass. We veered a bit from the three ounces of three wines, and instead tried an ounce or two of six wines. A pinot grisio, a blend of Gewurztraminer and Riesling from Washington state, an Australian shiraz, a pinot noir, a Tuscan-style red, and a Cabernet. I don't know a whole lot about wine, but they all seemed quite good. I especially liked the pinot grisio and the pinot noir, and could definitely see myself brewing up a batch and having it on hand in the closet for anytime in the future I'm invited over for dinner, a party, cocktails, or if I was hosting a party of my own.

The staff is very friendly, and the space is homey and still so clean and polished you can tell they opened but three weeks ago. There are large leather chairs by a fireplace, and a high black marble bar with cheese shaped candles. The only thing missing are snacks. Nine ounces of wine requires a cheese plate, or else I start to get a little silly.

This is great gift idea for the oenophile in your life, and much like SBC, would be a fun and different place for a date (just be sure you like the person enough that they'll be around in a couple months to help bottle and enjoy!). Carafe Wine Makers is a great and fun addition to Old Town.