Unlike trendier drinking establishments that have wholly embraced gimmickry as a shortcut to success, the powers that be behind The Pursuit Wine Bar at 1421 H St. NE appear inclined to grow their following one incredibly satisfied patron at a time.
There are no eye roll-inducing passwords to memorize. No blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entry ways to ferret out. And, thankfully, no throng of chain-smoking, shot special of the day-chasing, extra long polo shirt-wearing bros to endure, as can be the case at its clubbier neighbor, The Elroy.
If anything, The Pursuit’s terribly well-mannered clientele are living proof that quiet and contentment can happily coexist beneath the same roof.
First-time restaurateurs Thomas Boisvert and Kathleen Davis first welcomed guests to their homey retreat — a case study in minimalism punctuated by exposed brick walls, bare light bulbs and a handsome stone bar — this past June.
The beverage program weaves together lesser-known grapes (South African pinotage, Italian vermentino) from around the globe with renowned craft brews and house-doctored refreshments. Each of the signature cocktails is tweaked via house-infused liquors ranging from the pear-spiked Stolichnaya used to fuel the fabulously refreshing Anjou Mule, to the jalapeno-powered Sauza tequila cut with pineapple shrub to create the tantalizing Held Truths.
Boisvert said he and Davis are also the driving forces behind the concise but fulfilling dining carte, a wine-friendly catalog mainly composed of well-accented charcuterie boards (loved the spicy mustard), earthy house-whipped hummus and the ever-popular choose-your-own grilled cheese adventure.
The mix-and-match meals are broken up into four make-or-break components: breads, cheeses, spreads and add-ons. According to Boisvert, most folks gravitate toward jalapeño cheddar bread (I enjoyed the zesty demeanor of this hearty base), while brie and cheddar top the list of most sought after dairy.
My companions and I most enjoyed munching on spicy pepper jack partnered with smoky turkey breast and savory sun-dried tomato, gooey Muenster bolstered by herbs de Provence-laced compound butter, and sharp cheddar bound to crispy bacon by a captivating garlic spread.
The main attraction, of course, is the diverse collection of wines.
The bar encourages exploration, offering up 50-odd by-the-glass options, as well as four “wines on tap” and a rotating slate of selections from which to craft a personalized five-faceted tasting flight.
Boisvert said he remains partial to the Don & Sons Pinot Noir (“It’s like I’m drinking bacon,” one companion declared after taking a swig of this lusty Sonoma-born red.) and Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre.
Customers, he suggested, have to-date made it their business to dispatch as much La Puerta Alta Malbec, El Cortijillo Tempranillo and the Infamous Goose Sauvignon Blanc as he can stock.
“It’s pretty popular. I can easily sell someone a second glass if they get one,” Boisvert said of the medium bodied, moderately dry, aforementioned Spanish red Tempranillo that splashed ravishing dried cherry across my palate.
The Col Dei Venti Sopralta, a Barbera d’Alba available on tap was a bit more reserved. Mildly dry, with a hint of spice, this nice, middle-of-theroad pour sprinkled red pepper on the tongue.
Donna Laura Sangiovese Ali, another ready-tapped offering, was bolder, evoking the essences of ripe red fruit and leather with each intoxicating gulp.
The Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel struck all the right notes (somewhat oaky, flash of black pepper, elegant structure), but made us long for something more substantial to pair it with.
We experienced no such trouble with the Ruffino Orvieto Classico. The crisp white released floral notes in the bouquet and sprayed soothing lemon grass and tart green apple as it coursed down my gullet.
One friend was quite smitten with the Cune Monopole, a white Rioja that delivered a burst of stone fruit (I mostly tasted peaches) that was as sweet as a first kiss.
Next up for Boisvert et al.: beefing up the bourbon holdings (Hear that, newly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?), working in some experimental pasta dishes, rolling out expanded coffee service and getting clients hooked on the tiny treats cobbled together by Union Kitchen alumna Teeny Lamothe.
The Pursuit Wine Bar: 1421 H St. NE; 202-758-2139. Average entree: $13 to $20 ($$). Open for dinner nightly, late-night dining Thursday through Saturday, brunch Saturday and Sunday. Read more about the Capitol Hill dining scene in our e-book, available for download here.
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.