Whole Foods Enoteca
Last week I checked out the new Whole Foods in Fair Lakes (a gorgeous store, by the way...complete with a gelato counter--so hard to find good gelato close to where I live.)
The store has a decent wine selection, but what's really cool is the upstairs wine loft's enoteca (reviewed in 3/7/07's Washington Post's food section). It's a small, intimate room surrounded by windows that has low lighting and dark wood tables. Purchase a debit card in any amount, insert it in a slot above the bottle of your choice, and then sample any of 80 wines--you can get a 1, 3 or 5 oz. pour. Many wine styles and price points are represented (including a $24 1 oz. sample of Chateau d'Yquem...). The wine stays fresh due to special tops that pump nitrogen into the bottles, preventing oxidation.
This is a great place to go with a small group of wine loving friends, or your wine club. You can sample wines that may be beyond your budget if you were to buy an entire bottle. You can also "try before you buy"--helpful if you are hosting a dinner party or special event and need to find that perfect wine. There are cards on the table that you can use to rate the wines you try, and you can also order some small nibbles to enjoy while you are tasting and evaluating.
A very cool idea.