kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


An Evening at Vinifera

Last week, a friend and I had the opportunity to dine at Vinifera, a wine bar and restaurant at the Westin in Reston Heights. I hadn't been back there since a quick visit in the spring, when I was doing a roundup of area round bars (DC is packed with them right now, but once you get out to the suburbs they aren't as easy to find...), and I was curious to sample the menu, and see how the wine list had evolved.

Executive Chef Seth Eldridge has run the kitchen since last fall. A native of Maryland, Eldridge is a graduate from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and brings experience working in top kitchens including David Burke and Donatella, Buddakan in Atlantic City, NJ, and Todd English’s Olives in both Washington and Las Vegas. Most recently, Eldridge ran the kitchen at the renowned Mayflower Inn and Spa in Connecticut.

Viniera's winter menu has a lot of highlights. Big Eye Tuna Tartare with Lemon Oil, Toasted Pine Nuts and Thai Chili was fresh and flavorful, although in my humble opinion it could have had a bit of citrus/acidity to cut the richness of the oil and pine nuts--perhaps maybe by adding more lemon to the lemon oil. A charcuterie platter was a meat-lovers dream, Mortadella, Soppressata, Bresaola, Chorizo with Pickled Vegetables and Mélange of Olives. And the Organic Green Salad with Humboldt Fog, Jambon de Bayonne and Cherry Vinaigrette had a nice helping of one of my favorite bleu cheeses. The Pan Roasted Sea Bass with Olive Oil Braised Cannellini Beans, Baby Spinach, Manila Clam Broth was PERFECT. The fish was crispy on the outside, but so moist and flavorful inside, the savory beans were garlicky and so flavorful, and the Manila clams were meaty without being overly chewy. It was a wonderful dish.

Vinifera employs an Enomatic system, which keeps 24 different bottles as fresh during the last pour as they were at the beginning. Many more wines are offered by the bottle. The by-the-glass list has a little for everyone, including 1 white and 1 red flight. The restaurant does not currently offer half glasses, which surprised me. Considering some guests prefer to drink a different wines with the appetizer, salad and main course (I often even like to sip 2 different wines with my entree...), I really think it would behoove them to offer those 24 wines by the half glass--after all, they are already opened and preserved with the Enomatic system, so waste isn't a factor. Offering half glasses at half the price would more likely lead to more experimentation during the meal--guests who may have slowly sipped one glass of wine throughout the meal may instead get three half-pours.

When the weather is warmer, Vinifera has a large and inviting back patio with teak furniture and patio lamps. And you can also rent the gorgeous private dining room for dinners and parties. Vinifera is located at 11750 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston.