A refreshing new wine bar located just past the D.C. border invites budding and bonafide connoisseurs to taste grapes from underdog regions.
Era Wine Bar (3300 Rhode Island Avenue) adds to a steadily rising dining scene in Mount Rainier, Maryland, that counts year-old American comfort foods spot Pennyroyal Station on the same block. Era comes from first-time restaurateurs Michelle and Ka-ton Grant, a well-traveled duo who’ve called Mount Rainier home since 2018.
“We are already seeing regulars coming in a couple times a week. We are happy and feel validated about our choice to stay in our community,” says Michelle, a tech consultant-turned-certified sommelier.
Their anticipated corner fixture framed in brick offers 45 wines by the glass (and over 100 by the bottle). Wines come in 3-, 6-, or 9-ounce pours to let drinkers taste test drive everything from Croatian grapes to “beautiful” Malbecs from Spain and full-bodied reds from Turkey and the Middle East, she says. Lesser-known North American varietals are also in the mix.
“There is great riesling coming out of New York and Cab Francs out of Mexico,” she notes.
Wines team up well with global small plates and a cheese and charcuterie program she calls “insane.” An Italian board features rare finds like truffle salami, lambrusco wine jelly, and imported smoked mozzarella.
A tasting room cellar tucked under the main dining level is outfitted with temperature-controlled wine lockers for members, a cosmopolitan touch in the historically sleepy neighborhood-turned-dining destination. Customers are coming in for drinks before dinner at Pennyroyal or vice versa, she notes.
Era’s hours are Tuesday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and until 11 p.m. on Fridays to Sundays. Weekend brunch served from noon to 2:30 p.m. brings steak and eggs, French toast, and salmon boards to the table.
Much of the opening list highlights small producers, organic and biodynamic styles, and women-owned wineries, plus a section of splurge-worthy bottles poured carefully with a Coravin wine tool.
“People are excited to hear those stories and spend time with our team to learn what their favorites are,” she says. Customers linger for an average of two hours, she says.
Even cocktails loop in wine, like a Shiraz-topped riff on a New York Sour with rye, lemon, and simple syrup.
Instead of hiring a head chef, Grant put her at-home culinary skills to work and created recipes that reflect the couple’s heritage and extensive world travels.
“We’ve spent time in almost 40, if not 45, countries [combined] and we’ve drank a lot of wine along the way,” she told Eater this spring.
Small plates pull from flavors from India (tandoori chicken wings), the Middle East (goat cheese-stuffed dates), East Africa (Swahili samosas filled with ground beef, scallion, potato, pea, and cumin), Spain (Catalonian chickpeas with smoky paprika and shaved garlic), and Greece (tzatziki-topped lamb sliders).
“Half of my family is from Southern Africa, and the other half is from Southwest India — but I also grew up in the D.C. area,” she says. “So on our dinner table you saw curries, vegetables, stews, salads, burgers, and pastas.”
Era’s New Year’s Eve plans include a four-course dinner with live entertainment for $100 per person or $150 with wine pairings.