The first thing you notice when you walk into the DCanter wine boutique is a question asked by owner Michael Warner. The question isn’t “Can I help you find something?” or “What price point are you looking at?” It’s “Can we help you find something delicious?” Even if you know nothing about wine or beer – the styles, the technical terms, or even how to pronounce Bordeaux – DCanter will help you by focusing on what your taste preference is and lead you to a wine or beer that you will assuredly enjoy. It’s a personalized focus, one made just for you.

DCanter is an award-winning, family-owned business begun by Capitol Hill residents, Michael and his wife, Michelle. The Barracks Row wine boutique stocks 300 hand-picked wines, 60 to 80 craft beers, gift items, and accessories like beer openers, glassware, and, of course, decanters. Many of the products that DCanter carries aren’t available anywhere else in the Atlantic region.

“We recognized that there needed to be something like this in the neighborhood,” Warner said, adding, “We had often been looking around for wines that we couldn’t typically find. It seemed like there was no shortage of places where you could buy wine, but generally speaking, most of the shops were carrying the exact same brand with the exact same big producer."

You can explore some of these unfamiliar choices throughout the week with thematic tastings in a dedicated tasting room. DCanter also offers classes that are focused not only on educating, but on fostering an appreciation of wine and beer. Previous classes include “The Grape American Road Trip” and “The Dark Side of Beer.” In a completely unique turn,  virtual classes are offered for students to be able to Skype winemakers and brewers around the nation. Each class is set up to be unintimidating, inviting, and easily understandable for wine and beer newcomers.

Warner is a Certified Specialist of Wine from the Society of Wine Educators. He knows everything from what sort of grapes are inside of each bottle, the major styles and major regions, and all of the technical terms that can cause even someone who isn’t new to wine to feel overwhelmed.
Even with this expansive, specialized knowledge, Warner said, “You don’t have to know the specific appellation laws of Burgundy in order to know that this is going to be kind of a light, enjoyable, fruity wine.”  He acknowledged that by focusing on these kinds of technical terms, “It turns the people off in thinking that they cannot possibly enjoy this wine.”

“If you ask somebody what their favorite bottle of wine was, inevitably they tell you where they were, who they were with, what they were talking about, and what they were doing that night. Nine times out of ten, they can’t tell you what the wine was. They can just tell you the experience and the emotions they had,” Warner said.

In his business, Warner sets up DCanter to become a space that can nurture such an experience with a quiet, easy-to-navigate atmosphere, friendly staff, and an expansive and unique wine and beer selection.

The walls of the wine boutique are lined with wine bottle after wine bottle, each section divided unconventionally from light, clean, and crisp to big and full-bodied, rather than by locations like Parles and Stellenbosch. On one side of the store, the 15 and Under Wall provides a selection of 48 wines that are $15 and under for those who want something affordable and quick.

“We have our 15 and Under Wall because on a random Tuesday night, you’re coming home from work, you just want something to relax because your boss yelled at you. You don’t need a fancy wine that night. Every wine has its place and purpose,” Warner said.

There are a few initiatives in the works that Warner is working on and was able to give exclusive information on one. While there is no name decided yet, there will be a wine club delivery service that will work like a “palette stylist,” taking the in-store experience and bringing it to every customer’s home. In order to tailor what selection of wine will be sent to each customer, there will be questions like if one prefers red or white wine, if one drinks wine with a meal or alone, and more. Six bottles will be delivered to each customer, but each customer will potentially have completely different bottles altogether.

DCanter is located in 545 8th Street, SE, Washington, D.C. The wine boutique is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Go online to to see the current classes available.

About Michelle Goldchain

Michelle is a photojournalist who loves to live life by never sitting still. You can find her in art galleries in Dupont Circle, ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan and comedy clubs in Arlington. In her spare time, when she's not typing away at a computer screen, she's probably listening to moody electronic music, watching cat videos or doodling.
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