Best Hidden Wine Shop

Jaleo Wine Shop
2550 A Crystal Drive, Crystal City; (703) 413-8181
A few dusty Riojas or some stomach-lining-burning bottles of plonk…if you like Spanish wine, you rarely have more choices than a monarchist during Franco’s reign. Up a flight of stairs in the back of the Crystal City Jaleo, though, you can choose from 23 Ribera del Duero reds, 10 Monsant whites, and a bunch of tiny DOs like Pla de Bages and Txakoli. Carlos Olarte, the restaurant’s beverage manager, says the shop is “an opportunity for people to take home a wine they had with dinner and share it with their friends,” but there’s nothing stopping anyone from walking in off the street. Recently someone I live with went in for a bottle and emerged with three, partly because an employee poured her a taste of a 2007 Arte de Vivir and partly because I’d just gotten paid. There’s a good sherry and cava selection, too, but my next trips in are going to be explorations of reds from Priorat (Olarte: “really small region...really steep hills...nice spiciness and nice earthiness because of the soil”) and the verdejos that Olarte is looking forward to selling in summer (“Such aromatic wines with a lot of chopped up fruits.…Beautiful to drink on the patio.”) On that patio, or at the restaurant’s Friday wine tastings, you can even pretend you’re not hearing the screams of tourists crossing Jeff Davis Frogger-style in pursuit of Mac Snack Wraps.

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