Schneider’s On Capitol Hill (300 Mass Ave NE) by Kristi Green

Kristi Green is the author of the blog DC Wineaux. She further indulges her love of wine in her work at a wine bar on U St NW.

Upon first entering the warm, bright space inside Schneider’s on Capitol Hill I was a bit overwhelmed by the floor to ceiling shelves, tightly packed with 12,000 different bottles of wine.

I stumbled through the walls of bottles to the always-alluring funky-labeled Charles Smith collection. Charles Smith was Food and Wine Magazine’s winemaker of the year for 2009 and it was his Boom Boom Syrah that caught my eye (even though I went home with The Velvet Devil Merlot). Just above the shelves bearing the CS collection are the wines of the K Vintners label, also made by Charles Smith–these wines employ super vintage winemaking styles (like foot-stomping!), high quality grapes, and command a higher price than the collection of wines bearing his name.

After my solo exploration of the wine section at Schneider’s, I enlisted the help of the staff. I asked for some recommendations and was taken to Spanish reds and French whites–my two favorites of the old world.

At the recommendation of my newfound guide, I purchased a 2000 Bierzo, a rich full bodied Spanish red with great aging potential. Having already been in the bottle for eleven years, we decided together that it’s definitely ready to drink now. I did spend more than I typically would on this bottle but judging by some internet research, I got it for $15-$25 less than I would have spent elsewhere.

His next recommendation, a 2007 Savennieres (by Domaine de Baumard) is an exhibition of great quality and great value (only $20!). Savennieres (named for the place it’s made, like Champagne) is a full bodied, dry white wine, made from the chenin blanc grape. This rich white pairs well with poultry and light fish–it’s racy acidity works wonders with creamy sauces as well.

The store has a great selection for every price range–they boast that their least expensive bottle is a $5 Chilean “vino de mesa” and their most expensive bottle is $4500; what wine could command such a price? A 1991 Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

Specific recommendations after the jump.

The Schneider’s staff member who expertly squired me about the store also recommended a couple of sparkling roses and some off-the-wall Spanish reds I’m looking forward to going back for!


The Velvet Devil (By Charles Smith)/Washington State/Merlot/2009


super smooth reds


the king’s speech! (or your own Oscar pick) for food: great with barbecue. also smooth enough to drink alone (as in without food, not without friends)!


medium bodied. full, round tannin. on the nose: cherry wood and dark fruits. on the palette: ripe raspberry and blackberry, finish of smoke and cedar.

Some great wines purchased at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. From left to right: Charles Smith’s The Velvet Devil Merlot (tasting notes below), Domaine de Baumard Savennieres, and Descendientes des J. Palacios, S.L. Bierzo.

15 Comment

  • I love Schneider’s! They have a great scotch selection, as well. (And a very knowledgeable staff.)

  • Scneider’s is tops among the high-end liquor stores in DC. They find such fantastic old bottles in estate sales, and I always get great advice from them. Also, their selections of single malt scotch and bourbon are among the best in town.

  • Agreed. I wish these guys would open another location. Take over any one of the crappy liquor stores up my way.

  • loved schneiders, but bad choice of photos. they’re shuttered in the top picture and you don’t really have a good shot of inside. looks can be deceiving; they jam pack it in there.

  • +1 Schneiders. Great bunch of people and a nice selection of ports, sherries, and apertifs. Also a plug for Bistro Italiano around the corner. Good cheap Italian-American food.

    • +1 on Bistro Italiano. Sure, it’s Italian-American (as you stated) and not authentic Italian, but they do Italian-American well!

      • I second the +1 for the Italian bistro. It’s cute, svc can be spotty but they do brisk takeout business and it’s always a reliably decent meal without being too fussy.

  • hmm, live close to them but never been. well need to check out their scotch selection.

  • another good (and new) italian place, Toscana, at F and 2nd NE, lets you bring Schneider’s wines in for free corkage.

    • I wouldn’t call Toscana new, but I agree, their food is great! I love sitting outside on nice spring and fall days. And I didn’t know that they let you bring in Schneider’s wines for free corkage. Thanks for the info!

  • I’ve given Schneider’s a decent chunk of money in the past year or so but I’ll be a dissenting voice here–

    Schneider’s has a great selection of wine but the style seems to be taken from around 10 years (and remained unchanged). They have a ton of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and California cabs. They have a small handful of Austrian/Greek/NY state wine. Even in California the selection is totally dominated by Napa valley, with a smattering of Sonoma choices. I’m not saying obscure=good but they just seem a few years behind the curve. I also think they put a few dollars on top because of their name but that could be my imagination.

    Again, I think it’s a great store. I’ve found some beautiful wines there (Yorkville cellars Petite Verdot, La Princesa Albarino, La Oveja Negra Lost Barrel, etc.), but I do think there’s room for improvement. With all that being said there beer selection is fantastic and almost brings a smile to the face of a cynical Philly native.

  • the problem with Scheiders is that its crazy small. They simply cant fit a ton of stuff in there. And although their staff is knowledgeable, they definietely skew towards pricier stuff during recommendations. Frankly, you need to really know the right questions to ask at schneiders vs some other good wine shops or before you know it, if you say you like non-oaky chard, you will have a $100+ bottle of montrachet recommended. I find it hard to find good quality in their $15-30 selections. I simply dont go there to find vin de pays. That being said, if you get to know the guys working and you can describe your palette, you can find some great stuff. Check their website, I’ve gotten some older inexpenive (relatively) Bordeaux and Burgandy wines their that you cant get outside of auctions.

    • I have the exact opposite experience there. I usually go in looking for specific things and the staff almost always provides some lower priced alternatives to what I’m looking at. I’ve never, ever been upsold in Schneiders (and I’m there multiple times a week).

  • I went in a few years ago, I told the staff a few times I wanted to look around before I would need assistance. I just felt as if I was being followed. Made me uncomfortable. I must look like a crook has the same experience at Woven History on Capitol Hill, during that experience the owner of the store dispatched her 10 year old to follow me around. I told the owner she should have said she didn’t want me in her store, oh well.

  • I mentioned this in a reply to a comment on last week’s column–it is very important to tell the staff person helping you what your price range is. I bought three incredible wines–two of which were at the recommendation of the staff(the least expensive was $15, the most expensive was $30) that were all high quality (my frenchy is AOC NOT vin de pays)–any number headed salesperson will always try to sell you the most expensive item–and really, it’s not their selling style/product knowledge that have kept Schneider’s open for 60 years 😉

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