There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
What if a place could also be a feeling? Local bar professionals and close pals Peyton Sherwood and Frederick Uku are opening a bar they hope will help the D.C. kick back and exhale. Saint Vincent should open this fall at 3212 Georgia Ave. NW in Park View. Union Drinkery, which currently occupies part of the address, will close.
When you cross the threshold, you’ll enter a well-stocked wine shop curated by Uku, who has 12 years of bartending experience in D.C., most recently at The Red Hen. He moved to D.C. from Nigeria to attend Howard University and found his home in hospitality. Purchase a bottle that speaks to you and continue straight back into a 4,000-square-foot backyard to sip it, uninterrupted, with friends.
Sherwood (the son of City Paper contributor Tom Sherwood) owns The Midlands Beer Garden nearby and describes his new project as a dog-friendly secret garden with wrought iron tables and chairs and lots of lattice work covered in climbing ivy. “We’re going to uproot some large trees from a nursery out in Virginia that we’ve been visiting to to get some nice coverage back there,” he says. “We have to get it all dug out and line the whole place with beautiful plants, flowering plants, stuff that changes color in the fall.”
“It’ll be green, but not like Sherwood Forest,” Uku says. Servers won’t hurry patrons to finish their wine so they can turn tables. “I want to give people a place where they can come and forget for a second or five hours that they’re in Washington, D.C.” By opening at 11 a.m. daily and offering wifi, Uku and Sherwood think of Saint Vincent as a “third place” neighbors can visit at least one a week.
Uku plans to sell wines he loves with a more gentle mark-up than most restaurants and bars offer. “The reason bars mark-up wine the way they do is you’re not just paying for the wine,” he explains. “You’re paying for the sommelier. You’re paying to cover the hourly wage of your server, bartender, food cost, etc. In restaurants, wine does a lot of heavy lifting. This place, because it’s a retail store with no service in the back, the wine can be marked up less steeply. That’s the idea—sell really good wine at a fair price.”
Because of the way the law is written, a business can’t have both on-premise and off-premise alcohol sales, so customers can only drink wine on site. That said, if you don’t finish your open bottle, Saint Vincent can put a cork in it and send you home to finish the rest.
While D.C. doesn’t have anything quite like Saint Vincent, New Orleans does. Uku and Sherwood were inspired by Bacchanal Wine, which also combines a wine shop and a lush backyard. There’s also a live music component at the NOLA hotspot. Uku and Sherwood traveled there in March 2018 to scout it out.
“I look over at Peyton and he’s calculating square footage, counting tables, figuring out the cost of how much they’re paying the band per hour,” Uku recounts. “I could see it happening in his brain and I was like, ‘Yeah, I want all of this to manifest.’ Everyone who goes to Bacchanal leaves thinking the same thing: Why don’t I have this in my city? It defies description.”
Saint Vincent will also have an upstairs lounge with tufted couches and low accent chairs you can sink into. A small stage will accommodate a three- or four-piece band. Sherwood says he hopes to work with Howard University’s music department to find performers.
The indoor space will offer a different drink menu than the garden, with $10 to $12 cocktails, a handful of wines by the glass, and food items like build-your-own charcuterie boards to start. Later on they may offer heartier dishes like bowls of pasta. Perhaps the best seat in the house will be on the patio that shoots off the second floor lounge and overlooks the garden below.
The bar gets its name from Saint Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of winemakers who had a rough go at it. He served as a deacon under Bishop Valerius of Saragossa and was martyred under Emperor Diocletian.
The story varies from one source to another, but none dispute that Saint Vincent was brutally tortured. His flesh was torn with iron hooks as he was stretched over a rack and eventually burned alive. He died over a bed of broken pottery and his remains were flung into the sea in a sack. His body was later recovered. Legend has it that a flock of ravens guard the tomb where he now lays so no one can harm him again.
Think about that over a glass of Zinfandel.
St. Vincent, 3212 Georgia Ave. NW, stvincentwine.com