Pacing around the empty shell of a Brookland building that was once a rotisserie chicken shop, wine pro Sebastian Zutant is hard to miss. His hair is the color of Willy Wonka‘s Violet Beauregarde and he’s dressed casually because he’s about to go skateboarding. Zutant is joined by his wife, Lauren Winter of design firm Edit Lab at Streetsense, and the setting is the couple’s forthcoming wine bar Primrose (3000 12th St. NE).
A goth punk rock kid at heart, Zutant typically zigs when everyone else zags, but he didn’t decide on Brookland on a whim. He and Winter recently moved to the neighborhood and like its charm. “We find the neighborhood exciting, upwardly mobile, and very intelligent,” Zutant says. “You see lots of ‘resist’ flags. It has a sense of community, and I dig that.”
The wine bar with an anticipated opening date of late summer will have a feminine, French feel. Zutant and Winter went on a research trip to Paris, where Winter says she fell in love with the easy-going bistros. She’ll carry out the design of the wine bar.
“We want to be just a French neighborhood wine bar slash bistro,” Winter says. “We don’t want it to look like it was plucked out of France and put here, want to have our own touches, but there are a few nods to France.”
The bar is named after one of Winter’s grandmothers, but it fits the delicate vibe the duo is aiming for. “We wanted something floral, not overtly masculine,” Zutant says. Winter, who has two sons with Zutant, jokes that “it’s the little girl we never had.”
Thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that open, the 66-seat bar will spill out to the sidewalk where there will be an additional 28 seats. Winter says she’s looking to have a hickory wood floor, a zinc bar top, white marble tables with gold trimming, and lights festooned with ostrich feathers.
The wine list will have approximately 14 wines by the glass and 75 bottles. It will almost exclusively feature French wines from lesser known regions like Jura, Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Côtes Catalanes. By limiting himself to these parameters, Zutant says it empowers him to go beyond scratching the surface of a region, country, or style.
All of the French wines he pours will be natural, meaning that they’re made from organic grapes and see minimal adulteration once in the cellar (making it unfined and unfiltered).
Another major component of the wine list will be those that Zutant has been making in collaboration with Early Mountain Vineyards’ Ben Jordan in Virginia. They include a riesling, a riesling syrah blend, a riesling petit manseng blend, and a cabernet franc petit manseng blend. He hopes the 2015 batch will be ready to sip and swirl within the first couple of months the wine bar is open.
Primrose will have a couple of large tables that can be reserved by groups looking for a more interactive experience with Zutant because wine education is a big part of the plan. “I treat it more like music and art than anything else. People want to know how to move through it. They’re not afraid to be educated anymore,” he says.
The sommelier has long enjoyed introducing funky new wine styles to fledgling wine fans. Even though his resume includes stops at major wine destinations like Komi, Rasika, Proof, and The Red Hen (where he is still la partner), Zutant talks about wine in unconventional ways and avoids snobbish, persnickety descriptions full of jargon that no one understands. “It’s just the way that I operate,” he says.
Imbibers will need something to soak up all the wine. That’s where Chef Nathan Beauchamp—the culinary director of The Fainting Goat and Tiger Fork—comes in. He’s the consulting chef for Primrose and will be developing a menu of French charcuterie and rustic, sharable dishes like bœuf à la Bourguignonne served in big pots with crusty bread. “Imagine a fairly traditional bistro with one-tenth of the things on the menu,” Winter explains. The menu will change seasonally, but steak frites will always be available.
When it opens, Primrose will be evenings-only, but down the line they may include brunch. They’ll be closed Tuesdays and will take reservations for six or more people. Get a first taste this Sunday when Primrose pops up inside 2 Birds 1 Stone together with another coming-soon wine bar—Maxwell Park.
Primrose, 3000 12th St. NE