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While soon-to-be wine bar owner Stacey Khoury-Diaz has been legally drinking for less than a decade, wine’s in her blood. She grew up in Sonoma County, California, where it’s hard to escape the wine industry. “It’s completely ingrained in the culture out there, and it’s huge for the economy,” she says. After a career in international development, she’s getting back to her roots by opening Dio Wine Bar this summer at 904 H St. NE.
Khoury-Diaz is starting small, literally. Her bar named after Dionysus—the god of wine—is about 900 square feet and will focus on natural wine. The white-hot style of winemaking calls for minimal intervention both out in the field growing the grapes and once the grape juice is being made into wine.
“Organic, biodynamic farming practices are used, then as little as possible is added or removed from wine in the winemaking process,” Khoury-Diaz explains. For example, natural wines don’t go through mechanized fining processes that remove every last scrap of sediment. They can be perfectly imperfect, like women without makeup.
Khoury-Diaz became interested in natural wine after pursuing a master’s degree in New York in food systems. She says she picked up on “the urge for people to go back, eat organic, eat natural foods,” and adds that “this entire shift in perception around food is leaking into beverages as well.” While it’s easier these days to eat organic because labels on food are full of information, the same isn’t true for wine. She’s amazed at the “lack of information in the era of information,” and that’s what drew her to the transparency natural wines offer.
While living in New York, Khoury-Diaz was surrounded by bars and restaurants eagerly pouring natural wine. Some of her favorites included The Four Horsemen, Ten Bells, and Rouge Tomate. “New York is absolutely a leader in food and beverage movements—if it works there, it has potential to work elsewhere,” she says. But at the same time, she doesn’t want people to feel she’s forcing natural wine onto them. “I’m not an alarmist about it,” she says. “I’m not trying to offer this as a better alternative, just as an alternative.”
Khoury-Diaz isn’t the only person interested in getting D.C. hooked on natural wines. Sebastian Zutant, who is also opening a wine bar in 2017, is smitten with the style. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if Brent Kroll poured a few types of natural wine when his wine bar opens in Shaw. If Washingtonians drank more wine per capita than any other corner of the country before, it’s a safe bet that the city will expand its lead with all of the wine bars set to debut.
People can get a first taste of what Khoury-Diaz has in store at Dio Wine Bar by attending Mess Hall’s New Kitchens on the Block on March 19. She’ll pour Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco “Rosso Viola” 2015, Amplify Wines White Table Wine “Duke & Ella” 2015, and Foradori Teroldego 2014.
Dio Wine Bar, 904 H St. NE; diowinebar.com
Photo by Sun and Life Photography