If you didn't already snag your plane ticket and book that villa in Nice or an Eiffel Tower-overlooking apartment in the 7th arrondissement, it's probably too late for a summer sojourn in France. Zut alors! These D.C. restaurants have you covered though, with brioche-scented Champagne, crisp Loire Valley whites and earthy red Burgundian reds. Take a jaunt via your glass, one fabulous wine region at a time. Allons-y!
Burgundy's the top spot for earthy pinot noir-based reds and restrained, elegant whites crafted from chardonnay (over-the-top butter and oak bombs need not apply). This chic brasserie in Alexandria offers up 7 white and 5 red bouteilles bourguignon. Beverage director Michael Williams swoons over the 2013 Chateau de Fleys Mont de Milieu Premier Cru Chablis ($62/bottle), whose hints of lemon, apple, chalk and brie rind pair with shrimp and grits (a spoonful of Basquaise sauce keeps the dish Gallic.) With the grass-fed, bearnaise sauce-topped rib eye (done medium rare, natch), sip the 2011 Desertaux Ferrand Cotes de Nuits Villages "Les Perrieres" ($80/bottle), which oozes rich black cherry, black raspberry and bay leaf. "Burgundy wines offer versatility with food and are the definition of elegant beauty in wine,"says Williams. Mais oui!
The Loire Valley may lay in the shadow of some other flashier French wine regions (Bordeaux, we're look at you), but its super accessible, easy-to-love bottles are screaming to be discovered. At Daniel Boulud's D.C. outpost in City Center, head sommelier Andrew Wooldridge peppers the 200-bottle French wine list with 21 Loire Valley stunners. The 2014 Louis Métaireau Carte Noire Muscadet Sèvre et Main Sur Lie ($45/bottle) "tastes like Meyer lemon, acacia flowers and a long walk on the beach,"he says--fab with oysters or heirloom summer squash and squash blossom salad. Wash down charcuterie and sausages with the 2015 Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny ($56/bottle), a cabernet franc-based wine bursting with flavors of blackberry, cherry, pepper, leather and spice. "The Loire has] patio-pounder reds, to transcendental, life-changing whites, and everything in between."
With 35 French sparkling wines on the list at Stephen Starr's très à la mode brasserie on 14th Street, a flute in hand is de rigueur. For a change, sommelier and beverage manager Jeffrey Barrientos advises to eschew Champagne and order another French effervescent elixir, like a chilled bottle of 2009 Jean-Noël Gagnard and Caroline Lestimé 'Grand Lys'Brut Crémant de Bourgogne ($74/bottle). It's produced with the same method and with the same grapes as it's pedigreed cousins can be, and delivers intense nectarine, citrus and toast notes and teeny tiny bubbles that are parfait avec roast chicken and loup de mer. Purists, if you must, get your Champagne fix with the brioche, toast, butter and citrus tinges of the well-structured and intense 100% Grand Cru Demière-Ansiot Brut Blanc de Blancs ($135/bottle), relished with fruits de mer (or a Burger Américain, says Barrientos.)
Fresh off the win for Best Fine Dining Restaurant at the RAMMY Awards in June, Robert Wiedmaier's elegant French-Belgian hotspot in the West End shows mad love for wines from France's Rhône Valley, with 65 options on the 279-bottle list. "The Rhône Valley is responsible for some of the world's greatest red wines, specifically in its Northern region, [which produces complex, age worthy, and great value red wines,"muses sommelier Moez Ben Archour. You can never go wrong with the brambly, herbal, elegant and spicy 2011 Domaine Santa Duc "Quatre Terres" Côtes-du-Rhône ($40/bottle) with squab en croute and Bordelaise sauce. Steak fans: sink your teeth into the Angus filet mignon with the tannin-busting, candied flower and blueberry aromas of the 2012 J.L Chaves Selection "Offenus" Saint-Joseph ($95/bottle).