in partnership
Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits, the author's go-to destination for the finest cheese and wine in the District, owes its superior customer service to staff members who have been with the store for more than 25 years. (Image: Samantha Shapin)

The magic behind D.C. institution, Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits

Spend any amount of time hanging around the meat and cheese counter at Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits and you will soon understand that this place is something special. Striking up a conversation with the stranger beside you, an activity I thought was reserved only for my Midwestern and southern homes, seems almost expected, with everyone eager to share just how much they love CW, how long they have been coming and how they will remain ever loyal.

With a devoted following, a dedication to excellence and a storied history dating back to 1946, Calvert Woodley has secured its reputation as a true Washington institution.

Sporting an impressive selection of wine, craft beer, liquor, meat and cheese, CW has all the essentials I need to survive. The simple laminated signs, charming in their throwback appeal, warm my heart and point to some of my favorite experiences each time I shop. "Cheese Treasures" as they are known, are small little mystery packages of joy for only $1.49 each -- one of my favorite ways to feel adventurous while still getting a good deal.

While their commitment to providing high quality products is undeniable, the thing that sets Calvert Woodley far above the rest is their unmatched customer service. Whether it is your first time, or you visit weekly, the staff is sure to welcome you as a long time friend. The CW team is never pretentious, always warm, and some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. But, this is no accident -- customer service has long been the backbone that supports Calvert Woodley, with four staff members that have been around since 1982 when two competing stores merged to become the Calvert Woodley we know today, and another four that have been with CW for over 25 years ... let that sink in for a minute.

For me, like many others in this town, my love affair with Calvert Woodley began one afternoon chatting with Carlos Estrada behind the cheese counter. Unbeknownst to me, I was conversing and tasting cheese with the District's number one cheese merchant -- one of the best in the country! He encouraged me to share what I liked, what I didn't. He made suggestions, and made me laugh, never judging. That is exactly the kind of experience I have each time I visit whether I'm looking for cheese or meat, or trying to find the perfect bottle of wine for dinner; that is the kind of experience that good food and drinks should encourage. I may no longer live in the neighborhood, but it is that experience that keeps me coming back time and time again. I am just as loyal a patron now as I was when I lived only blocks away. Food and wine of the finest quality are not terribly hard to come by in this area, but Calvert Woodley offers so much more. You simply cannot find it anywhere else.