Capital Wine Fest 2011 - March's exclusive DC sip, swirl & dining event

By Karthick Boomirajan


The Frugal Socialite, aka, Lucinda Hughes, had a girl’s night (without our toddlers this time) with La Fonda Sutton Burke, my girl who is always ready to unwind with something “fabulous in a beautiful glass”, after a full day of being a corporate executive.

We attended the fifth dinner of the festival. I have a new favorite brand, Ponzi Vineyards, for my palate. Maria Ponzi presented the newer, non-pretentious style of wine seminars that are the updated face of “loving wine” in the Millennium.

Who wants to attend events with snobs, throwing around big “wine” words, waxing on and on about their private cellars and the youngest person in the room being the most recent retiree? I met regular folks, dressed in work dubs, doing regular things, having great conversation and really in-the-know about great things to do in the city.

I loved meeting Maria Ponzi, the elegant, yet hip lady who’s running things with Sister, winemaker Luisa & big brother Michel, near Portland Oregon. Her family’s story is so “me”! One day her dad packed up the whole clan, drove them to undiscovered wine territory of Oregon and just did it! They travelled extensively in France, Alsace & Burgandy, learned about wine and then planted grapes together. How do you truly call yourself a wine family if you don’t get personal with the soil? Instead of movie night, it was turn the fertilizer night.

Their methodology for winemaking, according to Maria? “We are so hands on. There’s no formula. We pick some grapes, taste them, say, seems good—we go with it.” Ponzi’s signatures are Pinot Noir “a labor of love” and the smooth, slightly sweet favorite of mine, Pinot Gris.

Quick Ponzi Particulars:
Started in 1970 Started with 12 acres --120 acres today Planted Chardonnay and small plants and evolved into Pinot Noir Pinot Gris debut in 1977 Dick Ponzi, dad, is a mechanical engineer Everything run from a small barn-like building until 2010 when “green” winemaking facility built Buy Ponzi locally at Schnieders on Capitol Hill, Silesia in Fort Washington, MD, Corridor Fine Wine in Laurel, MD and McArthur Beverage in NW DC.

I also think I’m letting a good secret out of the bag by letting the world know about The Fairfax at Embassy Row. I could have some serious gossip sessions in their lounge, huddled up in the little side banquettes, ordering $5 martinis and lamb appetizers off the Speak Easy menu.

Reasons to get a ticket to the last few dinners of the Capital Wine Festival:

No lines, schlepping booth to booth, nor fighting crowds Sip like a V.I. P. in a small setting with really interesting wine lovers, hobnobbing with winemakers from Oregon, Italy, and California. Four course dinner, choreographed to dance perfectly with a wine partner per course. Some of the dishes? The largest, sweetest jumbo shrimp I’ve ever had, stuffed with crab, colorful beet salad with a goat cheese mousse, striped bass sitting lovely atop a solid potato gratin---a few indulgences by Chef Mark Timms. Hip, new and on trend winemakers who actually work the room and want to talk with you. No Hassle Parking! Pull up, valet and get movin’. Not stuffy Rooms upstairs to ooh, la, la after the tipsy comes over you Limited to 60 guests per dinner

The festival’s official description: “Bringing together winemakers and wine enthusiasts, the Capital Wine Festival celebrates great wine from around the globe paired with seasonal cuisine during eight intimate wine dinners. Prior to each dinner, guests will enjoy a reception or seminar before being seated for a festive evening of food and wine pairings.”

Wednesday, March 9
Palmaz Vineyards (California)
Reception and Dinner, 7 p.m., $135 (California)

Amalia and Florencia Palmaz present their boutique winery, producing handmade wines from without the use of pumps, resulting in beautifully crafted varietals.

Wednesday, March 16
Silver Oak Cellars (California)
Reception and Dinner, 7 p.m., $155

Winemaker Daniel Baron features several vintages of Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley and Napa Valley cabernets, and their new venture Twomey Cellars and its pinot noirs.

Wednesday, March 23
Darioush (California)
Reception and Dinner, 7 p.m., $155

Join Dan de Polo, President of Darioush, discussing the winery’s sensible approach to winemaking. Taste chardonnay, viognier, shiraz, pinot noir and Bordeaux varietals. For ticket purchases please visit Gift certificates to single or multiple events are also available, please call 202-736-1453.

About The Fairfax Hotel at Embassy Row
Since 1927, this 259-room hotel has long been known as the premier luxury hotel for business and leisure travel in Washington, D.C. Located along “Embassy Row”. For additional information about events, and to purchase tickets, please call The Fairfax at Embassy Row at 202.293.2100 or visit