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Wine is good. Wine with food is even better. And the best place to enjoy both may not be the usual restaurant setting but your local wine bar.
Case in point: the
Idylwood Grill and Wine Bar, tucked away in a suburban Washington, D.C., strip mall that gives a newcomer little hint of the feast that awaits inside.
Hedi Ben-Abdallah toasts patrons at his Idylwood Grill and Wine Bar.
Photo by Denny Gainer
A few friends and I recently paid a visit there to sample the wines (the list offers 108 choices, many by the glass) and discovered a gem of a place where fine food, delicious wines and camaraderie embrace. 
If you have the impression that food might just be an afterthought at an eatery that bills itself as a wine bar, you’ve obviously never tasted Idylwood’s exquisite grilled salmon with hearts of artichoke, gnocchi and pesto sauce.
Then there’s the atmosphere. A good wine bar is designed to delight the wine-aficionado’s eye as well as the palate. The Idlywood’s warm Mediterranean decor with its ubiquitous wine racks, for example, enhances the pleasure of whatever vintage you’re sipping.
Most important perhaps is the appreciation you gain for a particular wine when it’s not served by someone whom you think merely read a blurb about it somewhere but instead, like Idlywood partners Hedi Ben-Abdallah and Marco Escudero, can rattle off multiple reasons why they’re recommending it, including the characteristics of soil and climate that impart a special flavor or aroma. As our discussion got more spirited, they even joined in the conversation and tasting, uncorking a couple of their own favorites.
Which brings me to another point—one other appealing advantage of a wine bar is that it seems to promote highly creative conversations about the wine you’re drinking.
As it did with the member of our group who described three Pinot Noirs as having the qualities of different types of lovers. To him, a
Les Jamelles 2005 from France’s Côte d’Or was a “one night stand” and a Jezebal 2006 from Oregon was “easy to get comfortable with,” but the Argentine Luigi Bosca Reserva 2005 “takes you places” that reveal why one has a lover in the first place.
For me, either one would have made a yummy complement to the salmon. Whether it was the power of my friend’s suggestion or the wine’s velvety smoothness, my favorite turned out to be the Luigi Bosca, too.
Another companion, on the other hand, raved about the Les Jamelles’ “complex and elegant” fruit tones and noted that the aromas improved ever so nicely the more it breathed. Then, getting with the program, he added: “Not a woman of mystery—playful.” 
At a hotel restaurant, by comparison, chances are the discussion would probably have included an appreciative nod to the wine (sadly, picked from a list with far fewer selections) but dwelt mostly on such relatively mundane topics as one’s 401K, some sports team’s woes or the latest home improvement project.
Thanks to the Web, it’s fairly easy to explore the
terroir, so to speak, of wine bars in your area. As a first step, this blog’s custom map provides a user-friendly way to pin down local establishments. Other helpful sources for reviews are Yelp and the wine forum at Chowhound.
Give a wine bar a try next time you’re in a dining-out mood. Not all wine bars are created equal. But you might get lucky and find a fun-and-festive equivalent of Idylwood in your neighborhood. 
As for vinothekid, this may be my first wine bar visit blogging for
Wine News Review, but it definitely won’t be the last. And how about you? If you’ve found a wine bar you like, share it by posting a comment below.