Thomas Boisvert and Kathleen Davis are not professional sommeliers, nor do they have any formal experience in the wine business. "Although I did see that documentary Somm on Netflix," Boisvert says. That hasn’t stopped them from opening a new spot to drink vino on H Street NE: Pursuit Wine Bar. In order to create their wine selection, they sampled hundreds of wines, narrowing them down to the wines they simply “liked the best.”
Before opening Pursuit on June 14, Boisvert was part of a different kind of bar: He attended law school, graduating in 2012. But he had long wanted to open a drinking establishment, and he partnered with Davis to make it happen. Although he didn't initially intend to open a wine bar in particular, when he thought about the kind of bar he would like to frequent, the idea came to him: "I thought, 'What's fun for me?' And often it was nights with friends and a few bottles of wine, just hanging out and talking," he says. "I also thought the H Street neighborhood was missing a wine bar, and that we could fill a need here."
The eclectic wine list ranges from a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to a chianti from an obscure villa in Tuscany, Italy. There's an even mix of Old World and New World wines: The list boasts varietals from France, Australia, Chile, the United States, and beyond. Boisvert and Davis tried not limit themselves to the traditional staples of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and so on; the menu includes less common offerings like an Italian montepulciano and a French Vouvray. Helpful annotations below each wine help to guide the diner. A syrah from the producer J. Lohr in California, for instance, has notes of "blueberry, black tea, [and] chestnut."
Wine isn't all Pursuit has to offer. Its bar-food menu includes unusually generous charcuterie boards as well as an upscaled grilled cheese. Guests can choose from four different breads, six cheeses, and a variety of spreads and toppings to create a sandwich that will pair best with their wine.
The bar is surprisingly roomy, considering its narrow glass storefront. The high-ceilinged first floor has a rustic-industrial aesthetic—exposed brick wall, naked lightbulbs, a solid concrete bar, and iron-wrought chairs. The shelf behind the bar is heavily stocked with various liquors and beers, although it is clear that the focus is wine. A large chalkboard on the right of the bar advertises the "Standby Flight,” which consists of discounted wines from bottles opened the previous night. For $15, you can taste all of the standby wines, the number of which vary on any given night.
The second floor offers an entirely different atmosphere: The slate-gray walls of the first floor give way to dim lighting and maroon tones as you walk up a set of narrow stairs. Instead of a bar, there are small, low tables with loveseats seating two to four.
There is a patio area in the back that has yet to be converted into a fully usable space, but Boisvert hopes to turn it into a fully functional seating area by the end of the summer.
Pursuit Wine Bar, 1421 H Street NE, (202) 758-2139; thepursuitwinebar.com