Back to Barrel 9, Lusby, Calvert County, Maryland

I reported on our initial visit to Barrel 9, which was during their soft opening, and my post will give you the details of the concept. Briefly, in addition to glasses and indeed, bottles of wine (with a modest corkage fee), you can have small tastes (1, 2.5, or 5 ounces) of very fine wines, the sort that you never see by the glass, and that cost way too much to buy one just to see if you’ll like it — too much for me, anyway. The secret is a high tech system that keeps the expensive wines in a controlled environment that allows the wine to remain fresh for up to four weeks after the bottle is opened. They also have small plates and a huge selection of whiskeys that I’ve yet to try. Stay tuned though.

We went again during the Grand Opening, and the joint was jumpin’. Despite all care, there was a glitch in the wine system. It was down for several minutes. I was next in line, and watched while owners Mike and Carolyn immediately got on top of the problem, got computer people on the horn, and resolved it. It was a treat to see really competent people address a problem. How has your experience been calling Apple?

The same brisk competence has shown through on each of our visits. Every issue gets resolved quickly and happily, every problem stays small. Service is prompt but relaxed and friendly. Richard, the bartender, is a great presence.

We went back most recently on a Friday for a very light dinner after a very large lunch, which we’ll get to later. I reloaded my computer chip card (see my first report) and we each got some wine, Nancy a taste of a wonderful Duckhorn Cabernet, and I a beautiful Twomey pinot noir.

And we had some food. I went straight for the duck pâté.

As you can see, I was eager enough that I started before I got my phone out. The pâté is delicious. Richard, the master of the cocktails, told us it’s from Stachowski’s, the legendary Georgetown shop, via a North Beach shop.

Nancy chose their white bean puree. I was focusing on the pâté, so rather than wait around for me to start taking pictures, Nancy wisely followed suit.

While the food was very good, we certainly didn’t ignore the wine. AS I mentioned, Nancy had that wonderful Duckhorn Cabernet, and I started with the Twomey pinot noir, which was really, really good. Then I ordered a glass of one of my go-to pinot noirs, the Vennstone, and did my own taste test to see how much difference the extra, what $40? that a bottle of the Twomey would cost. A sip of one, a sip of the other. Repeat. I had the answers. A lot, a whole lot of difference. I won’t spend that much very often, but there are times in life, special times, when it’s worth it. I hope I have a lot of those times.

There was another treat. I haven’t tried the whiskey side of Barrel 9 yet, but I was very intrigued when I saw Richard make their signature hickory smoked old fashioned.  Being a barbecue fan, I perk up whenever I smell hickory. Here’s the gadget that heats up some hickory chips and pumps it into the glass of Old Fashioned.

I’ve been pretty negligent in terms of their cocktails. My usual consists of bourbon, Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve, and frozen water. But as long as I’m getting all fancy with wines, I might branch out for one of those. And Richard, by the way, is something. He’s always relaxed, always unflappable, but if you pay attention, he’s always in motion, always getting things done. He’s one reason nothing is ever a problem at Barrel 9.

We didn’t make a night of it, but we had a good time. It was a good crowd, groups of friends enjoying conversations, some attractive young women, and some of us “people of a certain age.” The atmosphere was lively but not loud, just right.

By the way, you may be wondering why I add the county name to my Southern Maryland blog posts. One function of the blog is as a travel guide, with posts like the soon to be updated guide to great local places close to I-95 from Washington to Key West. The county names make it easier for folks to find places to eat and plan a day or weekend or week-long trip more easily, at least for those who aren’t sure where Callaway or Port Republic might be. Similarly, I identify the neighborhoods of DC restaurants.

Anyway, you should go to Barrel 9, and try some new wines. And maybe try the sort of side-by-side taste test I did and find a wine or two for those extra-special moments in your life. I hope you have many.

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