Nadine Brown encourages oenophiles to broaden their palates without leaving this country. She is head sommelier and wine buyer at the Washington, D.C., branch of Charlie Palmer Steak, a restaurant that offers only American wines and, when possible, stocks vintages from each of the 50 states. Since the steak house opened in 2003, the 35-year-old Brown and her staff have convinced diners to taste Merlots from Texas, sparkling wines from New Mexico, and South Dakota reds made from native wild grapes. “We try to get people out of their comfort zones by having them try wines that are not on every list in a four-mile radius,” she says. “There has to be a sense of experimentation.”
While nearly 90 percent of the restaurant’s 500 selections come from California—which Brown jokingly calls “the region of least resistance” because of its popularity with patrons—they include some of the state’s smallest producers, such as Lauterbach Cellars, a Russian River Valley winery founded by an emergency-room doctor who has retained his day job.
Charlie Palmer Steak, Washington, D.C., 202.547.8100, www.charliepalmer.com