After six years in DC, “I decided I was finished and I wanted to do something different,” she said.
So last September she opened Dio – named for Dionysus, the Greek god of wine – a natural wine bar on H Street. The wine bar follows Khoury-Diaz’s own philosophy of natural is best, and specializes in wine made with organically grown grapes, free of biochemical and herbicides, and with little added or removed in the process of making the wine.
Her philosophy stems from her studies and travels related to poverty, health, and education, as well as watching farm workers in her California community growing up.
“It makes you think about how you can improve things, make things more transparent,” Khoury-Diaz said. “So from a social and environmental perspective, it made a lot of sense.”
The differences between natural wines and traditional ones can be subtle, or vary. Some of the wines can be earthier than traditional wines. And while a cabernet sauvignon might usually be described as bolder, and bigger, a natural cabernet sauvignon might be light and bright, she said.
One of her favorite wines is a pét-nat or Pétillant-naturel, a type of sparkling wine where the grape ferments in the bottle and the bottle is capped off (like beer,) leading to a cloudier wine often with some residual sediment.
“It’s something fun and whimsical intended to be drunk soon,” Khoury-Diaz said.
She’s been doing little drinking lately, expecting her first child who was due this month, but not slowing down since she still tastes and spits to put together the wine list at Dio.
The list includes natural wines from California to Africa and South America, though the most prevalent labels are European. Like the wines, the customers are also international. Natural wine bars are popular all over the world, including Paris, New York, California. For DC, it’s still new, she said, but the city has a lot of adventurous drinkers and eaters, and lots of travelers who seek out natural wines.
Together with her general manager Janine Copeland, Khoury-Diaz likes to promote other women of color in the business, and she highlights the little noticed labor of those who work in the fields. Lining the bar are simple photos of farm workers, a nod to her home and culture.
“It’s a message to say this is still a part of me, my space,” Khoury-Diaz said. Helping introduce natural wines to the District feels right, she said. And often, people find her, walking into the bar and feeling right at home with the wine they prefer. “You’re the only place that has it.”
THREE WINES FOR SUMMER:
Khourey-Diaz offers some natural wine recommendations to enjoy this simmer, or anytime:
Pink Bubbles - Channing Daughters 2016 Rosato Pétillant Naturel. This is a natural style of sparkling - pet nat for short - from Long Island, New York. It is farmed sustainably with no additives. It's bubbly, bright, and tastes like jolly ranchers without all of the sugar.
Rosé (kind of) - Kelley Fox 2017 Pinot Gris. This is technically an orange wine because white grapes (pinot gris) have been fermented on the skins to give the wine a bit more color and texture. However, Pinot Gris can sometimes have a very pink hue, and this wine drinks just like a dry, refreshing, but still interesting, rosé.
Chilled Red - Mariam Iosebidze’s 2016 Tavkveri. This is an obscure red grape varietal from the country of Georgia. This wine is woman-made and is both refreshing and complex with a fusion of smokiness, bruised strawberries, and acid.
About Dio Wine Bar:
904 H Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Tues-Fri: 5 p.m.
Sat: 4 p.m.
Sun: 3 p.m.