Led by Chef Jonathan Krinn, WineLair is looking to export the model to new markets such as Aspen, Colo.; Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn. Krinn is looking to elevate the club’s image from that of a stodgy place where the rich go to store, sip and discuss fancy wines. “What you want is to create an environment where people want to come and utilize the venue for the curated, customized experiences that you create,” he says.
Chef Jonathan Krinn stepped down from Clarity, a modern American restaurant in Vienna, Va., and took over as CEO of WineLair, a private club and event space for wine enthusiasts, the Washington Business Journal reported. He has already set about growing the business located next to the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., with aims to export the model to new markets outside the D.C. region, naming Aspen, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; San Jose, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Lake Tahoe as potential expansion cities.
The club now has about 75 members, up from 25 when he came aboard, and he’s introduced a variety of new perks, including nightly food-and-wine pairings, to elevate the club’s image from that of a stodgy place where the rich go to store, sip and discuss fancy wines, the Business Journal reported.
“Originally, it was marketed softly that you’re storing your wine somewhere, and you come and you drink it,” Krinn said. “I was thinking, that’s true but that is not, in a sense, the value. It’s a value, and it’s a very good value, but what you want is to create an environment where people want to come and utilize the venue for the curated, customized experiences that you create.”
It costs $5,000 up front and $300 a month, and for that price of entry, members get their own climate-controlled wine storage locker, the Business Journal reported. The roughly 5,500-sq.-ft. lounge is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 4 p.m. a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Members can ask for custom-built food menus to pair with their own wines or purchase bottles and pours by the glass.
Fred Elleman, who opened WineLair about two years ago, as Washingtonian reported, reached out to Krinn for help building the business given the timing of the members-only club’s launch amid the global pandemic, the Business Journal reported. The West End location was the first U.S. outpost for Christian Ress’s European WineBank, a private network of clubs with locations in Frankfurt and Hamburg, among others.
“It really was right up my alley, and he asked me to come on board to run the whole thing, move it forward, gain it traction and to make it thrive,” Krinn said. “Now we’re sort of ready to relaunch, but really a grand opening, because anything opened during the pandemic doesn’t count.”
Krinn has assembled a staff including Chef Kene Izegbu, who previously worked at the Kinship and Métier, along with a team of four sommeliers led by General Manager Alissa Pelkola, a Wine, Sprit and Education Trust Level 3 sommelier, the Business Journal reported. Menu items include sous vide beef filet with confit potato gratin, slow-cooked Canadian arctic char with osetra caviar and wild mushrooms, and seared Carolina yellowfin tuna and beef tartare.