The craft wine, beer and spirits retailer stays on Wharf but moves to larger space

New location of Cordial Craft Wine, Beer and Spirits. Courtesy of Cordial.

By Mike Goodman

Cordial Craft Wine, Beer and Spirits first opened on The Wharf in October 2017, and current owner Chuck Waldmann took over in June 2019. Five years later, the shop has become a mainstay for residents, office workers and tourists alike, and recently moved just a few hundred feet to an expanded space at 70 District Square, SW – the spot of the former Politics & Prose (which also stayed at The Wharf but moved to an even bigger space). The Southwester interviewed Waldmann, the President, Owner “and chief merrymaker” of Cordial, and asked about the move, the business, and what brought him to owning a store in SW DC.

Tell us a little about Cordial. What is unique about the store?

Cordial provides a curated yet diverse selection of smaller producer wine and spirits and a broad selection of craft beers from around the DMV. I’m a small businessman and I like to support other small businesses, so most of our wines and spirits are from independent, often family-run producers that might not have the marketing budget of larger brands, so their focus is putting their money in the bottle and making the best product they can, and selling it at a fair price. Cordial is a great place for these producers to have their products, because we take the time to learn about our selection, chat with our customers and help them find the best wine or spirit for them.

The overarching theme of the shop is “terroir,” a French concept that refers to the entire environment that a wine is created in – the soil, the weather, the traditions, everything that makes it what it is. For me, that meant going back to my roots in my career, when I worked with a lot of smaller wineries and what drove my desire to have my own shop. Soon, we’ll have new décor from my husband’s family in the Philippines, bringing him into the shop as well. This is a family venture, like many of the producers we represent.

You moved just a few hundred feet away, earlier this year. Why the move?

We had been thinking about moving to a larger location for awhile because we were limited in what we could feasibly carry in the old shop on Sutton Sq. When Politics and Prose moved, I approached Wharf management about the potential of relocating. Bob Rubenkonig and I sat down and discussed the possibilities of our move, and we decided to make the leap into a much larger space that also affords us better storage and public exposure on one of the main gathering places at the Wharf. The new space allowed us to dramatically expand our selection, add a second cooler and a permanent tasting table.

How’s it going so far at the new location?

Relocations are always challenging, with customers wondering when we’re going to reopen, where the new shop is, and eventually getting the customers to come find you. We are lucky that Southwest is a thriving, active neighborhood, and we wanted to create a wine and spirits shop that served the southwest DC community as well as the tourists and visitors that come to the Wharf. We are seeing more and more of our regular customers as well as new ones coming in.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your professional background, and what brought you to deciding to open up at The Wharf?

I got into wine working in restaurants to help pay for college, then went back to it for several years – that’s what happens when you major in history and theology. After restaurant work, I went to work for a small retailer, then got into corporate wine buying with some very large national retailers. One thing that never changed was my love of smaller producers and their products – wines that tasted like someone cared about making them rather than just creating a big brand that seemed to taste a lot like everything else on the shelf.

After I left a job in the corporate world, I was looking for my next chapter and found out that Cordial was potentially up for sale. We made the agreement and I haven’t looked back. The Wharf and the surrounding Southwest community is a wonderful place to do business, with a diverse clientele of residents, the business and office community and the tourists and day visitors that come to enjoy the waterfront area. At Cordial, we really feel that we are part of the neighborhood.

Anything else our readers should know about Cordial?

We have a full slate of tastings coming up this spring and summer! You can find out about our weekly tastings at our Instagram @cordialwharf or on Facebook.

We are also launching a frequent shopper program in the summer, look for more details on that soon! We are open noon to 9PM Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7PM on Sunday.

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