Grapeseed restaurant, which has been pairing food and wine in Bethesda for more than 17 years, will close July 29.
In an email to customers Thursday night, chef and owner Jeff Heineman said “I am filled with mixed emotions as I announce that Grapeseed will be serving its final meals this month. Sad, because I have given so much of myself and asked so much of others, only to fall short of some of my more ambitious goals. Grateful, for all the great people who have pitched in to help me as I often needed help.”
The Cordell Avenue restaurant was one of the first in Bethesda that featured wine as much as it did food. Each dish on the menu includes a wine recommendation.
Grapeseed was popular among diners and critics—and was a frequent winner in Bethesda Magazine’s Best of Bethesda Readers’ Poll. But in recent years business has fallen off as new eateries opened in Bethesda and fine dining restaurants lost popularity.
“Sales have been creeping down for a number of years and a new lease wasn’t available at a rate that worked,” Heineman said Friday morning. “It’s time to do something else.”
Heineman became interested in and knowledgeable about wine working in his late teens and early 20s at the now-closed The Wine Rack in Gaithersburg. He started cooking for his roommates at William & Mary, where he was an offensive lineman on the football team. “I wanted to cook and they wanted to eat. I was their personal chef.” He said he made half of his dishes from his first cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine.
Starting Friday, Grapeseed will offer a 33 percent discount on all its wines. The discount will increase to 50 percent later in the month, and then to “best offer” during the last week before the restaurant closes. Heineman said there are 250 to 300 wines on Grapeseed’s wine list and between 2,000 and 3,000 bottles in the restaurant’s inventory.
“It has been a long, fruitful 17+ years here in Bethesda,” Heineman wrote in his email. “This town was very different in 1999 when I first took over this space. 17 years of a lot of great food, serious and whimsical wines, too many memories to count, and even 6 or 7 marriages between staff members who met here at work. (I am somehow quite proud of that.)”
Grapeseed exterior, via Facebook.