Best Blends: Raising a Glass at Seattle Area Wine Bars
By Corinne Whiting
Seattle Local Expert
Seattle certainly knows how to serve, savor and celebrate good wine. As the country's second largest producer, thanks in large part to the state's diversity of terroir which offer ideal grape-growing conditions, Washington has a wine industry that's expanding by leaps and bounds. This means fabulous things for visitors—both newbies to the wine tasting scene and those impressively skilled experts who love nothing more than relishing fine vintages.
Whether you prefer your wine served with light fare, small plates to be shared or a grand feast, Seattle offers a plentitude of ways to savor old favorites and to try new-to-you vintages, too. While Woodinville is the region's most concentrated wine hub, downtown Seattle has an impressive line-up of wine bars and wine-centric eateries, too. (Seattle's SoDo neighborhood increasingly welcomes tasting rooms owned by some big Woodinville and Walla Walla names as well.)
The Tasting Room is a wine-cave setting tucked away near Pike Place Market, and Bin Vivant offers elegant surroundings and a gorgeous lakeside setting. Poco is a welcoming neighborhood wine bar in Capitol Hill. Purple, a chic "hot spot" with locations in Seattle, Woodinville, Bellevue and Kirkland, serves as a go-to wine Mecca for both visitors and locals alike. Cheers!
10 Crepe Cafe and Wine Bar
For those of us who think that breakfast is the perfect time to add a light wine or a splash of champagne, Crepe Cafe and Wine Bar proves the ideal brunch spot. It's a cozy, comfortable neighborhood cafe with stunning breakfast, dinner and dessert crepes. Bonus: The staff is friendly and attentive, and the food is consistently delicious. Go on Tuesdays for half-price bottles of wine, and be sure to check out weekend brunches that last until 3 p.m. Consider starting with French onion soup, the pear and pepper salad or "Sonia's Goat Cheese Delight," before moving on to crepes like the "Mushroom Medley," "Blame it on Rio" (think chorizo) and the veggie-heavy "Roasted Delight." ((206) 527-7147)
9 Portalis Wine Shop and Wine Bar
Portalis--which recently found a new location at 6754 15th Ave NW--offers a wine club, wine consultations (to find the perfect food-and-wine pairing for your event) and the recommended paired wine plus local artists' works on display on the walls. The shop features 500-plus "notable, adventurous, lovingly selected world wines" including an expanded selection from Washington state. Portalis is for people ... who are into great wine and want a knowledgeable local wine merchant to use as a resource when making their wine selections." The nearby heart of Ballard proves a great neighborhood for walking around, browsing in the various shops, enjoying the sidewalk cafes and bookstores...and topping it off with some exciting wine purchases at Portalis. (206-783-2007)
8 The Sitting Room
A delightfully intimate setting in lower Queen Anne neighborhood, The Sitting Room proves a perfect stop before--or after--an event at the nearby Seattle Center (think events from concerts to roller derby and basketball games). Its close quarters, comfortable-couch seating areas and funky decor are a nice change of pace from the sleeker, uber-modern settings in so many newer downtown bars and bistros. (Inspired by the cafés, bars and bistros of France and old-world Europe, The Sitting Room opened its doors in December of 1998.) This venue boasts two happy hours--from 5 to 7 p.m. and from 11 p.m. to close. (206-285-2830)
7 Purple Cafe and Wine Bar - Seattle
Lively, casual, welcoming. Wrought iron fixtures, poured concrete floors, and old-brick walls. Over 70 wines available by the pour or in flights. It's an excellent destination whether you're on a date, meeting with friends, or holding a business function. There are four locations in the Seattle metro area, and you can reserve your table at their web site - so no matter where you're closest to, you're close to an excellent afternoon or evening with wonderful food and amazing wines. Every day from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bellevue, Kirkland and Woodinville locations (not downtown), the happy hour menu means $2 off drinks. Yet, more exciting news? Diners can snack on discounted, deletable dishes like gorgonzola-stuffed dates, calamari and steamed Manila clams. (2068292280)
6 Bin on the Lake
"Good food, Great wine, Amazing view." Who can argue with a tagline like that? At Kirkland's bin on the lake, according to its team, cuisine is never an afterthought. "We believe that something extraordinary happens when food and spirits are skillfully paired, amplifying the unique flavors of each." Therefore, the venue highlights locally-sourced ingredients that capture bright, seasonal tastes of the Northwest. Also known for their exceptional wine list, they stock more than 40 wines by the glass in 1-, 3- and 6-ounce pours, in addition to signature cocktail offerings. Located at the heart of Carillon Point on the shores of Lake Washington, the view alone is worth a visit. ((425) 803-5595)
5 The Tasting Room
Hidden away in Post Alley, with an entryway-roof of wine-casks, find the charming Tasting Room. Definitely a hidden treasure, The Tasting Room Seattle (and its sibling location in Yakima) features artisan-crafted, hard-to-find wines from all over Washington in a wine cave-like setting. The Tasting Room is Washington's first cooperative wine cellar, and features vintages from winemaker-owned wineries such as Cameraderie, Harlequin, Latitude 46, Natches Heights and more. Their site offers a listing of available bottles and vintages, plus a calendar of events; currently, they host wine hops every Thursday and "Pie Day" every Friday, with Pagliacci Pizza alongside their favorite wines. The Tasting Room Seattle is open seven days a week beginning at noon. ((206) 770-9463)
4 Smash Wine Bar and Bistro
Smash is "where wine and food collide," as the site proudly proclaims. With over four dozen wine-glass pours (including smaller 3- and 6-ounce tastes) Smash's selection focuses on Northwest wines, but also includes vintages from France, Argentina, Italy, New Zealand and other tasty locales. Smash offers 10 different wine flights (three tastes per flight). Ask questions, sample their offerings, and build your own wine flight tailored to your personal tastes. Along with the wines come cheese sample flights, which are either available from their own pre-set menu, or you can build a custom platter to accompany your personalized flight! Care for something a little more filling? Try an entree from Smash's outstanding menu. (2065473232)
3 Poco Wine Room
Don't just find a night spot in Capitol Hill; visit a wine bar! And if you've got a large group, consider renting this space out. (Yes, seriously.) The upstairs level holds 40-60 people and makes a great place for enjoying wines and a light dinner with a few dozen of your closest friends. Poco calls itself "a locally owned, one-of-a-kind neighborhood tapas bar, wine room and cocktail house." While everything is sourced locally as much as possible (including spirits), the wine list is divided between local New World favorites and Old World stars, especially those hailing from Spain. The head chef "brings authenticity" to the tasty tapas menu, thanks to the talent's three years spent training in Madrid and Barcelona. ((206) 322-9463)
2 Black Bottle
Black Bottle boasts a "full bar and hard-working wines," complemented by "unfussy, rustic food to be shared." Upscale, contemporary digs and an interesting variety of wines, beers and cocktails give this bar (in Belltown) an instant appeal. The adults-only wine bar has a wonderful menu (from 4 p.m. until midnight), offering choices from grilled lamb and sumac hummus, to roasted tomato and spinach flatbread, ceviche, bacon-wrapped scallops, pork belly and kimchi plus Southern dishes like crispy fried chicken and collard greem. Shared plates are encouraged! Take out is available, and this venue opens its patio, when the weather is warm enough. (206-441-1500)
Locals and visitors alike flock to RN74, Michael Mina's downtown outpost, known for its "creative, modern, yet simple interpretations of regional French cuisine." In the chic lounge area, visitors enjoy delectable treats like duck fat fries, bacon-flavored popcorn, jazzed-up deviled eggs, sliders and beef skewers. Main dishes include locally-sourced, seasonal highlights like house-aged steaks, vegetables from local organic farms and Puget Sound seafood (like Michael Mina's Ahi Tuna Tartare). But perhaps, most importantly, patrons return for RN74's extensive wine list that highlights the Burgundy region of France plus boutique wine producers from Washington and Oregon. In addition to pouring at least 40 wines by the glass (priced from $6-$32) and 1,300-plus wines by the bottle, RN74 currently features Champagne and sparkling wine from around the world. Try them by the glass, half-glass or as a flight representing five different countries. ((206) 456-7474)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China. Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.