Wine bars have a special place in my heart, not a fond place... but a special place. In our first few months of dating, my now husband and I tagged along with my father to a local wine bar. We were meeting up with his good friends and unfortunately Blake had a not so attractive haircut. My poor father was forced to introduce his daughter's new boyfriend looking like a Joe Dirt mother f'er, after he cut his hair into a mullet for the 4th of July.
Not a good look for the new boyfriend. Who knew I would end up marrying that young man in slacks and a mullet? Fortunately, he has grown out of getting themed haircuts for "special occasions." I like to think this moment had some influence on that decision.
You never know what you will find in a wine bar (cough - mullet). Unlike tasting rooms that are funded and operated by a winery, wine bars typically are not restricted to one wine producer. If you are looking to find wines from around the world but are not ready to commit to a bottle, wine bars can be a great place to try wines you otherwise wouldn't.
Feeling adventurous and a bit stir crazy, I decided to check out some local wine bars that are easy access for the majority of Washington Winos.
Wine Selection: The wines at this location come from several different wineries throughout Washington. These wineries include Naches Heights Vineyard (NHV), Camaraderie Cellars, Locus Wines, Lost River Winery, Nota Bene Cellars, Willis Hall Winery, Wilridge Winery and Treveri Cellars. If you are looking to try a specific wine from one of these wineries, you are in luck! It seems as though they have every wine available from each of them.
They have curated tasting flights for you to choose from that include wines from the several different wineries they host. A nice option because it allows you to determine which of these wineries is most suitable for your palate.
The bottles they are serving are put on a tap system, giving patrons the opportunity to sample any bottle in their shop. In this system, the wines are on argon gas which ensures the bottle will keep for several days after opening. Leaving little to no concern for several open bottles in their tasting room or rush to finish them once opened.
We started out by splitting the curated red flight. Unfortunately, when we were served the wines it was a challenging task to remember which wines were in each glass. It would have been nice for the glasses to have been labeled so we could be sure of what we were drinking. The wines were served in mini glasses which created an additional challenge in smelling and tasting the wines.
The wine here is ubiquitous and despite it being all Washington wines, you will be hard pressed not to find a wine that is new to you. There most certainly is a wine for everyone to enjoy here.
Service: Should I spill the tea?
Ok fine, I am doing it.
When we arrived, we were sat and served our flight by The Tasting Room employee. When we decided to move inside due to the wind, she was sitting and drinking with other patrons. Odd.
Sure, it seemed like she had a good rapport with the customers. But, it felt like we were interrupting her afternoon when we had questions about the wine and wanted to order a bottle.
It was a challenge to get any engagement from her. The library-like wall of wines can be intimidating and it would have been nice to of had someone to help and give direction on the wines. Instead, she was just chilling.
It was not until a co-worker came in for her shift that we got good service and asked if we would like a small bite to pair with our wine. Maybe the initial woman was the owner or something... either way she clearly was still on shift and made a bad impression.
Atmosphere: I love the atmosphere here. This little gem reminds me of a European hideaway, quiet and not impacted by the throngs of people swarming Pike Place. It is a short walk from the ferry and it is dog friendly - a major perk. It's also a great way to experience several Washington wines. Aside from the lack luster service by one employee, I had an amazing time enjoying wine with my little family.
Wine Selection: The wine available to order was limited, though I do have to say the wine list was quite diverse - ranging from Italy to Argentina. Typically they offer tasting flights, but that was not offered due to the current demise of human existence.
To begin we ordered the MODA Montepulciano a bold Italian Wine. Though it was a good choice the wine was hot and not in the tasting note type of way. The wine was physically warm, which leads to concern with how the wine is being stored. Drastic heat fluctuations can cook the wine, ruining the contents of the bottle. Fortunately, this wine did not seem to have been affected by the heat...yet.
We then ordered an Attanasio Primitivo also from Italy, which I kid you not smelled like Vicks Vaporub. The minty/eucalyptus aroma was incredibly unique and very bold. The smell was nearly overwhelming, but the taste of the wine was pretty good. This is not something I have experienced before, so I looked it up and confirmed it is not a wine fault.
It is no doubt that they serve great wines here, unfortunately I am not confident in how they are being stored.
Service: We received lovely service and had a great time sharing small bites and chatting over wine. The staff were polite and tended to us when needed. We did not get much feedback regarding the wine choices. I would have enjoyed more interaction regarding the wine and to have received some pairing suggestions.
Atmosphere: The vibe was pleasant and quiet. There were not very many people in the facility and the tables were well spaced out. It is a relaxing place, but it was a little warm. It felt warmer inside than it did outside. It was obviously not affecting only the patrons, but the wines as well.
This is a great place to meet friends and it is in an easily accessible area of Tacoma. I certainly would go back here to meet friends and catch up over a small bite. It is a good restaurant with great wines that may need a little more care.
Wine Selection: This wine bar certainly had the best selections of wine to choose from. The menu offered tasting flights of three, two ounce pours of wines from France, Spain, Italy and of course Washington. The wines were unique and I was pleasantly surprised to see a Gamay wine on the menu - a light bodied red wine from the Beaujolais region of France. A lovely wine for a summer evening paired with light fare.
The wine was served in a tasting tower with the information on the wines in the flight, noted on top. We were instructed to drink the wines top to bottom, corresponding with the paper. I really enjoyed this presentation, it seemed easy for the server to manage as well as for the patron to keep track of the wines.
Quick Annecdote: Feeling a bit peckish, Blake and I ordered the Garden Style Bruschetta and the Coronavirus Flatbread. A play on the current pandemic we are living through. I was thinking to myself "how funny" as I ordered the kitschy food item aloud to the waitress. I was feeling confident and maybe a little cocky for ordering drinks and food for the table.
Welp, the waitress looked at me like I was Jack Nicholson and shocked me back into reality when she informed me it was the Carnivorous Flatbread... tell me the words don't look the same! I guess going out in public wasn't better than the prison in which Covid has contained us.
With my tail betwixt my legs, I realized life had come full circle. Recalling looking at my husband so many years ago, chuckling at what an ass he was with a mullet at the first wine bar we ever went to - I find myself at the last wine bar we have visited with him relishing in my embarrassment.
Service: This location was the busiest location of the three wine bars. We went relatively early in the evening and were sat quickly. However as the evening progressed, it began to fill up. I certainly recommend making a reservation prior to arrival to ensure a table.
Our waitress was very pleasant despite my Freudian Slip. The service was fast and we were in and out of there in no time. Though this would have been a lovely spot to relax, I felt rushed. But, it could be because I was so painfully embarrassed. I think that one is on me...
Atmosphere: This location is amazing and not something you would expect to find in this area of Olympia. The patio seating looks out over a quiet park and the Puget Sound. The restaurant is enveloped by trees and sits at the top of the hill, creating a refreshing breeze to slip through the seating area.
I have to admit my initial expectation was to find wine bars like Morso's (blog post back in January) or to have a comparable experience to something like grabbing a glass of wine at The Metropolitan Grill. By that I mean, I expected to talk and have an exchange about wine. I did not get this at any of the wine bars.
These were lovely places, but I wanted to learn about the wines. I wanted the employee to ask me about my palate preferences or what I was in the mood to drink. I do not think that this is an unrealistic expectation for a WINE bar. Where is the passion folks?! I wanted someone to be excited to share their favorite wine with me or be stoked about wine in general. There was no magic.
I would not recommend any of these wine bars as a "wine bar." These Small-bite Cafes have good wine and decent to great environments to catch up and drink wine with friends. While I would revisit these places, wine will not be the motivator and that is disappointing.
Perhaps my expectations were too high. But all I really wanted was engagement, we have all been trapped in our homes and the opportunity to connect with others fell short. Maybe it is too much to ask for passion at a time like this?
What do you think? Let me know if you disagree or if you have had different experiences at any of these places. Is there a staff person at any of these places I should look for? Are there particular days that are better than others?
Comment below with your thoughts. Thank you for following along, cheers!