Apparently, the Pacific Northwest has ideal conditions for growing grapes and making them into wine. We’ll let the experts deal with the harvesting and foot-mashing and whatever it is that happens to fruit to give it an ABV - just let us know when it’s done and we’ll drink it. Luckily, Seattle’s also a great place to do that.
Whether you’re entertaining your parents who brag about having their own bottle cellar or just looking to have one too many glasses of wine with some friends, here’s a guide to our favorite unstuffy spots to drink alcoholic grape juice. Cheers.
Imagine that you’re hanging out in your friends’ not-completely-renovated basement, playing around with their record player - but instead of drinking whatever beers they happen to have left in the fridge, you’re sipping really sophisticated wine in South Park. This is Left Bank, and it’s the definition of a neighborhood spot. It also happens to be the coolest Seattle wine bar you probably haven’t been to (yet). You don’t have to choose between a down-to-earth bartender (who still knows his sh*t about grapes), BYO vinyl Tuesdays, flights of five reds for $10, and a chill space to shoot the breeze and eat some takeout with your glass of Slovenian white - you can have all of the above. And if you truly want to feel like you’re in that friend’s basement, they sell a rotating “cheap beer” for three bucks, too.
If the last wine you drank on tap was from a Franzia bag someone else was holding above your head, it’s time to change that immediately (or at least upgrade to Peter Vella). Footprint is one of our favorite places to drink wine because it has the chillness of a brewery, with flights of wine and trivia card games about grapes, in case you wanted to brush up on your viticulture expertise.
You probably already know that when The Walrus And The Carpenter is packed (so basically, at all times), you can pop into Barnacle for a drink. But this narrow, artisanal tile-covered space really deserves to be a destination on its own, especially for wine. Whatever you order will go well with snacks like hand-shaved jamon and/or a bowl of free potato chips.
Drinking at Bottlehouse is like the upgraded version of sitting on the couch in pajamas swilling some two-buck chuck from the bottle. This place is a renovated home, porch and all, which makes it really perfect for summertime wine drinking - but equally great in the winter, when you can hang out in the living-room-like interior. The wines by the glass are pretty diverse, and most of the cocktails also include some kind of wine (get the frozen one). There are cheesemongers who can pair cheese and charcuterie with whatever you want to drink, too. Even if you only get a baguette with butter and local honey, it’s going to be a good time.
Maybe you’re not in the market to blind taste six different varietals made exclusively from Argentinian grapes, but you don’t want to just do one glass of wine and call it a night. Claret has these cool things called “wine duos,” which are two half-glass pours of the same type of wine, only from different wineries. Service is breezy and chill, and they have charcuterie and cheese platters if you’re hungry.
If you’re not feeling the four-hour trek to Walla Walla, or even the 20 minutes to Woodinville, you can still get your tasting in - Charles Smith Jet City Wines is a pretty neat spot to do that. It’s in Georgetown overlooking Boeing Field. Charles Smith makes some of our favorite Washington wines, and the labels also have very cool designs, which makes wine taste better. Come here with a couple of hours to kill and get drunk on a million little wine sips while watching planes take off.
The Barrel Thief is not only a place that makes wine-drinking fun - it’s also a place that makes it highly competitive. We’ll explain. There are 175 different wines by the glass. Which is a lot. But each time you return, you can check off what you’ve tried in order to work your way toward a discount on drinks there for life. It’s called the Wine Passport, and it should without question be used to create a contest between you and your friends. May the thirstiest person win.
L’Oursin is a sepia-toned French spot in the Central District that happens to have an incredibly diverse lineup of natural wines (though not all of them are French). Somebody had a lot of fun writing the wine list, with descriptors such as “like French kissing a mermaid,” “for drinking with your coven,” and “a goddamn 5th Golden Girl.” Pair with some light snacks like ham and melon.
Le Caviste is not the place to bring your friends who own super-jumbo wine glasses or shirts that say It’s Wine O’Clock! Le Caviste is where you should go with your parents, or a date you want to impress by making it seem like you know your sh*t about terroir and tannins and the most ideal climate for grape skins to thrive in. That might make it sound stuffy, but it’s actually a great space for hanging out. The entire menu is in French, but the staff is all business and very happy to help. No matter what, make sure to get a charcuterie board.
When you want to drink a glass of something great but also keep things casual, keep Locöl Barley & Vine in mind. As you may or may not have guessed from the name, most of the wines are local, and the surroundings look like a cross between a low-key cabin and an art gallery with quirky stuff like a painting of a T-Rex fossil mowing the lawn. In addition to all the wine, there are plenty of good beers for your group to try. Plus, the food here (like pho-seasoned meatballs with hoisin/sriracha, slow-cooked pork tacos, and blackened pork belly with cheddar grits) is excellent.
Dreams happen if you put your mind to them, so if your dream is to be able to have a latte while doing some work on your laptop, then casually transitioning to a couple glasses of wine, that is a thing you can do at Vif. They have small snacks like nuts and cheese, but also more substantial things like tartines and salads. It’s a great first date situation when you haven’t quite decided yet if you want to grab a coffee or a bottle of white (or if you blacked out from nerves and can’t even remember what you discussed).
Grappa is a Meditteranean restaurant that, as its name suggests, has a lot of grappa. Come sit at the bar, order this cousin of brandy to go along with a nice plate of gnocchi, and ask your date with wine glass in hand if they hold the gnocchi to your heart. That’ll go well.
It takes a certain kind of person to fully enjoy Lady Yum - partly because of the name. But once you get past the fact that there’s a little too much pastel pink going on, you’ll realize that this cafe has the best champagne deal in the city. Sit in one of the strangely Game Of Thrones-like chairs with a flute of $4 brut and a pile of homemade macarons. You’re fully entitled to start forcing people to refer to you as First Of Your Name, Protector Of Sparkling Wine, Breaker Of Pastries.
Frosé still counts as wine, even if you have to repeat that to yourself in front of a mirror a few times before you’re convinced. You can find the best at The Belmont (but only during the warmer months), where it’s made with frozen watermelon and no ice to water it down. You can also get some bites like cheeses, meats, and nuts if you’re hungry. The space is like a pop art-covered bottle shop with comfortable living room furniture, and it’s a fun spot whether you’re inside with your book club in the winter or at a bistro table outside in the summer. We like this place enough that we’ll even forgive them for serving their frosé with those highly aggravating paper straws that taste like soggy envelopes.