City Sips | Take a flight to a local wine bar

A great way to learn about wine and have a fun and entertaining time is by going to a wine bar. Yelp lists about 50 wine bars in the Seattle Area.

There is every extreme — from small places such as Poco Wine Room on Capitol Hill, to large ones with multiple locations such as Purple and Sip. They both have their plusses and minuses. I personally prefer the smaller neighborhood places where the owners are working the floor. I also like places that serve small plates and wine flights.

Wine flights, also called tasting flights, are tastings of multiple wines, to get a feel for breadth or depth. They are a great way for someone new to wine to increase their understanding of a specific varietal, region or vintage.

When my business partner and I opened Smash Wine Bar & Bistro in Wallingford back in 2006, we really wanted flights to be a big focus. It is fun to try the same varietal from different regions in the world. You can get a true sense of old-world wines vs. new-world and cooler climates vs. warmer climates.

Another way flights are set up is same producer-same wine-different vintage — that way you can get a true sense of how the weather during a particular vintage will affect the final wine.

It’s always good to start out with a flight because if one particular wine stands out, you can order a glass of it. The more wine you taste, the more you can refine your palate to what you like. Just keep ordering those flights and really thinking about the wines when tasting, and don’t forget to enjoy.

Small plates

I love going to wine bars that offer small plates. It is a great way of learning about wine-and-food pairing on a practical level. Order a cheese sampler, and taste different wines with different cheeses — always a fun exercise. Go with a few friends to a wine bar and order a few different flights and a few small plates and go nuts.

Your server can always help you with great pairings; ask them what they would recommend. People who work in wine bars have a wealth of knowledge and can help guide you through the menu and wines.

Here is a list of some of my favorite local wine bars (I don’t have enough room to mention them all):

Bottlehouse, 1416 34th Ave. ( in Madrona — This relatively new wine bar offers flights and small plates.

Local Vine, 1410 12th Ave. ( on Capitol Hill; opening this fall in University Village — The original location was in Belltown; they moved up to Capitol Hill a couple of years ago.

If you a really serious about learning about wine; this is the place to go. They offer classes in wine-and-cheese pairing, French wines, Italian wines, just to name a few.

Poco Wine Room, 1408 E. Pine St. ( — This intimate space opened about five years ago on Capitol Hill. It has a great, little outdoor patio for summer al fresco dining and a very knowledgeable staff to guide you through the menu.

Smash Wine Bar & Bistro, 1401 N. 45th St. ( — I opened this space in Wallingford with my business partner five years ago. Dana is continuing the tradition of a comfortable space with an emphasis on flights and small plates.

Bricco della Regina Anna, 1525 Queen Anne Ave. N. ( — This space on top of Queen Anne Hill opened in 2005 and is still going strong. Its emphasis is Italian as well as Northwest wines, but it also has a great representation of French and other regions.

Locöl Barley & Vine, 7902 S.W. 35th St. ( — Yes, it has a lot of local beer as well, but I could not leave this one off the list because of its commitment to local wine and beer. It’s a great place to try some lovely Washington wines, some you may have never heard of before.

JEFFREY DORGAN, the Washington Wine Commission’s 2009 Sommelier of the Year, is the wine director at Sullivan’s in Downtown Seattle. He previously worked at Willow’s Lodge/Barking Frog in Woodinville and at the Space Needle. 

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