Perhaps the clearest sign of the Wine Station’s intentions is the glass my rioja arrived in: a small jelly jar, filled to the brim. That this glass, and its fullness, preclude swirling your wine, burying your nose in the glass, checking the legs, the opacity, seems sort of the point.
“We don’t want to be a snooty, snobby place,” says Luis Rodriguez, owner of The Wine Station. “We want to be affordable, fun. Kind of like a coffee shop, kind of like a bar.”
The Wine Station used to be The Station, a coffee shop run by Rodriguez, which has since moved across the street. He decided to convert the old space into an inclusive wine bar, feeling that many restaurants and wine bars exclude large portions of the population—people of color, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, or really anyone who doesn’t freely toss around phrases like firm tannins.
"When you go to a wine bar, and you don’t have the criteria of a wine snob, they serve you different," Rodriguez said.
The bottle list runs 16 deep, 11 of those available by the glass. The most expensive (Champagne Lombard) is $48 a bottle, and the cheapest is that rioja at $6 a glass. There are plenty of familiar Washington options—L’Ecole sémillon, Kiona riesling—and plenty from the rest of the world, most available for under $30 a bottle. Rodriguez focused on wineries that are either run by people of color or those who are known to be “very in touch with who they hire.”
The space itself feels akin to a neighborhood bistro, a smattering of two tops with tablecloths that can only be described as “merlot colored.” A wood bar. A patio out back (which will soon include heaters and covering from the rain). Service ranges from warm to convivial, depending on how you approach the staff.
There’s a menu of inexpensive small plates: cheese, prosciutto wrapped dates, and a plato con crudo. Plates are $7 each and portions are generous, and there's a certain off-the-cuff charm to the menu descriptions: “Northwest Balls – salmon and cream cheese inside a bread ball $7.” (The Northwest Balls along with a Beef Curry Ball come from Umami Kushi, which specializes in okazu pan.)
If you’re deeply into wine, probably you won’t discover some obscure gem of a bottle at the Wine Station. But I don’t think that’s the point. When I visited on a sleepy Thursday evening, a few friends sat in a corner catching up, laughing, and a young man typed on his computer with a cheese plate and a glass of white. People popped in and complimented the space while Rodriguez worked behind the bar.
“It’s beautiful, really beautiful,” one woman said.
“Thank you so much, dog,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not going to be bougie. It’s going to be fun.”