Oeno Files

Raise a Glass to Seattle’s Best Wine Bars

At these 14 watering holes, poppin’ bottles is most definitely encouraged.

Edited by Jaime Archer March 12, 2019 Published in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Claret’s duos are essentially a focused take on a wine flight.

Associated Vintners Tasting Room and Wine Bar

Precept, a growing collection of Northwest wine labels, has styled a slot in South Lake Union’s 400 Fairview food hall as a popup wine bar, complete with neon and Scrabble-inspired signage, globe pendants, and shelves of merch. Technically it’s more of a tasting room, serving the company’s various wines, with each season’s list organized around a particular theme—the first few months were all about canned wine. Whatever the conceit, it’s a versatile destination for well-lit conversation over a glass, a bottle (make that a can), or a flight. No food, but some solid retail deals. 

The Barrel Thief

Fremont’s wine (and whiskey) bar makes its entire wine list available by the glass. That’s more than 175 possible pours, from a showpiece Napa cabernet to a cheerful grüner veltliner, all made possible by a buzzy gadget called a Coravin, which extracts wine from the bottle without removing the cork. The menu organizes its glass pours by price and contains some build-your-own flight options for further exploration. These moody environs—dark walls, swooping curtains—also serve cocktails, beer, and snacks. 

The Belmont

After two and a half years as a bottle shop, Revolution Wine reinvented itself as The Belmont, leaning into its wine and cocktail lounge persona. Now, leather chesterfield couches in warm brown tones are plush platforms upon which folks can—and should—sit and imbibe wines by the glass or housemade cocktails. Foodwise it’s all about small plates: rotating tapas dishes, such as Tuscan meatballs, deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms, European cheese and charcuterie. Wines remain global, hailing from Oregon, Washington, France, Italy, and Spain.


A converted home on Madrona’s main drag combines the most hospitable service with a fearsome lineup of reds, whites, and bubbles, most available in two-ounce tastes as well as by the glass or the bottle (plus a retail area up front). This might be the kid-friendliest wine bar in town, though the multi-room interior keeps infants sequestered from drinkers who seek adults-only vibes. Bottlehouse’s patio, wrapped in greenery and a world away from the street, is legendary in the neighborhood, but its food menu—a snack-driven mix of rillettes, pickled things, and one insanely decadent mac and cheese—deserves way more praise.

Brix Wine Cafe

In Kirkland, a town distinguished primarily for its high-end dining (Cafe Juanita) and its uber casual (hello, new Shake Shack), Brix Wine Cafe lands somewhere in the middle with the force of an answered prayer. Its kitchen delivers warm broccoli salad, seared scallops, grilled ancho chile sirloin steaks, and terrific truffle fries that folks crave and would pay much more dearly for than they are asked to do here. And though the headliner may be wine—well chosen, available in flights, and starring some great Washington state selections—the food plays more than just a supporting role. It’s all to be enjoyed in a curvaceous room lined with windows in the Juanita Village development.

Vif’s owners will open a wine bar, Petite Soif, on Beacon Hill this fall.


At the base of Bellevue’s Soma Towers, this mostly French wine bar and L'Experience Paris bakery share a gently industrial space, one where you can sip Beaujolais at one counter and purchase croissants and cruffins at the other. The wines lining the long, blond wood shelves mostly hail from owner Julien Hervet’s import portfolio and come by the glass or half-ounce taste. Sure, it’s unusual, but that wine-pastry synergy does yield a surprisingly expert food menu, from bite-size happy hour tartines to quiche and croque monsieurs paired with brunchtime mimosas.


A low wall and curtain demarcate this wine bar inside Fiasco, the all-day Italian restaurant on Stone Way. Both establishments come from the folks behind Barrio, Meet the Moon, and Pablo y Pablo, thus sommeliers keep the vibe accessible—no shame if your wine selections usually center on cute labels. However, this is also the restaurant group that brought us Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, so the proliferation of bottles is deeply legit. A menu of “duos” offers a more focused take on a tasting flight, Fiasco supplies the food menu, and the bottle shop by the door offers some surprising bargains. 

Footprint Wine Tap

Some bars on Capitol Hill are audible from two blocks away, and then there’s this soft-spoken little number tucked on Madison. Footprint arrived just over a year ago, preaching the gospel of sustainable keg wines. It stocks its dozens of taps—lined up on a copper wall behind the bar—with Washington, and a few Oregon, varietals. The list comes organized from lightest whites to deepest, oldest reds, rounded out with standard wine bar fare (charcuterie, cheese, bruschetta). Clearly you’re here for the wine, whether to quaff during happy hour or take home as part of Footprint’s membership program. Its ranks form a tight-knit community, too, one that plays Scrabble in the lone corner booth or partakes in sing-along cabaret nights.

Le Caviste

The name refers to a person who tends to a wine cellar, though in this case it’s longtime local wine guru David Butler holding court in this small, high-ceilinged wine bar, a welcome discovery on an otherwise beige block of Seventh Avenue near Westlake. Beneath the mood-altering gleam of two massive chandeliers, Butler and his staff help shepherd Franco-curious wine drinkers through a chalkboard list of 30-odd reds and whites (every bottle is from France and most glasses go for $10 or less). The food menu doesn’t stray much beyond cheese, charcuterie, a few salads, and poisson en papillote, a focus that feels special rather than limited.

Left Bank’s improbable, wonderful combo: wine, vinyl, and zero pretension.

Image: Amber Fouts

Left Bank

A trip to this South Park destination near a tire factory might not bring to mind the cobblestone streets of Paris’s own Left Bank. But tuck into the microstudio-size wine-bar-slash-shop and gaze upon the old-world, naturally produced French bottles lining the walls and suddenly the name makes sense. That wall, plus a tiny bar with lots of records and a nook with padded seats, all come together to create genuinely charming digs. Wines are affordable—bottles generally run $10 to $25—and are accompanied by tasting notes and a Spotify playlist. And while you can talk low-intervention gamay at Left Bank, you can also grab a $3 Rainier or a $5 house red—you know, like the neighborhood bar it is.


The counter once home to Bar Ferdinand has a sharp new aesthetic and a continued dedication to natural wine. Owner Brandin Myett’s glass list is a concentrated blast of esoteric fun (like a rotating orange wine), and the staff’s happy to explain the finer points of carbonic maceration pinot noir without getting all wonky about it. Drinking these discoveries in the center of Melrose Market feels like peak Seattle in the best possible way. On Mondays and Tuesdays he turns the space over to Sankaku, a popup that’s all about onigiri.

Poco Wine and Spirits

An unfussy and urbane counterpoint to the swirl of Pike/Pine outside, Poco has poured both new- and old-world wines, plus a full slate of cocktails, for more than a decade, though recently has come under new ownership. Let the rest of the neighborhood gravitate toward the newest, hottest thing. The upstairs seating area is comfy and intimate—great for a date, or a quiet conversation over serviceable small plates—while the L-shaped bar downstairs hosts a new conversation at every turn.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar

There’s nothing else like it downtown: no other place casual enough for dropping in, festive enough for an occasion, visible enough to remain on the radar, and proffering a vast menu of comfort foods rigorously embellished by mayo and melted cheese. We’re talking pastas, sandwiches, salads, and pizza, plus a few meaty mains. And wine, rivers of it, is offered in flights or 80-plus by-the-glass selections, with cheeses or food trios you assemble yourself. Sitting in the soaring glass-skinned chamber centrally anchored by a massive tower of wine, amid the clattering urban jumble of shoppers and theatergoers and business folk at Fourth and University, you feel you’ve located the beating heart of downtown. The rustic Woodinville original and the suburban Bellevue branch cater to families and gadabouts at a more relaxed pace.

Vif Wine and Coffee

Natural wine is but one of the myriad charms of this retro stand-alone building on Fremont Avenue. Vif starts each day with impeccable coffee and aspirationally approachable bowls of porridge with kimchi, avocado, and a runny egg, or lentils and greens with garlic toast. Tartines dominate later on, as lingering patrons turn their attention from macchiato to minimally manipulated rosé or gamay—a bottle shop occupies the area by the door. Everything about this place makes you want to linger, but Vif closes by 7pm most nights (and has a “no laptop” policy on weekends). Thursday and Friday evenings stretch on a little longer for “Bar Vif.” Owners Shawn Mead and Lauren Feldman will also bring their particular magic to Beacon Hill. A bottle shop and wine bar, Petite Soif, will open in November with an evening small-plate menu. 

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