The New Year is always a good time to shake things up a bit and there’s no better time to start than now, no better drink than wine. Whether you consider yourself an enophile or are new to exploring the world of fermented grape juice, wine bars are a prime place to expose yourself to new wines, with the support of experts who can guide you through what exactly you’re drinking. Here are seven wine bars that opened in the last year to put on your list to hit up.
Enoteca Nostrana | Portland
A fusion of Portland and European styles, Enoteca Nostrana is the creation of six-time James Beard winner Cathy Whims. The director of wine at the neighboring sister Italian restaurant, Nostrana, is behind the excellent lineup of wines at the bar. Don’t let the two-story wine cellar made of glass and framed by steel intimidate you. Part of Enoteca’s goal is to make the wine accessible which it does with its pricing and welcoming environment.
Claret | Seattle
One of Heavy Restaurant Group’s latest additions to the Emerald City dining scene is a wine joint that provides a casual place to order a fancy glass while still feeling like it’s a special occasion. Certified sommeliers will be on hand to take you through your experience with expertise. Unlike sister lounge Purple Cafe & Wine Bar where you can order flights, Claret opts for the more casual “Duo” where you can order two half-pours side by side.
LOT 185 | Vancouver, BC
With its transformation from cafe during the day to wine bar at night, there’s no need to ever leave the Vancouver Convention Centre. Order a Neapolitan-style pizza to go with a glass from the curated wine menu at this new up-and-comer. Whether you’re at the Convention Centre for a meeting or just passing through the area, this cafe and bar is the perfect place to stop by for a quick or leisurely drink.
Bar Norman | Portland
Natural wines are the only kind of wine on this bar menu. With experience at multiple restaurants and bars around Portland, owner Dana Frank is a veteran. The bar has 26 wines on its menu that the staff will walk you through. If you’re open to exploring the natural wine movement — locally and internationally — and trying new wines with names that you aren’t sure how to pronounce then Bar Norman is the place to be.
Left Bank | Seattle
This tiny wine bar and shop may not be huge but don’t underestimate what it has to offer. Located in South Park, the establishment is a first for the South Seattle neighborhood. Stop in for a glass of wine or grab a bottle to go. Owner Campbell Scarborough can be found behind the bar pouring drinks and spinning records as people chat over his vinyl collection playing. It’s a neighborhood watering hole that reflects just that: servicing its community for whatever the wine needs might be.
Cepae | Bellevue, WA
Not everyone can afford to get away to the iconic wine regions of France, which is part of what makes Cepae so appealing. Former Microsoft employee Julien Hervet opened up the wine shop, bar and bakery with his wife last year in the increasingly burgeoning food and drink scene of Bellevue, showcasing the wines he imports exclusively from small, grower producers throughout his native country. Bonus: every single wine is available by the glass and is available to take home.
Barrels | Mercer Island, WA
Kill two birds with one stone at this bottle shop and tasting room. Wine industry veterans Tina and Joe Kennedy turned what used to be an island gallery into a cozy tasting room where local art adorns the walls. Choose from wines local to Washington or from around the world. If you’re hungry they have a small kitchen preparing light snacks like charcuterie and cheese plates. It’s casual and designed to feel like the Kennedy’s home — comfortable and fun.
Photo courtesy Claret/Heavy Restaurant Group