If you’re like me, you’ve spent a good part of the summer in backyards, on decks and next to campfires, drinking wine out of whatever’s handy—from plastic cups to mason jars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! In my view, any vessel that delivers the goods to my appreciative taste buds will do the trick.
However, there is something to be said for enjoying fine wine (and by that I mean anything above the level of two-buck Chuck) in a relaxing atmosphere, with comfortable seating, eye-popping décor, and yes—proper glassware. It’s called “keeping it classy” and you can do it in the heart of downtown Bellingham, at a new wine bar called Vinostrology Wine Lounge & Merchant.
Vinostrology is owned and operated by Katie Bechkowiak, who has an extensive background as a chef and wine buyer/seller. Mrs. B., as she’s known, wanted to share wine and food with her hometown peeps in downtown Bellingham, in a welcoming, snob-free environment. You won’t see any raised pinkies at Vinostrology—just good people tasting and enjoying good wine in all price ranges.
So what makes Vinostrology different from an ordinary wine bar? It’s the WineStations! Now, describing these marvelous machines involves “science,” and since I was focused more on what was in my glass than how it got there, I may get a detail or two wrong—but trust me when I say they are one of the most important inventions since the wheel.
Essentially, these high-tech wonders allow Vinostrology to offer 20 different reds and whites “on Spout” that are guaranteed fresh and dispensed in different amounts. Interested in a classic Côtes du Rhône, but unwilling to tempt fate with a full glass? No problem—buy a one-ounce taste. They go for as little as $1.20. Then move on to a Rosso from Italy’s Piedmont region or a big, bold Columbia Valley Syrah. It’s a great way to try more expensive wines without breaking the bank. And when you’re ready to go big, move up to a three-ounce half-glass pour of whatever you like. Or splurge and order a full, five-ounce pour—there are plenty to choose from, and many are under $10 a glass.
How do the WineStations keep wine fresh for up to 60 days? Here’s the science part: they replace the wine-killing air in the bottle with argon, a noble gas (I told you this was a classy joint). The gas perfectly preserves the wine, so the last glass is as fresh as the first. There goes one of my biggest pet peeves—ordering a glass of wine while wondering when the bottle was opened. And I hate to risk sounding like a snob and asking a server, “Excuse, me, could you tell me when that bottle was opened?” Thankfully, Vinostrology has taken that problem off the table. The WineStation also keeps the wines, whether red or white, at the optimum serving temperature (65 and 48 degrees respectively, in case you’re wondering).
Here’s what we sampled:
- My partner in crime wanted to compare a couple of Italian reds, so he went with a 2010 Dolcetto di Dogliani, a fuller-bodied Piedmont wine with a nice, lingering finish, and a rich 2012 Nebiollo/Dolcetto/Barbera blend with hints of plum and blackberry.
I asked Mrs. B. what she recommended and she poured these tastes for me:
- A 2009 Temaparnillo/Grenacha blend from Rioja, Spain. Light, fruity and a little earthy at the end, it paired well with Brie.
- A 2010 Prieto Picudo from Castilla/Leon region in Spain. This grape was previously unknown to Mrs. B. (and me); it was really yummy.
- I also wanted to try a Spanish Syrah from Valencia to compare with those produced closer to home. It was bright and light, with a strong cherry flavor—almost like cherry bubblegum. A very un-Washington Syrah.
I ended with a full glass pour of a fabulous Syrah blend from Columbia Valley/Columbia Gorge, the 2010 Memaloose Mistral Ranch. Bold, but not heavy, it had a superb peppery nose and spicy, but smooth taste. So good!
What else is going on at Vinostrology?
- Every day, they feature different wine flights: four, two-ounce pours of whites or reds to taste, compare and contrast. On our visit, the reds were set up in a battle of France vs. Spain (I forgot to ask who won). The white flight was a selection of dry whites from around the world.
- They also offer a nice selection of nibbles, including a plate of triple cream Brie with fig bread, olives and nuts; a garlicky tomato cheese dip; and buttery, cheesy, spicy popcorn. We thoroughly enjoyed our Brie platter—so much that it was demolished before I thought of taking a photo for you.
- A great selection of nicely-priced wines are available for purchase, including “12 under $12.” Buy a bottle and they’ll uncork it for you to enjoy right away (corkage fee is $8.00).
Vinostrology’s Hours of Happiness, as Mrs. B. calls them, are from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. All Spout wines and wine flights are 10% off, and the corkage fee for bottles purchased in-house is only $5.00. Plus, there’s a divine deal: a bottle of red or white and a little nosh for only $14.00.
Keep your eyes open for a fun wine tasting set for the last Wednesday in September, and “Vino U” classes that begin in October. Learn how to taste wine without worrying whether you’re doing it “right.”
When you want a classy, yet comfortable wine-tasting experience, check out Vinostrology. It’s the perfect place to explore wines, impress a date or gather with friends. And when the dark days of fall and winter arrive, I know I’ll be happy they open at 11 a.m.!
Vinostrology Wine Lounge & Merchant 120 West Holly St. Bellingham WA 360-656-6817
Hours: Monday and Tuesday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday noon – 5 p.m.
Wine Club: The 13th Sign
Hours of happiness: Monday through Saturday 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Vinostrology on Facebook