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Seattle for wine lovers

A dynamic metropolis surrounded by unmatched natural beauty, it’s no surprise that Seattle is a haven for good life aficionados.

Perched on the northern end of the USA’s West Coast in the shadow of the snowcapped Cascade Mountains, the Pacific Northwest’s largest city is renowned for fresh ingredients from sea and land enhanced by creative, worldly chefs. From a 20-seat ‘punk rock’ restaurant to an iconic fine dining institution, or a Parisian-style wine bar to a natural wine emporium, Seattle’s unique neighbourhoods along the tidal canals, lakes, and the spectacular Puget Sound abound with surprising treasures.

You will find that Seattle and the nearby town of Woodinville with its 100-plus tasting rooms is awash with local wines from the second-largest wine producing state in the USA. And although Seattle is home to tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, the food and wine scene is surprisingly intimate and unpretentious. Just remember to bring a raincoat, unless you visit the Emerald City during the summer months.


Credit: Eric Tra

Seattle’s 200-plus miles of shoreline make for the ultimate seafood city. An excellent place to experience the region’s marine bounty is at one of James Beard award-winning chef Renee Erickson’s restaurants. Although the The Walrus and the Carpenter inspired American celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain to deem the restaurant’s oysters and Muscadet combo as ‘perfect happiness’ during his Seattle visit in 2012 – launching the beloved Seattle chef to national fame – Erickson’s Westward, on the shores of Lake Union, gets our vote for the best bivalve-slurping waterfront spot in the city. Grab a seat on the patio for spectacular views of bobbing boats and Seattle skyline. Another Erickson spot, The Whale Wins, in the hipster Fremont neighbourhood, features wood-fired fare and a more experimental wine list highlighting low-intervention wines. Our ‘perfect happiness’? The Whale Wins’ flash-roasted Hama Hama Manila clams bathed in vadouvan curry, pickled rhubarb, lime, and misome with a glass of 2021 Walla Walla Grosgrain Albariño from Phillips Vineyard.

2501 N Northlake Way
206 552 8215

Pike Place Market

Credit: David Newman

Founded in 1907, bustling Pike Place Market is one of the oldest and largest continuously operating public markets in the USA. Two fantastic wine emporiums stand out among the hundreds of locally-owned stands and shops. Pike and Western Wine Shop has been a purveyor of fine wines since 1975. The current owner, Michael Teer, is partial to Italy’s Piedmont region we spotted a Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2020 for under $26 alongside collectable bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco  great German Rieslings and small producer wines. You could spend ages perusing the shelves, which are studded with Teer’s personal tasting notes. ‘We taste everything we sell,’ he says, adding that he’s excited about the creativity coming out of small European producers. Another must for wine-lovers, DeLaurenti Food & Wine, has an equally storied history. Since 1946, the family-owned food emporium has drawn locals and visitors to Pike Place Market for specialty charcuterie, cheese, and gourmet specialties from around the world. The eclectic wine section, curated by wine buyer Tom Drake, focuses on minimal intervention wines from Europe and small farm-crafted Washington wines. We liked the Mark Ryan wines from Washington’s Red Mountain AVA, Savage Grace from the Columbia Gorge, and Rhône-style blends from Devium in Walla Walla.

Pike and Western Wine Shop
1934 Pike Place
206 441 1307

DeLaurenti Food & Wine
1435 1st Avenue
206 622 0141

Purple Café and Wine Bar

Credit: Feed It Creative

This downtown Seattle show-stopper features a thirty-foot tower of wine in the middle of the 200-seat glass-panelled restaurant, and over 60 wines by the glass. Despite the buzzy, dramatic vibe, there’s plenty of room for a more intimate experience around the bar or at one of the tables flanking the brick inner wall. Choose from among the dozen ‘duo’ tasting choices that pit a Pacific Northwest New World wine against an Old World wine of the same grape variety. We enjoyed a Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc from Stillwater Creek Vineyard next to a Rouge de Minière Bourgueil. The pours are generous, as is the food, which features seasonal and regional mains along with cheese and charcuterie boards.

1225 4th Avenue
206 829 2280

Le Caviste – Bistrot à Vins

Local hospitality industry folks gather after work at this cozy Parisian-style wine bar in the bustling heart of the city, but singles will feel comfortable here too. Owner, and sommelier, David Butler hand picks each wine (including the 10 crus of Beaujolais always on the list) and prices them for everyday enjoyment. Don’t miss the charcuterie, AOC fromages, and simple French standards such as the killer steak tartare and house made pâté. Since 2013, Le Caviste has consistently ranked as one best wine bars in the USA. Probably because here, as Butler says, ‘wine is for life, not for worship.’ Also:  L’Oursin, near the Seattle University campus, is another must for Francophiles. The spacious bistro with a friendly bar and open kitchen helmed by French chef/owner J.J. Proville wins for Gallic comfort food (steak frites, confit de canard, wine-friendly salads). And co-owner Zac Overman, the wine director, will have you laughing with the quirky descriptions that enliven his eclectic list of wines.

Le Caviste
1919 7th Avenue
206 728 2657

1315 East Jefferson Street
206 485 7173

Off Alley

Credit: Reva Keller

If there’s one place to experience the vast potential of Seattle as a unique, world-class dining destination today, it’s at Off Alley. This ‘strange little restaurant’ (those are chef-owner Evan Leichtling’s words) in the culturally-diverse Columbia City neighbourhood turns out Michelin-star-worthy food from a tiny open kitchen to the soundtrack of Leichtling’s favourite punk rock and grunge bands. Off Alley’s self-proclaimed ‘Puppet Master’ Meghna Prakash – a former lawyer with family roots in Chennai, India – discovered a passion for natural wines while working in Paris, where she and Leichtling – a Seattle native who has cooked in some of Spain and France’s top kitchens – met and fell in love. Ask to see Prakash’s ever-changing wine list, hand-written in a dog-eared notebook or, as she told us, ‘talk to me and I’ll pour you something fun’. Our stuffed smoked quail with saskatoon berries and baby lima beans paired with a Cara Sur Criolla Chica 2020 from Argentina’s Valle de Calingasta brought tears to our eyes, it was that good. We couldn’t agree more with ‘Ash, 21’ who scribbled his appreciation on the wall of the loo: ‘My heart hurts I love Off Alley so much.’

4903 ½ Rainier Ave South
206 488 6170


Credit: Kevin Scott

Seattle families have celebrated special occasions at this Relais & Châteaux fine-dining establishment since 1950 – a storied legacy that third-generation owners Brian and Mark Canlis take seriously. But they also ushered in a new era in May, 2021 when they hired Aisha Ibrahim as the restaurant’s seventh executive chef. The first woman to hold that position, Ibrahim has shifted the prix-fixe menu focus from steaks to sustainability. Four months later, the brothers hired Linda Milagros Violago, whose hospitality career spans the globe, as the first woman to head up the iconic restaurant’s award-winning wine programme. Managing seven sommeliers and around 22,000 bottles, Violago says that the history of the cellar is the history of the restaurant: ‘A story that’s constantly being re-written and revised with each generation.’ The wine team, she adds, is fortunate to have owners who understand the value of wine in the context of dining ‘as celebration, as storytelling, as a piece of history’. More than ever, she says: ‘Our wine list is becoming an expression of diversity – not just of wines and regions, but of the people on the wine team.’ Pro tip: if you can’t get a reservation in the dining room, walk-ins are welcome at the bar and piano lounge.

2576 Aurora Avenue North
206 283 3313

How to Cook a Wolf

Credit: Geoff Smith of LookatLao Studio

Named after the famous MFK Fisher book, How to Cook a Wolf is one of Seattle’s nicest neighbourhood restaurants. We like the Queen Anne location for the charming vibe. Intimate tables, a convivial bar, and a fantastic wine list featuring Italian and Pacific Northwest wines complement soul-satisfying Italian-inspired classics such as pork chop with apricot agrodolce, smoked farro and celery root purée, or squid ink pasta that taste great with a glass of Barbera or Sicilian red from Mount Etna. Count on the simpatica wine director, Meg Posey, to point you in the right direction. Also: Italophiles and pasta-lovers will want to dine at Spinasse – Seattle’s most atmospheric trattoria – for Piedmontese specialities such as antipasti and handmade tajarin plus a renowned wine list covering the gamut of northern Italian wines.

How to Cook a Wolf
2208 Queen Anne Avenue North
206 838 8090

1531 14th Avenue
206 251 7673

Beast and Cleaver

Credit: Amber Fouts

Love meat, delicious wines and spotted dick? Then this corner butcher shop-slash-restaurant in the Ballard neighbourhood is for you. The wines are chosen and poured by genial Master Sommelier Nick Davis, who went to high school in the neighbourhood. You’ll need to call ahead to snag one of the 16 seats at this destination dining spot, especially for the Thursday and Friday tasting menus dreamed up by British butcher/chef/co-owner Kevin Smith. It’s hard to go wrong with the likes of koji aged beef, green garlic butter & lemon balm paired with Madrone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington’s San Juan Island. Tuesday and Wednesday are à la carte with small plates, steaks, house-made terrines and sausages along with wines by the glass. This is a place to eat and drink with gusto. Just be sure to save room for the perfect dessert and wine pairing, such as our spotted dick and César Florido Moscatel Dorado.

2362 Northwest 80th Street
206 708 1400

Brimmer & Heeltap / Halfseas Wine / Red Arrow Coffee

Credit: Will Foster

Coffee, food, and wine – all in one convenient Ballard corner building with a sweet history as the local grocery store. From 7am-2pm locals gather at Red Arrow Coffee for brews, breakfast or lunch in the flower-filled garden café. From noon-9pm, the action shifts to the new bottle shop, Halfseas, that links the garden to the restaurant. There, you’ll find a broad selection of wines that, as manager Emily Riley notes, ‘have a story, are made in harmony with their environment, and provide a testament to the year and the people making them’. Come sundown, the honest neighbourhood vibe continues at Brimmer & Heeltap, either in the charming garden or the indoor ‘Penny Room’, which is paved with thousands of coins collected by proprietress (and Washington wine business veteran) Jen Doak, who will help you choose a bottle to go with your wine-friendly dishes. We recommend the chilled almond soup with verjus, green apple and arbequina olive oil and the grilled pork collar with summer squash, lava beans, and sansho pepper.

425 NW Market Street
206 420 2534

Imperfetta and Rae Vino

Credit: Kyler Martin

These two owner-run natural wine shops opened in recent years and are now hitting their stride. Both hidden gems provide a safe space for natty wine exploration – whether you’re dipping a toe into the classic natural wine category or curious about the wilder, label-driven stuff.  Imperfetta is owned by Celia Barber, who rode LA’s natural wine wave in the twenty-tens before moving up to Portland and on to Seattle. She says her wine philosophy is like her food philosophy: ‘Let Mother Nature do her thing and celebrate what she gives you.’ This is the place to personalise your wine experience. We passed up on the bocce balls, board games, and packaged snacks but bought a bottle of chilled Domaine L’Hermas rosé from Barber’s tightly curated wine selection and posted up at a table facing the tree-fringed Lake Washington Ship Canal in front of the shop.

Rae Vino, in the Green Lake neighbourhood, offers Seattle’s largest selection of natural wines (about 350 labels) in a sleek, industrial space with abundant indoor seating – ideal for digital nomads. In fact, Rae Vino’s co-founder, Josh Jacobsen, used to be in tech. And he is serious about his well-priced wines: ‘Our criteria are hand-harvested organic or biodynamic grapes, native indigenous yeast, and lightest possible sulphur with no fining or filtration beyond three microns,’ he said. Since most of his clients are new to natural wines, he holds regular classes and tastings. And there are always five by the glass to be sipped along with herbed popcorn with organic olive oil or tinned fish and crackers. We enjoyed the 2020 Meinklang Grüner Veltliner from Austria.

118 NW Canal Street, Suite A
206 922 3384

Rae Vino 

7216 Woodlawn Avenue NE
206 913 2122


Willows Lodge entrance. Credit: Willows Lodge

A 30-minute drive east of downtown Seattle, the town of Woodinville advertises itself as ‘where Washington pours’. With over 100 tasting rooms in a five-mile vicinity, that’s no exaggeration. Our favourite tasting room finds? Mark Ryan for the rock and roll style vibe that belies the elegance and finesse of his small production wines from the Red Mountain AVA. The serene àMaurice spot for winemaker Anna Schafer’s Walla Walla AVA wines rooted in sustainable viticulture. And Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s new tasting room for the well-curated selection of their estate-driven wines from Rocky Reach – Washington’s newest AVA. Rocky Pond’s new winemaker, Elizabeth Keyser, who moved to Washington from Napa in 2021, is one to watch. ‘Making wine in an up-and-coming region is an incomparable opportunity to push boundaries,’ she says. In Woodinville, stay at Willows Lodge, a world-class country inn a stone’s throw from DeLille Cellars and Sparkman Cellars and their tasting rooms. Dine at one of the Lodge’s wine-focused restaurants – the Barking Frog or the Herbfarm – for innovative culinary experiences in a relaxed setting. Or, for the ultimate New World food and wine paring, head to the Patterson Cellars’ tasting room, also nearby, for the pizza and wine experience featuring a delicious pear, walnut and gorgonzola pizza from the wood-fired oven.

Mark Ryan Winery tasting room
14475 Woodinville-Redmond Road
425 481 7070

àMaurice Cellars tasting room
14463 Woodinville Redmond Road NE
425 466 2027

Rocky Pond Winery tasting room
Woodin Creek Village
13475 NE Village Drive
425 949 9044

Willows Lodge
14580 NE 145th Street
425 424 3900

DeLille Cellars
14300 NE 145th St
425 489 0544

Sparkman Cellars
14300 NE 145th St
425 398 1045

Patterson Cellars tasting room
14505 148th Ave. NE
425 892 2964

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