Jill Irwin
Jens Strecker at Portalis on Ballard Avenue pours a glass of wine. Portalis is only one of many Ballard avenues to great wine-tasting events.

101 Things To Do In Ballard: Pay homage to the grape

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."
– Benjamin Franklin

Who can’t do with easier living, less tension and more tolerance?

For wine lovers, there’s hardly a need to leave Ballard anymore to sate your taste for fine wine.

From our two local wineries (Animale and Domanico Cellars) to international labels, “Everything you need is in Ballard,” says winemaker Jason Domanico of Domanico Cellars.

After you’ve had your wine-tasting party at home, go check out tastings with the pros.

Now, many Ballard shops and restaurants have regular wine tastings, where you can learn about wines and what you like (or don’t like). Depending on the number of wines being tasted and whether food is offered with the wines, there is usually a fee for tastings, which varies depending on the number and type of wines and food offered (or not).

Here are some ideas to get you started.

You don’t have to drive all the way out to Woodinville anymore to visit a winery tasting room. Domanico Cellars retrofitted a former industrial building on 49th Avenue Northwest into a charming space for tasting their blended, award-winning wines from Washington grapes.

“We were encouraged to open in Ballard rather than Woodinville because there was a void in the neighborhood for wineries,” Domanico said.

Stop by Domanico Cellars Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.

This summer, Portalis Wine Shop & Wine Bar on Ballard Avenue is featuring a free Comparative Wine Tasting series every Tuesday and Thursday in a nod to the World Cup.

I stopped by last week for France versus South Africa in a battle of the Chenin blancs. (I think France won, but friendly Portalis owner and wine director Jens Strecker called it a draw.)

Longtime Market Street fixture Lombardi’s offers wine tastings with food about once a month on Wednesdays (check their website for specific dates).

Just a half a block west down Market Street, relatively new kid on the block Savour has wine tastings every Saturday afternoon and, this summer, on Tuesdays to tie into the Tuesdays In Ballard events.

Occasionally Savour will sneak in tastings on other days. Just ask next time you drop by for some of their tasty cheese or cured meats.

Although on a hiatus from wine tastings this summer, Aster Coffee Lounge will be adding them back come September. Besides wine tastings on the second Saturday afternoon of each month, manager Beth Scribner says they’ll be adding Friday night date-night wine tastings for parents with small children.

“Parents can bring their kids but still enjoy a ‘date’ tasting wine," Scribner said. "We’ll be partnering with Annie’s Nannies to provide childcare.”

Parents with toddlers, mark your calendar for Sept. 17 for the first date night at Aster.

Ray’s Boathouse, of course, can be counted on for great wine (along with seafood and more) anytime. On July 29, they’re featuring a wine-tasting event with Ballard’s Animale winery and more than 20 other family winemakers from Washington.

On Sunday mornings at the Ballard Farmers Market, stop by the Small Lot booth to talk about wines and learn about Washington wine with Zena , Darin or Jordan. Small Lot is a cooperative of 13 small family Washington wineries, including Animale, that don’t produce quantity but focus on quality.

“These small wineries are very passionate about what they do,” said Zena Leonard.

A Caprice Kitchen on 70th Avenue Northwest has put on winemaker’s dinners that feature several courses of locally sourced food paired with different wine from a single winemaker.

Chef and owner Anne Catherine said her winemaker’s dinners will likely resume in autumn. (Check with them in a few months.) In the meantime, her wine menu includes Ballard-produced Domanico Cellars and Animale wines. (Across the street, Delancey also serves Animale wine.)

So grab a friend or neighbor and enjoy some good wine here in Ballard.


"Pour deep the rosy wine and drink a toast with me;
Here’s to three: Thee, wine and camaraderie!"

– Unknown

Seattle-born Jill Irwin lives in Crown Hill and enjoys an occasional glass of good wine. She writes about things to do around the region at her blog Pacific Northwest Seasons.

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WAY WAY too many people

WAY WAY too many people moving into Ballard....esp. ones who claim to be Seattlies and have been all of 5-10 years...Ballard USED to be great...Now, it's full of overpriced condos, no parking and a TON of people not from here! It's ruined..for all the new construction due to spineless City permit folk, you can't even smell salt water anymore here..and I was born and raised here 60 yrs ago and still here.....it's sad what the City has let happen to Ballard!


You must have misunderstood the column. It's about "wine" not "whine."

Didn't realize

I didn't realize Ballard had so many places to test wine, now I never have to leave :)