In case you haven't heard, Vinostrology Wine Lounge and Merchant opened in downtown Bellingham in late May.
Add this to several other recently launched venues for wine, beer and spirits, including BevX360, BevMo! and Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants, and local wine enthusiasts have plenty to be happy about.
Vinostrology sets itself apart by giving Bellinghamsters the closest thing to a wine bar we've had since Parker's operated in the mid '90s. The owner-proprietor, husband-and-wife team of Mike and Katie Bechkowiak have done an excellent job creating an atmosphere where one can socialize with a nosh and a good glass of wine.
Katie's background includes over 15 years of experience in the wine industry; first as a wine retailer in Ohio and most recently as a buyer for Haggen and Cost Cutter stores.
She and Mike patiently waited for the space at 120 W. Holly St. to become available and have given it a clean, urban-industrial feel that includes simulated finished concrete floors, cushiony sectionals with tables and additional chairs, and a spacious tasting bar. Outdoor patio seating is also available and provides a prime vantage point for Holly Street people-watching.
Behind the bar are five electronic wine-dispensing machines that hold a total of 20 bottles. During my visit, an excellent range of choices included selections from Europe, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California and Washington.
The card-operated machines preserve the unused wine with argon gas, and provide measured tastes - half-glasses and full-glasses of exactly one, three and five ounces, respectively. Such precision without the pleasant splash of poured wine might be a minor irritant to some, and I found the five-ounce "full glass" pour to be a bit smallish.
Even so, Vinostrology offers a must-have "wine debit card" of sorts, where one can purchase a prepaid card for future use. The holder simply gives the card to the server, who inserts it into the dispenser for as many pours equal to the card's value.
Note to friends and family: This card will be on my Christmas wish list.
Vinostrology also sells wine by the bottle, but charges an $8 corkage fee (I thought corkage only applies to bottles one brings into an establishment?). That drops to $5 during the 3-to-6 p.m. Monday-to-Saturday happy hour, when pours are also 10 percent off.
A small menu of cheeses and snacks is available (including popcorn ... nice!), and the garlic tomato dip comes highly recommended.
For more information including hours of operation, go to vinostrology.com. Check it out, relax, and enjoy the wine!
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.