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A Toast To Harry O’S Wine Bar


Years ago, I went to this wine bar in London, near Charing Cross, that looked like (and felt like) a cave. It was kind of damp and dim with candles flickering on the table.

According to our guidebook, Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh used to toss back a few in this place. Somehow, I couldn’t picture it.

But then the wine came, some gorgeous French chablis served at just the right temperature in stunning stemware. After a few sips, the room took on a lovely glow. All seemed right with the world.

Thanks for indulging my fit of nostalgia, but I couldn’t help reminiscing about that memorable night after visiting Spokane’s new wine bar at Harry O’s Bistro, 508 E. Third.

Europeans have been hip to the pleasures of wine bars for some time, but they are still few in this part of the world. Brewpubs, we got ‘em. Wine bars, we don’t.

At least we didn’t until now, with Harry O’s and also Mizuna’s cozy new wine space, set to make its debut in October.

Harry O’s has moved out its produce (it still offers a selection of specialty food products) to create an inviting space to sip and, on weekends, listen to live music. The wine bar keeps roughly the same hours as the adjoining bistro Tuesday through Thursday, from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m. The musicians keep strumming until 11:30 or midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

Tables are fashioned out of old oak barrels, and guests sit on tall stools. Both times I’ve visited, it’s been busy and there was a good energy.

I judge a wine bar by its by-the-glass offerings, and Harry O’s is doing it up right so far. Of the 15 selections, there’s not one stinker in the bunch. (It would be nice to see some local talent, though.)

And the prices are pretty fair, too. A Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay and the excellent King Estate pinot gris are both $5 for a generous pour. The bright, pretty Saintsbury pinot noir and the knockout Columbia Red Willow Vineyard merlot are $5.50. The Marietta zin, one of my favorites, is $4.75.

The glasses I’ve sampled there were served at the proper temp, chardonnays not too chilly, reds at room temperature. Additional selections are available out of a cruvinet, a storage system designed to keep the wine fresh, and choices will change regularly.

(I suppose it’s worth noting that there are also nine beers on tap and many bottled brews available, too.)

Owner Doug Olson plans to eventually offer winemaker dinners and showcase various varietals as specials as more customers discover the place.

Though Mizuna’s wine bar is still under construction, I’ve long admired the way the downtown restaurant (214 N. Howard) has handled its Wednesday night wine tasting. For $5, diners can sample a selection of three featured wines chosen by Paul Vandenberg, Worden’s former winemaker who’s now working at the Spokane Wine Co. at the Valley Huckleberry’s.

That approach is a nice introduction to some offbeat wines (riesling-traminer, anyone?) you might not normally try.

When Mizuna opens its wine bar, the kitchen plans to augment its list of appetizers to encourage patrons to nibble and sip.

So, now that we’ve got them, let’s enjoy them. I’ll be seeing you at the wine bar.

Harvest time

Vineyards were looking primo a couple of weeks ago, with crop levels back up to normal after that abysmal 1996 harvest.

It looked like picking would begin soon. (It was an unusually early harvest in California this year, with some vineyards ripening in mid-August.)

But then it cooled off and, last week, started to rain.

“We aren’t concerned yet, but what we really need is for it to dry out and the wind to start blowing,” said Mike Scott at Caterina.

Rain is more than an annoyance for growers. If it goes on long enough, the fruit can develop mold and rot on the vine before it’s ripe.

We’ll keep you posted.

Outside looking in

It’s interesting to note how folks from other parts of the country view our thriving wine industry. I think Washington has moved beyond being a novelty, but some writers act as if they have just discovered that the state ferments grapes.

Never mind, it’s still good buzz.

Here’s what Bob Hosmon from the Sun-Sentinel in Florida had to say about the state’s vintners:

“Whatever your choice of Washington wines and whatever price you pay (the range is from $8 to $50), satisfaction is virtually guaranteed. The people here take their wines and their winemaking seriously, and that’s consistently demonstrated in the bottle and the glass.”

Unwelcome to the club

Last month, I wrote how The Wine Club in California was a good option for finding deals on some releases. Well, the president of that company called to say authorities have started to crack down on retailers shipping to Washington, so the practice has stopped. (It is possible, however, to ship from retailers to Idaho customers.)

According to Greg Nordlund, a spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, there never was an agreement made with retailers. The Wine Reciprocal Act instituted years ago was intended to allow customers to deal directly with out-of-state wineries. Individuals can have up to two cases of wine a year shipped from a winery in another state.

Sorry about the confusion. , DataTimes MEMO: Grapevine is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: Grapevine, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5486, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Leslie Kelly The Spokesman-Review

Grapevine is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: Grapevine, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5486, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Leslie Kelly The Spokesman-Review

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