Happy Hour at Portalis Has Good Company & Good Wine

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The Place: Portalis Wines , 5205 Ballard Avenue Northwest, 783-2007, BALLARD.

The Hours: 4-6 pm, Tuesday-Friday (closed Monday).

The Digs: On Ballard Ave, between the

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Happy Hour at Portalis Has Good Company & Good Wine

  • Happy Hour at Portalis Has Good Company & Good Wine

  • ">

    portalis1.jpeg.jpg
    The Place: Portalis Wines, 5205 Ballard Avenue Northwest, 783-2007, BALLARD.

    The Hours: 4-6 pm, Tuesday-Friday (closed Monday).

    The Digs: On Ballard Ave, between the mayhem that is the Tractor Tavern and the cloud of cigarette smoke hanging perpetually near the door of the Lock & Keel, there is a little sign lit in a window, reading, simply: "Wine Shop." Pausing to step through the door, you will find yourself standing at the entrance to a room where warm lights cascading over aisles of wine draw you in. Portalis Wine Bar is first and foremost a wine shop, owned by importers Jens and Julie Strecker.

    It is late on a Tuesday night when I step through the entryway, well past 6:00. Wood and brick are the themes of decor, with tables tucked away near the windows, and the decadent aromas of the sorts of food you really want to pair with wine thick in the air. Along the length of one wall runs a bar, at which I am immediately invited to sit by the bartender. There are no suits and ties here, no clichéd sommelier pretension: the gentleman is wearing a t-shirt and leaning casually into the counter. This is Ballard.

    And in Ballard, on Tuesdays, at Portalis, happy hour is merely the kick off for an entire night of wines by the (generous) $5 glass.

    The Deal: Every Portalis weeknight from Tuesday-Friday sees happy hour from 4-6 pm, featuring "$5 Small Plates" such as a mini goat cheese gratin, mac 'n' cheese with prosciutto, and a house pâté with cherry mostarda. A selection of wines imported by J. Strecker Imports is available as $5 wines by the glass. These are wines like their 2007 Domaine Clavel Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Gervais -- a considerably nicer offering than most of the $5 happy hour wines encountered to date.

    Additionally, each night of the week has a special feature, like Tuesday's all-night extension of the happy hour wine list.

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    The Verdict: $5 will get you a large glass of wine, and as much conversation or wine education as you care to solicit from the knowledgeable staff. Service is remarkably attentive to one who may order only a glass of $5 wine... but good luck stopping there. I meant to, but after learning a wealth of information about wine regions and finding the concept of terrior so easily explained by bartender Travis Coletti, I found myself back out on Ballard Ave a good $15 lighter in the pocket and looking at the world through vaguely wine-colored glasses.

    In Latin, the word "Portalis" means (plainly enough) "Portal." It hints at a gate or doorway between two different worlds, which Ballard's Portalis effectively supplies: on one side, the cold and rainy streets of Seattle, on the other, the rich flavors and diverse cultures of Old and New World wines.

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