Fremont Brewing Company has all the markings of a big-time brewing operation, but with smaller accents that make the place seem approachable. Just a little bit rustic, with big, wooden communal trestle tables and comfortable chairs in the adjoining taproom, Fremont also holds lots of industrial stainless steel vats and barrels inside their outsized concrete blue building. Seasonal brews on tap help to quaff the thirst of local craft beer fans, and a suppertime urban beer garden routinely fills up on sunny days. Pints are available to enjoy while on the premises, and growlers to go keep the regulars coming back. Each of the brewery’s small-batch artisan beers are made with local ingredients, and range from a handsome India Pale Ale to stouts, porters and assorted ales. The fact that the place is both kid- and dog-friendly also tells you a lot about the business.
Thirty years ago, the Mielke family shifted its trade from cherry packing to growing, harvesting, and aging the grapes at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, which has won CityVoter's award for Best Winery for the last three years. The winery encompasses a warm-toned tasting room downtown as well as a 1924 Florentine-style estate perched on a cliff overlooking the Spokane River. The estate, registered as a National Historic Landmark, is home to a stone gazebo, 4 acres of gardens, and a gigantic checkers board for trees bored with feigning stillness. At each tasting room, knowledgeable oenophiles introduce palates to more than 15 handcrafted vintages to taste and take home. In addition to fermenting wines from its own grapes, the Mielke family sources grapes from mature vineyards around Washington.
Since coming under new ownership in early 2011, Vinum Coffee & Wine Lounge has injected its menu of sandwiches, burgers, and pub fare with shots sparkling wines, smooth espresso drinks, and craft beers. In the kitchen, chefs shuffle together hot and cold sandwiches, keeping things simple with french bread pizza or tomato and brie or recreating Old World flavors with the monte cristo or chicken carbonara from ingredients that include chicken, roasted tomatoes, and a plethora of cheeses. Burgers and hot dogs—having evolved from the same common ancestors as sandwiches—also populate the menu, arriving topped with chili, avocado, grilled mushrooms, and bacon.
To wash down bites, Vinum's bartenders pour craft brews that fall on all points of the taste spectrum, from the light wheat notes of the Haywire Hefeweizen to the moody malts of the Storm King stout. The full bar serves up a wide selection of liquors, a well as wines, such as Massimo Argentina malbec and Maryhill Washington riesling that tint balloon glasses with red and gold hues. Bubbly beverages include sparkling mimosas to soothe nerves after a long week of ogling car washes.
The inside of ViaVita Café & Wine Bar traces the timeline of a single day. Floor-to-ceiling windows cast morning light onto a display case of pastries and cheeses—an addendum to the counter that bears morning coffee orders. Nearby, granite-topped tables sit far enough apart to suggest an open, Parisian patio, but close enough together to support a cross-stream of chatter over lunchtime sandwiches. The day ends on the other side of a semicircular wine bar. There, walls wearing distressed paint encapsulate a rustic alcove, where hanging plants and Greco-Roman-style pottery evoke the dining room of a hillside villa.
The decor and seasonal menu at ViaVita Café & Wine Bar champion a European-flavored escape, where diners can stop at any time for a meal, a snack, or a glass of wine. From the crepes and omelets of brunch—served with duck-fat potatoes and chocolate-orange butter—to afternoon paninis and dinners of pan-seared Alaskan salmon, meals realized by imaginative chefs spark and fuel long conversations. Imported and domestic beers, as well as wines from small vineyards on multiple continents, complement the diverse bouquet of flavors and pair especially well with cheese and charcuterie boards. During special events, guitar music acts as a soothing soundtrack for bites, and sommelier seminars instruct patrons on how to age libations without sending them to PG-13 movies alone.
In the barrel room at Port Gardner Bay Winery, Chris Covington stays vigilant watching over casks of reds and whites with the anticipation and pride of a master winemaker. After learning that his engineering and chemistry knowledge could be put to use fermenting grapes and crafting unique alcoholic nectars, Chris began experimenting with the wine-making process, eventually producing his own wines independently. Today, Chris crafts vintages ranging from cabernet sauvignons and merlots to malbecs and gewürztraminers, earning him a spot in Evening Magazine's "The Best of Western Washington". In addition to his day-to-day production duties, Chris also hosts frequent events, from tastings featuring live performances from local musicians to wine classes that discuss the wine-making process and dispel rumors that the best way to crush a grape is by breaking its heart.
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