Airport bars are typically cramped yet lonely, decidedly down-market. They are also fraught with the mass unspoken conviction that everyone present may be about to die. The plane may be safer than the automobile, but what the mind accepts, the fearful pit of the soul rejects. People, wingless and unfeathered, cannot fly; the cognitive dissonance produced when they do, even when the experience is much like riding a bus, cannot be conquered by mere logic. A drink at an airport bar is emotionally, irrationally charged with the inescapable notion that it may be your last drink prior to perishing in a fiery wreck. Must it be in a plastic cup?
Vino Volo, brand-new at Sea-Tac, says no. Please note that whatever I say about the place is colored by my experience as a guest of the company's CEO, a man of sparkly eyes and notable charm; otherwise, I could not get to Vino Volo without a boarding pass. However, whether under the influence of a quantity of mid-afternoon free wine or not, the airport wine bar is a surpassing idea. It is said that at some time in the distant past, the experience of air travel possessed more glamour than, say, going Greyhound (not to mention witnessing holes in the socks of complete strangers). Vino Volo seeks to restore some of this sheen, and succeeds admirably in doing so. The stemware, the cherry-stained bar made of actual wood, the woman reading a magazine with more words than pictures all conspire to make you feel that life will go on, that you are in a space of possibility rather than one of desperation, that you are somewhere you might choose to be rather than in a holding pen being lightly anesthetized prior to your possible demise. The décor is pleasantly, generically upscale/sleek; the art and many of the wines are local; the seating is capacious and comfortable; the prices, particularly in this environment of the captive consumer, are reasonable.
The staff of Vino Volo (Italian for "wine flight"—ha!), poached from reputable local wine shops and restaurants, know what they're talking about when it comes to what they're pouring. This can lead to pleasantly nonsensical, meandering conversations about France, education about the varietal roussanne, and mutually satisfying deployment of descriptors like "minerally" and "insouciant" and "muscular." The wine flights (generous tastes of three "world value" reds or Yakima Valley whites, for example, ranging from $7 to $23) arrive on mod metal trays; a coaster-strip is imprinted with amusing graphics locating the qualities of each vintage among quadrants of "bright," "rich," "light," and "brooding." Bottles are available to go on the plane, whether to take to your host or parents or to drink en route to fortify yourself (corkage policies vary by airline).
Vino Volo's gourmet small plates are just all right; stick with the warm Marcona almonds or the cheese plate, and have a nice flight.
Vino Volo, Sea-TacCentral Terminal Marketplace