New Wine Bar is Retirement Dream for Local Couple

June 18, 2018 | by Naomi Tomky

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When Barrels Wine Bar opens on June 20th, Mercer Island will have a new place to drink and shop for wine, and Tina and Joe Kennedy will fulfill a dream.

The pair (Tina is a graduate of Mercer Island High School), first hatched the idea around the time they got married in 1983, though it remained on hold, even as they held jobs in the local wine industry, until after Joe’s retirement in 2016. Now, leather chairs, bold art, and 1500 bottles on shelves help the couple welcome customers in their own wine bar.

“We wanted to make it like our house,” says Joe of the comfortable seating—padded stools and stuffed chairs—which plays well into their main goal – to make Barrels a fun place. Fun, he adds, for everyone. For the first-time wine buyer taking baby steps or just enjoying a night out, they sell a $5.75 glass of French wine. At the same time, oenophiles can geek out over a $300 magnum or an esoteric bottle of Garrison Creek.

The small kitchen puts out charcuterie plates, smoked fish, and a few other nibbles designed to go well with wine. At any given time, they plan to have about 40 wines by the glass, and customers can drink any bottle on site for a small corkage fee ($10 bottles under $75, $15 for those above). At the bar, the high central table, or the pairs of low chairs facing small tables, customers can drink while also enjoying striking art that pops off the walls, which will rotate every few months.

The wines offered come from Washington—which the pair are extremely familiar with, having worked at Covey Run, Columbia, Snoqualmie, and more—as well as the rest of the West Coast, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina. What unites every bottle here is the Kennedys’ own palates. “We tasted every wine on the shelf,” something Joe says gives them a unique ability to help customize wine selection for people coming in to drink. They’ll also have a daily tasting, for those who want to try a few samples, as well as four taps of Pacific Northwest craft beer on tap.

Showing off his favorite bottles, a glass pour from the self-distributed Structure in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood or a bottle of Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Joe’s joy spills over. “Our objective,” he says, of how they designed the store and selected the wines, “is to get people to drink.” And starting on June 20, when the doors open, drink they shall.

Grand Opening

Barrels Wine Bar is celebrating its Grand Opening on Wednesday, June 20th from 5 to 8 pm.

Barrels Wine Bar is located at 7605 SE 27th Street, Suite 107, Mercer Island, WA  98040 (where you’ll also find the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce office, Clarke + Clarke Art & Artifacts, Sano Cafe, Island Treats, and I Luv Pho).

Hours of operation will be Tuesday through Thursday, Noon to 8 pm; Friday & Saturday, Noon to 9 pm; and Sunday, Noon to 6 pm.

Follow Barrels Wine Bar on Facebook and Instagram.