Michelle and Wes Parker of Koi Pond Cellars in Ridgefield recently opened a bistro and tasting room in downtown Vancouver (in the space formerly occupied by Veraison) that feels like a visit to their former home, Sonoma County. The primary focus here is the wine. Koi Pond Cellars’ wine is available in six ounce pours or as part of a five-glass wine tasting flight served in a unique wine glass tower (which Michelle Parker found on amazon.com). The flights are not only eye-catching and Instagram-friendly, but a good way to taste a variety of wines made by this Ridgefield winery.
This is a place for wine aficionados as well as wine novices. The Parkers are interested in making wine less intimidating. Michelle Parker told me, “Sometimes I break it down to what kind of food they like. That will break it down to what kinds of wines they’ll like. We talk about do you tend to like sweet foods or salty foods.” She added, “I’ve had countless tasters apologizing to me because they don’t understand what they’re tasting. You taste what you taste, you like what you like. If you don’t like something, there’s no judgment. Trying to strip that negative snootiness out of it is a mission of mine. People are intimidated — they think wine is such an elevated experience.”
In addition to wine, Michelle serves food that she describes as Italian bistro-style. She explained, “A lot of the things here are very simple. I think people overcompensate by adding too many things. If you start out with good ingredients and put them together thoughtfully, it’s going to be amazing all the time.”
The tasting room and bistro is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and happy hour is 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
I showed up for lunch and ordered (they offer counter service). The lunch menu included panini sandwiches, pita pizzas, antipastos — small plates of wine-friendly bites. The specials menu, which had a roast beef panini and a pear and prosciutto panini. I tried the charcuterie plate, the bruschetta, and the pear and prosciutto panini. The tomatoes in the bruschetta tasted as if they had just been picked. The charcuterie plate offered a nice mix of high-quality salty treats (salami, prosciutto, capicola, havarti, mozzarella, marinated olives and pickled asparagus). I especially liked the crisp, sour pickled asparagus. The pear and prosciutto panini had a tantalizing blend of sweet and salty flavors.