In late June the KP Spouse and I were flying back from the ISNIE conference in Iceland, and we had a lengthy layover at BWI while awaiting our Southwest flight to Midway. Tired after a long flight from Reykjavik, we grabbed a crabcake dinner at the restaurant we knew of, then sauntered down to our gate for two more hours of lounging before departure. We rounded the corner, and couldn’t believe what we saw before us: a minimalist, tastefully-decorated wine bar and shop. Could we be hallucinating? Were we so beaten down by the modern travel experience that we created a mirage?
Thankfully, no. It was BWI’s outpost of Vino Volo, a relatively new line of airport terminal wine bars. Vino Volo currently has locations in Dulles, Sea-Tac, BWI, Sacramento, and New York’s JFK, and they are planning to expand further. They offer a thoughtful selection of wines by the glass, tasting flights, small plate nibbles, and bottles of wine for purchase (which is possible since they are inside of airport security).
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about Vino Volo (subscription required). The author recounts his experience:
We dropped in at the Vino Volo for lunch a few days ago and plunked ourself down in a modern-looking leather chair with old-fashioned comfort. An eager and vinously informed young woman called Jennifer emerged from the adjacent Vino Volo wine store bearing a menu and a wine list.
In a spirit of earnest inquiry, we ordered several of the small platters. Smoked salmon came as rollups, attractively plated. Duck confit with lentils and a generous sprinkling of cracklings was bathed in a vinaigrette made from Banyuls, a wine of Provence, the same region where duck has been parcooked in its own fat and preserved in this way for centuries. The plate (white china like the others) of cured meats included prosciutto, fennel salami and jambon de Bayonne, with crisp-fried crostini sliced from a good baguette-style loaf and bocconcini, little balls of mozzarella.
The teetotaler could limit herself to this food alone and wash it down with a bottle of sparkling Tau water from Wales. But, once again performing a reportorial service for travelers, I matched these platters with appropriate flights of wines. For the duck, I ordered Shades of White, a trio of glasses, each roughly half full, of Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from the Central Otago region of New Zealand, and two from California: Terlato Family Vineyard’s Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio 2006 and Ferrari-Carano’s Alexander Valley 2005 Chardonnay. This adventure in global quaffing cost $10.
The glasses arrived on a silvery tray, atop a sheet of information about the wines. To describe each wine, Vino Volo provides a chart divided into four quadrants — bright, light, rich and brooding. A black dot shows where the wine falls in the spectrum. Vino Volo pegged the Sauvignon Blanc as bright, the Chardonnay as rich. The Pinot Grigio’s dot hovered over the line between bright and light. Next to each chart were tasting notes: The Chardonnay, we were told, has “enticing aromas of dried apricots, papaya and mango…with a toasted-almond finish.”
We had a delightful experience at Vino Volo; our server was quite knowledgeable and happy to talk about the wines and Vino Volo’s business model. We had one wine with which we are quite familiar, the Sausal Alexander Valley Estate Zinfandel 2003, and a new wine for us, the Borsao Campo de Borja Reserva 2001 from Spain (a blend of garnacha, tempranillo, and cabernet). Each glass came on a coaster with tasting notes; the Sausal notes said “raspberry & spicy clove”, among other things, and the Borsao said “cherry pie & vanilla”. Both were pretty accurate. The 2×2 taste matrix that they use to describe their wines has compexity on the X axis and fruit on the Y axis, and the four quadrants mentioned above do a nice job of capturing the salient characteristics of the taste, for comparison across wines.
Finally, something to add some pleasure back into air travel …