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Women & Wine....

LIFESTYLE: Airport Wine Bars Take Off

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, airline travel can be...well...less than pleasant--as in long lines at the airport and sardine seating once aboard. Relief comes in a new form--the airport wine bar.

"Customers tell me that our wine bars provide a welcome haven from the typical airport sports bar with its loud TVs and smell of beer” says Carla Wytmar, head of marketing for Vino Volo, the leader in the airport wine bar concept (Vino Volo is "wine flight” in Italian). “Our warm atmosphere, hand-selected wines, gourmet small plates, and a highly educated staff are particularly appealing to women.”

The May opening of Vino Volo at New York's JFK marks the company's fifth location. “We are planning to open as many as 50 Vino Volo stores in the next five years,” says Vino Volo’s founder and CEO, Doug Tomlinson. Others include Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Sacramento International Airport, and Washington, DC’s Dulles. In the airports, Vino Volos are situated beyond security, which means that customers can taste, purchase, and carry bottles onboard their flight. Per airline regulations, they cannot, however, open or drink them once onboard.

Two Vino Volo locations are managed by women, who both rose through the ranks. “When I first started in this business, it was very male-dominated and my advice wasn’t always welcome,” admits Pam Seaton, Manager of the Washington Dulles Vino Volo. "Now it's not unusual for husbands to defer to their wives when it comes to selecting a glass or bottle."

“The wonderful thing about our wine bar is that it’s like having a closet with a great wardrobe," says Stephanie Schrankel, general manager of Vino Volo’s Seattle location. "My Vino Volo closet is an enviable one stocked with offerings for any day of the week.”

The Vino Volo “closet” typically contains eight flights of three wines each, as well as about 25 wines by the glass and 40 bottles available for purchase. Along with unique rotating flights (like “World Value Reds”), Vino Volo focuses on food pairings. The possibilities include locally-produced artisan cheeses, dry-cured meats, exotic olives, and much more--including take-out options that sure beat airline food.

“We’re passionate about finding the best wines in each price category," says Tomlinson. "Our tasting team blind tastes multiple wines in the same price and flavor category before choosing one for our menu.” Will there be Vino Volos outside of airports? "Our guests are already saying they wish they didn’t have to get a boarding pass to visit Vino Volo,” he adds.

Vino Volo is not the only wine bar option in U.S. airports. Others include Charlotte Douglas International’s Yadkin Valley Wine Bar, featuring North Carolina wines; La Bodega Winery at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which pours Texan and other wines; and the Rose City Café & Wine Bar at Portland International Airport that focuses on Pacific northwest wines and cuisine.

--Lynn Seldon