Building community at Vashon’s new wine café

After much planning and renovation, the new Wine Shop Vashon officially opened on April 4.

In taking over Wine Shop Vashon and expanding it into a community wine bar, new owner Liz Ophoven had a simple aim.

“I wanted to create a space for the community to hang out,” she said in an interview last week with The Beachcomber.

Ophoven bought the business in June last year from former owner Julie Winters (with whom she’s been friends for many years), and relocated from a small store into the community pub in Vashon Village. The new location, with its bar and larger seating area, has allowed her to think creatively about what she can do with her new “wine café,” as she calls it.

After much planning and renovation (and the inevitable bureaucracy that accompanies a liquor license), the new Wine Shop Vashon officially opened on April 4.

Born in Terra Haute, Indiana, Ophoven lived in Texas, San Francisco and Portland before moving to Seattle in 1997. With a Bachelors of Fine Arts in figure drawing and photography, she worked as a professional photographer for many years, and was an artist with Core Gallery in Pioneer Square in Seattle. She also volunteered with various arts organizations — work which, she says, “kept me active and creative.”

She also has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, having spent more than two decades managing restaurants as well as bartending.

Although Ophoven has no formal training in wine, she has long had a habit of immersing herself in new subjects: “I’m the type of person who every few years finds a new topic to dive into,” she said.

As someone who has always appreciated gastronomy, she’s learned a lot about wine, and regularly attends wine tastings in Seattle. (For now, with two teenage kids happy where they are, she commutes to the island every day from Seward Park).

Once the wine café is established and running well, she has plans to take formal training in oenology — the study of wine.

She chose to open her business on Vashon for a couple of reasons. One was simply financial: “Rents in Seattle are just too high” for a new business to be economically viable, she said.

More importantly, she loves the sense of community that exists on the island.

“I grew up in Georgetown,” Ophoven said, “and there was a similarly very tight-knit community there. So I loved the idea of having a place where islanders could come together, explore wines and eat some good food.”

At the new Vashon wine café, food options include homemade soups, simple salads, breads and spreads, and cheese and charcuterie plates. These are dispensed at the counter rather than with table service, and not just for the café’s convenience.

“I didn’t want people to have to ask for a check after a set period of time,” Ophoven explained. “I don’t want there to be pressure for people to move on, but rather to just linger in a relaxing atmosphere.”

Ophoven also plans to host talks from local experts on various subjects. Among these will be a recurring lecture by Vashon’s own geology expert Dr. Steve Bergman, entitled “The Geology of Wine”, where the audience can taste different wines while “taking a deep dive” into the differing soils and other features of the land that produces the grapes.

Wine Shop Vashon will continue Julie Winters’ original theme of featuring lesser-known wine regions and smaller-scale producers. Ophoven is also running what she calls the “Nomad Wine Club” where, for a monthly fee of $75, members can choose three wines at discounted prices.

Overall, she said, “I’d like the café to be a cozy, intimate place where people can come to taste wines they wouldn’t normally buy, in a range of styles and prices.”

Ophoven has some wide-ranging and creative ideas regarding potential events at the café, from live music to happenings you might not expect at a bar — including a figure drawing class, a pottery class (she’d bring in her kiln), “and a letter-writing night.”


Ophoven laughs. “We’ll provide stationery and stamps, and people can pen an old-fashioned, hand-written letter to send to someone they love.” With a glass of wine next to them, of course.

Wine Shop Vashon is located at 17205 Vashon Highway SW — in Vashon Village, just north of the center of town. Current hours are from 2 to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and from 2 to 9 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays. They’re closed, for now at least, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but will likely expand the schedule later. There are also plans for extended hours in the summer.

Details about wines on offer, events, the wine club and other features can be found on the website at