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A pearl and a gem: Wine tasting at The Oyster Bar

Chuckanut Drive restaurant has received prestigious Wine Spectator award for more than 3 decades

Different bottles of wines available by-the-glass surround a plate of fried oysters at the Oyster Bar on Jan. 29. The restaurant off Chuckanut Drive is well known for its array of wines curated by resident wine buyer Amanda Abbott. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Katie Bechkowiak CDN Contributor

There are very few restaurants in our area that elicit such feelings of joy and anticipation that The Oyster Bar does. The drive alone, along Washington state’s first scenic highway known as Chuckanut Drive, serves as preparation for what is to come: a moment in time to savor life and the beauty it has to offer.

The Oyster Bar features expansive views of Samish Bay from its cliffside spot off Chuckanut Drive. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

I recently made the journey to The Oyster Bar, but it wasn’t to bask in the glory of the view while dining on carefully prepared delicacies from the land and sea. The sole purpose of my visit was wine — and if you love wine as much as I do, then you will truly appreciate the level of excellence of the wine program at The Oyster Bar. 

Ironically enough, the history of The Oyster Bar is as long and winding as the road that takes you there, and dates back to the 1920s. It was originally started as a roadside shack that sold oysters from Samish Bay to travelers passing by. Due to good drive-by business, a lunch counter was soon added and the original Oyster Bar was born and named the Rockpoint Oyster Restaurant. Since then, the restaurant has been nurtured by numerous owners, each making varying degrees of improvements along the way. 

The Oyster Bar’s wine cellar features hundreds of bottles of wine. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

In 1987, The Oyster Bar landed in the capable hands of its current owners, Guy and Linda Colbert; and for the past 37 years, they have cared for the space with the love and respect it deserves. The Colberts have created a world-class dining establishment that has become the gem of Chuckanut Drive.

Tucked snugly away in a dark, secret corner of The Oyster Bar, lies the pearl of the restaurant: the wine cellar. My guide to this heavenly nook was wine buyer Amanda Abbott. Before our visit, I was aware that The Oyster Bar had a wine list that reads like a literary accomplishment. What I didn’t know was just how award-winning the list is, and what it takes to earn such a coveted award. 

Longtime wine buyer Amanda Abbott holds a bottle of the 2021 Delaille Domaine du Salvard Sauvignon Blanc “Unique.” (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Since 2015, The Oyster Bar has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. To put this achievement in perspective, only 1,411 restaurants from around the world received this award in 2023. According to Wine Spectator, a Best of Award of Excellence winner must meet certain standards: “These lists include around 350 selections or more, representing a breadth of wine regions and styles, as well as vintage depth through vertical collections of notable wines.“ The Spectator would also like your list to include quality wines that “diners wouldn’t easily find at local wine stores and drink at home”; in other words, some restaurant-only selections. 

The driving force behind these achievements in excellence has been — and still is — Guy Colbert. But, for the past nine years, Abbott has been riding shotgun and doing a superb job of helping Guy navigate the continuing road to success. Abbott’s level of expertise of wine is evidenced in her wine-by-the-glass menu, which she changes seasonally.

On my visit to The Oyster Bar, I asked Abbott to share some of her favorite wines available by the glass, and she generously obliged. For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on the whites she poured.

We began our tasting with one of the best wines to pair with oysters, a Muscadet. The 2021 Chateau la Noe Muscadet Sevre et Mains from the Loire Valley, showcases just how elegant a Muscadet can be — the silky texture glides smoothly across your tongue and finishes with an intriguing hint of briny minerality. (You can find this wine at Fairhaven Haggen.) 

The 2021 Chateau la Noe Muscadet Sevre et Mains is served by the glass at the Oyster Bar. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Next, we moved to the 2021 Delaille Domaine du Salvard Sauvignon Blanc “Unique.” I was smitten with this wine from my first sip — the lively acids danced delicately on my palate, sparking bright citrus explosions throughout my mouth, making me eager for my next sip. As per Wine Spectator’s criteria for an award-winning list, this is a restaurant-only wine and can only be enjoyed on premise. 

The third wine was a pinot gris and it’s the reason I am a born-again fan of the varietal: 2022 King Estate Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley, Oregon. Since trying this wine, I have purchased numerous bottles (it’s widely available, thank goodness) and will continue to do so. It is a brilliant wine with layers of tropical fruits, lemon curd and honeyed pear. 

Abbott was a gracious host and treated us to a few more of her favorites. Find out for yourself by visiting The Oyster Bar. My visit there turned a gray, Monday afternoon in January into a “life is good” happy moment — and I’ll cheers to that any day of the week.

The 2022 King Estate Pinot Gris fills a glass. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

A previous version of this story misstated the year for the Oyster Bar’s Best of Award of Excellence. The story was updated to reflect this change on Feb. 14, 2024 at 9 a.m. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.

Katie Bechkowiak owned Vinostrology wine bar in downtown Bellingham from 2013–19. If you have wine suggestions for her monthly column, contact

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