“Traverse City is happening for about four months a year,” says Kate Nordby, meaning it is not happening for about eight. Hence, VinBar, a collaboration among Good Harbor, L. Mawby, and Black Star Farms, three wineries up TC way.

Nordby, manager of the project, says the owners looked at up-and-coming urban neighborhoods in Detroit and Grand Rapids too, but quickly decided Ann Arbor was the safer bet to set up a tasting room. Their location in the old Acme Mercantile “is the heart of the restaurant district” and guarantees a year-round audience, she says. And she has company: from her front step she can see another TC outpost, Cherry Republic.

Nordby prefers that people think of VinBar as a bar, a place where you can buy a drink and sit for awhile. But legally, it is a tasting room–three of them, in fact, since each vintner was required to get a separate tasting-room license. That means it can serve only its owners’ products and cannot prepare food, though it does serve cheese and crackers (for more Michigan LCC arcana, see Blue Front, below).

Well-schooled in wines, Nordby is more than happy to sell by the bottle or case. She says she can discuss all products frankly because her three bosses “bring entirely different products to the market. Mawby’s has the champagne locked. Black Star Farms specializes in cool-climate varietals and also eau-de-vies and hard cider. Good Harbor is known for its well-balanced blends.” Largely because of Black Star Farms’ expansion into dry, hard ciders and the eighty-proof eau-de-vies, VinBar can also offer craft cocktails. “And because we’re in the restaurant district, we offer half glasses of wine, so people can stop in before or after dinner.” During happy hour you can get a full glass for the price of a half glass.

From the Leelanau Peninsula herself, Nordby fields the obligatory Mario Batali question. “Oh yes, of course you see him all the time up there in the summer,” she says. “I used to work in the Dam Candy Store in Fishtown, and he’d always bring his kids in.”

VinBar, 111 W. Liberty, 368-9750. Tues.-Thurs. & Sun. 3-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 3-11 p.m. Closed Mon. vinbara2.com