If you're free this coming Saturday, June 30th and live in the DC area, or a little outside, I suggest you head over to the first edition of Laissesz-Fair(e) Natural Wine Social (2-7pm, 1402 H St NE). It's a strong suggestion, and I'm bummed I can't attend. Instead of spending the day with contractors, I'd much rather be tasting natural wine from near and far in a pop-up gallery space surrounded by fellow natural wine lovers and the wine-curious public. Three mid-Atlantic winemakers—Ashli Johnson (Old Westminster Winery), Aubrey and Justin Rose (Rosemont of Virginia Winery), and Maya Hood White (Early Mountain Winery) will be pouring alongside DC distributors, in an event organized by Pineapple Collaborative and Please Bring Chips. I'll have to listen to hammers and saws while you groove to tunes spun by Jerome Baker III and gnash on food from local vendors.
Tickets are on sale at Eventbrite. Your entry ticket will buy four half glasses of wine with more splashes available for purchase. So while you mingle the afternoon into early evening, learning about wine, planning after parties, know that this writer would gladly jet down to DC and hang with all of you. In lieu of that, I spoke with event co-creators Ariel Pasternak, Atara Bernstein, and Chad Drummond from Please Bring Chips & Pineapple Collaborative (stylized as “pineapple” with no capitalization) to learn more about this weekend's event.
This interview has been gently edited and condensed.
Hey Laissez-Fair(e) team, thanks for chatting with Sprudge. This seems like an unique idea for a wine fest—it feels very community oriented. How'd everyone come together on the project, and what was spark of inspiration?
At Please Bring Chips, we are looking for ways to do things that are cool and different. We also want to support like-minded people and collaborate, because we believe a high tide lifts all ships. The whole concept of “natural” wine is based around people trying to make liquid art in a genuine and responsible manner. We wanted to leverage the resources and partnerships we have to create an experience that allows people and producers to connect over something genuine and beautiful. Additionally, a lot of the wines we love and wanted to share are women-made, so pineapple made sense as a collaborator. pineapple has been spreading the love for natural, womxn-made wines since March 2017 through our monthly events, featuring everyone from regional winemakers to Marissa Ross. Partnering with Please Bring Chips and No Kings Collective on DC's first natural wine fair was a perfect opportunity given their experience producing large scale events and our mutual love for natural wines.
Is this the first year of Laissez-fair(e)? Were there any previous iterations?
This is the first year! While our respective companies have hosted past events featuring natural wine, this is the first large scale fair featuring viticulturists, sommeliers, wine distributors, and other wine professionals in the area. We saw natural wine fairs happening in New York, LA, SF and abroad and thought it was about time to bring one to DC given the burgeoning natural wine scene in the city and also the region's wineries. While this is the first year, we hope to do it again, bigger and better.
I love the concept—bring people together to have a good time, while centering the work of women winemakers. What should a guests expect when they come through the doors? What's the set up like?
This event is for men, women, and all people who love wine and natural wine. This is truly a celebration of those in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area who are bringing natural wine to our community—from winemakers themselves to the head salespeople at the primary natural wine distributors to sommeliers who are creating next level wine lists with natural wine from around the world. The event is going down in a pop-up art gallery and there will be live music, delicious eats from local vendors, and multiple natural wines folks can try. It's a fair so there will be tables for each producer and distributor who will feature a selection of wines to sample. So think of it like an awesome day party plus robust natural wine knowledge-sharing with professionals who know it best. We also want the event to feel approachable for people who don't know anything about wine. We don't want the vibe to be intimidating or stuffy. We want people to come and learn something. The set-up will involve a few tables scattered throughout the space. Upon entry, guests will get four drink tickets. Our participating distributors and producers will each have their own table. Each drink ticket will be for a half-glass of wine. If you want more tickets, they will be available for sale at several tables throughout the space.
How does “Congruent” tie into Lassez-fair(e)?
“Congruent” is No Kings Collective's pop-up show, curated by local artists. The idea behind the show is to bring likeminded curators together to show some local artists; people who's mindset is congruent with the ideals of NKC. Laissez-fair is based on a similar mindset; the art just happens to come in a glass and delights the palate instead of the eye. Also an interesting fact: over half of the artists in Congruent are women.
Is there a mid-Atlantic theme to the winemakers your group decided to highlight?
Beyond all three of the winemakers being women (or at least having one woman on the winemaking team), these Mid-Atlantic producers are leading the way in the natural wine scene with award-winning pet-nats (Jon Bonné named Old Westminster Winery's pet nat as one of his six favorites in 2017) and viticultural practices. Great natural wine comes from all over the world. But some local folks are doing great things. Please Bring Chips and pineapple value real relationships, so we wanted to work with people who are nearby and will come to our birthday parties.