Natural wine in Seattle is coming up. Fast.
Exhibit A is L’Oursin, already an institution at just two years in. Mandie Liddle and Jonathan Werth met there as staffers back in 2017, but it didn’t take long for them to begin planning what was next for the city's burgeoning natural wine scene.
“We wanted a place that we could afford, and meet with people who are excited about what we're excited about,” says Liddle, who began her informal education in natural wines under Shawn Mead at Damn the Weather. “We wanted to get together to taste weird wine.”
That place is Bar de Soif.
Werth fell in love with natural wine working on small, sustainable farms when he was introduced to natural wine production. “It immediately was in line with everything I cared about,” he says. Today he thinks of it as farmer wine, and with Liddle he's crafted a list that focuses on many winemakers who farm the grapes they crush.
“Our original idea was to pop up in various spaces all over the city,” Liddle says. They’ve since settled into a regular home at Jarr Bar on Monday evenings. “There's an energy when you go to a wine show, for instance. It can be so few and far between that you find yourself in that situation that I think it would be really great to have a place to go and experience the natural wine community in one stable place rather than having to travel to it.”
“It's the perfect space for us,” Werth says of Jarr Bar, where both work full time. “We worked in Essex and Left Bank before, which are spaces we liked and believed in and support. Bar de Soif has always been about giving people the opportunity to try a lot of wines by the glass that they wouldn’t typically get a chance to.”
He explains that with normal pour sizes and high markups per glass, more expensive and hard to come by natural wines can be unaffordable. Conversely, Bar de Soif employs a smaller pour size—four ounces—and slightly lower markup than is normal. “We're able to open more wines this way,” Liddle says. “We run in price from $5 to $15 per glass and the menu changes weekly.”
Sometimes there are themes—like a recent skin contact night, which was accompanied by a film screening on the subject of Georgian winemaking. But they’ve also done “burgers and Beaujolais,” for instance, and are primarily concerned with giving customers opportunities to try new, unique, and unconventional wines.
“For me,” Werth says. “I’m personally drawn to alpine and island wines—their sense of place.”
Bar de Soif draws a crowd of regulars as well as those just stopping by at random, and so the way Liddle talks about natural wine varies from guest to guest. “We're not here to tell people how they should or shouldn't enjoy wine,” she says. “So I tend to talk about the stories, rather than what people should be experiencing.”
Werth adds: “Natural wine is a living wine. The agrarian aspect is always a good place to start.”
In its current pop-up form, Bar de Soif is receiving philosophical support from Seattle’s natural wine community and network of distributors, who appreciate its smaller pour model, allowing for a broader range of wines to be sold by the glass. “It’s hard to compete with conventional wines by the glass,” Werth says. ”The smaller pour levels the playing field and makes their portfolios a lot more accessible from a sales perspective.”
For now, Liddle and Werth are satisfied trying their hand every Monday at serving fun lineups of wines, small bites, and conversation to a rotating cast of customers that hear about Bar de Soif through the grapevine or while passing by the heavily foot-trafficked Jarr Bar. They hope to eventually open a brick and mortar space, a choice we strongly support here at Sprudge Wine.
“We want to do this for the community,” Liddle says. “We’re not the only people who want this here.”