Selvatica, A Distinctive Seattle Wine Destination

Ξ August 22nd, 2010 | → 6 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Interviews, Wine Bars, Wine News |

The rewards of being lost are never better realized than when stumbling upon a place like Selvatica, a new wine and speciality shop in the up-and-coming SoDo district of Seattle, Washington. Located at 3220 1st Avenue South, I stopped in front of its plain exterior to ask directions. Nothing could have prepared me for the magnificent expansive interior of exposed brick, high-beamed ceilings, a rock garden and massive stone archway. Echoing the island landscape of the owners’ beloved Sardegna in the Mediterranean, and their exclusive wine import focus, I quickly found myself transported to a most unique intellectual space, one of reflection, a feeling of spiritual amplitude, as it were. The sheets of natural light and superb music piping throughout certainly helped.
I was to learn that Selvatica’s grand opening was just on August 12th, and runs through September 4th. I was fortunate to meet Lauren Price, co-owner and Director of Marketing. She took me on a spontaneous tour.
Admin What have you done here!
Lauren Price Selvatica means wild in Italian. We chose the name because our first importing endeavor was on the island of Sardinia. We developed a relationship with a small producer on the southern tip of the island. They’ve told us quite a bit about their wines, they call them the wines of the gods; and at first we had no idea what that meant. We just thought it was ego and grandeur. But it has been recently said that Sardinia was probably the first place in the world where wine was made. Sediments indicating this have been found dating back to 1,200 B.C. which pre-dates Mesopotamia. So they’ve had vines growing wild all over the island for millennia. That is what hit us.
This is our grand tasting space. We were very lucky to have inherited most of this stone from a local artist who works with a local company called Marenakos. They left all of the stone. This over here is the largest dolmen in North America. We were very fortunate.
And it is indoors.
LP Yes! The thought of moving it was a little daunting to them. That might have influenced their decision to leave it.
It works.
LP We tried to keep a lot of the exposed brick, beam, wood and stone intact. It is a really stunning space, one of the few buildings in this area that has been preserved in its natural state. It was originally a foundry. They used to build ship parts here and transport them to the harbor.
How did you find this place?
LP Very randomly. We were just driving around, and we passed it several times. But we fell in love with it. With all the grittiness in SoDo, outside it’s dirty, it’s gritty, but when you get inside it is just an absolutely breath-taking, serene space. We got very lucky that it came on the market right when we were looking. We snatched it up!
What kinds of event have you or could you have here?
LP We’ve had everything from Casino Nights to anniversary parties, dinner parties… we’ve only been open for retail for a short time, but we’ve been importing and wholesaling for a while.
All of that was done out of here and then you decided to make it your tasting space.
LP Yes. And we’re working on our wine bar license as well. That is in the works.
Tell me about the wines you import.
LP We started importing Sardinian wine. We’ve expanded our efforts to the Basilicata region in south/central Italy. We’re expanding even further. We’re now working with a small Wenatchee winery, Dutch John. They produce 750 cases a year across all of their vintages. It’s pretty amazing stuff. We’re striving to make this essentially a speciality shop, a speciality market, where you come to purchase goods you can’t really find anywhere else. Our wines, for example, are not available anywhere else in the United States.
We’ve had business relations with the sea food industry for about 20 years. So we’re starting to bring in sea foods as well. And we’re working with the Ekone Oyster Company; they are letting us distribute amazing smoked oysters and sturgeon, fresh, ready to eat right out of the can. Interesting flavors, we have barbecue, lemon, pepper, all very good.
So you have a 5 year plan?
LP Our 5 year plan is to try not to drink too much of our inventory! We’re opening the wine bar very soon. We want this to become a destination. We want this to be the convergence of Italy, hopefully France in the near future, and local goods. Our first tag line was “Where SoDo Meets Sardinia”. A lot of great things are happening in this area [SoDo] right now. It is the newest area of development. We scooped up this place at just the right time. You’ll notice in the next 5 years or so a lot of new businesses, retail, restaurants. There’s a plan for down the street for a 15,000 square foot wine warehouse/restaurant/a few other things. [laughs] It’s a pretty exciting place to be.
What kinds of people have been coming through your doors? How did they hear about it? Do you make media buys? Word of mouth?
LP We’ve had several different approaches. Our private events have worked very well for us. We host small parties, and we gat a lot of ‘word of mouth’ out of that. We’ve recently started hitting the streets more and putting our brand out there. We market on the Washington Ferry system. We market to hotels, to restaurants, Pike Place Market…
Facebook, Twitter?
LP We Facebook, yes we do. Look us up! We’re hoping to share the story of Sardinia which really turned us on to the wine business. Oh, I should mention that Sardinian grapes have the highest polyphenol levels than any other grapes in the world, anti-oxidants, resveratrol, all that good stuff. Sardinia has the highest number of male centenarians in the world. They live to unheard of ages.
And the women?
LP It is actually the only place in the world where more men than women make it passed 100. But they, too, enjoy longevity.
Curious. Is it that the men drink more wine than women, or less?
LP That is one theory. Actually, for the longest time women weren’t allowed to drink wine in their culture. It only changed recently, in the last 100 years or so. This is according to our friends at the Cantina [Cantina di Quartu winemaking cooperative]. They swear by their wines’ health benefits. They drink a couple glasses a day. That and they have the oldest winemaking traditions in the world. They have quite a claim to fame.
It is a very localized economy in a lot of senses. They don’t export a lot, at least out of the southern end of the island. They are very focussed on domestic distribution. It took us about two years of building confidence and friendship with them for the relationship to be truly comfortable. We’ve taken several visits over there. It is such a tough life!
Thank you very much, Lauren.
LP Thank you for visiting.


6 Responses to ' Selvatica, A Distinctive Seattle Wine Destination '

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  1. on August 23rd, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Lovely! I’ve added this place to my address book. If I am lucky, I shall visit them this winter!

  2. Admin, Ken Payton said,

    on August 23rd, 2010 at 6:45 am

    You will not be disappointed, Julia. Selvatica is quite an impressive effort. Thanks for the note.

  3. Greybeard said,

    on August 23rd, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    An interesting find Ken, however I must question (before someone else does) Lauren’s claims for Sardinian supremecy in the history of winemaking – 1300BC is fairly recent in the grand scheme of things! This was towards the end of Mesopotamian civilisation and on par with the Egyptian 18th & 19th Dynastys which were definately winemaking at the time.
    Georgia (South Caucasus)currently claims to the oldest archaeological finds at around 5000-7000BC, pre-dating all ancient civilisations and round about the time the first permanent settlements were appearing on Sardinia.
    That said Sardinian wine is well worth trying, especially their Cannonau (Grenache).

  4. Admin, Ken Payton said,

    on August 23rd, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Hi, Karl. I’ll post an interview with Prof. Patrick McGovern on ancient wines in a few days. My feeling is that Ms. Price may have misspoken. Rather than belabor the point, I let it pass. Cheers.

  5. Lauren Price said,

    on August 26th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Hi, Karl. You are right to point out there are many contenders for world’s first winemaker. And while I did not tell Ken that Sardinians have definitively earned the title, I’m very excited about a body of research out of the University of Milan suggesting Sardina may have brought winemaking to Mesopotamia and not the other way around.

    The 1200 B.C. date I mentioned in my interview refers to a few wine jugs recently unearthed near Cagliari. This discovery, plus new genetic evidence suggesting that the vines growing on Sardinia are native (not transplanted, as previously thought) and that the Cannonau grape is VERY possibly NOT a cousin of the Spanish Grenache grape (or any other) gives some scientists the confidence to theorize that Sardinians may be the Mediterranean’s oldest winemakers.

    As far as I’m concerned, the verdict is still out! I’m always happy to be reminded of new (and old) research and would be happy to share what I’ve found, if you’re interested.

    Thanks, Ken and Karl!

  6. Greybeard said,

    on August 27th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Hi Lauren, I’d be very interested in the information you have on this, I’m a keen historian and geneticist by training so am always on the lookout for new genetic research into grape varieties and more history behind the story of wine.
    I’ll drop you a line on the Selvatica contact page….

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