Even the best-laid business plans of two Harvard MBAs can suddenly go sideways. Allison Nelson and Sarah Munson opened the Local Vine in Belltown in the summer of 2007 with the mission of demystifying wine, with plans to open an unspecified number of additional wine-demystification-and-consumption outlets over the following three to five years. Their combined corporate-ladder-climbing experience is enough to give you a nosebleed—VP-ing, retail-brand developing, sell-side equity analyst–ing, Dubai office–opening. They also both love wine. A little wine-bar-with-retail empire looked, like many entrepreneurial things back then, to be a cakewalk.
Oenophilic Stranger reader-reviewers gave the place a five-star rating: Winegirl called it "flat-out cool," Seattle Wino said "awesome spot," and Belltown Homo Homie noted that "the wine pouring machine is fascinating." That would be the Enomatic Wine Preservation System, an Italian machine that infuses nitrogen gas into bottles, keeping opened wine perfectly good for up to 45 days. The Enomatic at the Local Vine was among the first in the country—a sleek, futuristic advance in technology, meaning more wines by the glass with minimal spoilage.
What spoiled the plan to open more Local Vines: the economy. What spoiled the original location: the building that housed it, constructed during the dot-com boom. As the Seattle Times reported in April 2010, the upstairs residents and ground-floor businesses were told to "move out as soon as possible because of major structural flaws." The McGuire Building, long covered in a bristle of scaffolding, was doomed to be demolished.
Undeterred, Nelson and Munson brought their Enomatic up to the Trace Lofts building on Capitol Hill. The wine list still groups the selections by adjectives that are either approachable or annoying, depending on how you feel about drinking something "CHEERFUL," "ENGAGING," "STATUESQUE," or "BOISTEROUS." The Enomatic's emissions range from $5 all the way up to $54 a glass, so there's something for you whether you're RELATIVELY PENURIOUS or FILTHY RICH. Small plates range from "TASTY SNACKS" to "SOMETHING FANCY," with a notable failure of imagination in the "VEGETABLES" category.
The space isn't as big—there's no freestanding gas fireplace—but the swoopy plywood ceiling panels, the hanging globe lights, and the burgundy (or is it pinot?) accents will be familiar to Winegirl and company. The retail element and a communal table are separated by sliding partitions; giant windows look out on the hardware store and the service bay of the Ferrari/Maserati dealership across the street. The Local Vine's contemporary look-and-feel remains geared toward repetition—the place is both upscale and scalable. If that's what you like, you're going to love it.
The Local Vine, 1410 12th Ave, 257-5653