Like me, suppose you are strategically plotting a beverage-related series of needs over the next, let’s say, week or so, coalescing with urgency around the date of November 3. In that case, the new Juice Club bottle shop at Union Coffee is ready to support your supply.
Juice Club launched in the halcyon days of yore—2019—as a roaming technicolor revelry of natural wine parties, events, and multimedia beverage happenings dedicated to natural wine and the thriving culture around it. A quick definition: natural wine refers to the vibrant subculture of minimal intervention, expressive bottlings made by emerging winemakers worldwide. They tend to be crafted and enjoyed by a diverse coterie of young people.
As a culture, natural wine actively seeks to purge a lot of the traditional trappings of the wine status quo, namely: money, age, snobbery, and exclusion. The wines may taste like attenuated versions of what you’ve tried before, or they may taste totally wild and different, depending on the maker and bottle. There’s something for everyone in the world of natural wine, and new-to-wine drinkers are especially welcome.
Because we can’t throw parties or have nice things in 2020, Juice Club’s founders—Ben Chaykin, Reva Keller, Lianabell Soto-Silva, Mckenna Dean, and Matt Lucas—had to seek that most contemporary of entrepreneurial reimaginings: the pivot.
Juice Club’s pivot has been incredibly elegant. More of a pirouette, if anything. The brand has re-emerged as a happily stocked shelf of rare, impressive natural wine offerings from near and far, occupying the full back wall at Union Coffee, owner-operator Geetanjali Vailoor’s contemporary specialty coffee bar at 24th and East Union.
For Vailoor, the nestling together of specialty coffee and natural wine is a natural fit.
“The natural wine and specialty coffee communities prioritize ethical and thoughtful consumption,” she tells me. “Our guests at Union have been excited and receptive to the addition of Juice Club…[they’ve] done such a wonderful job introducing natural wine in our community; I myself have learned so much from them. I feel like natural wine is cool in itself, but Juice Club, in particular, brings an incredible community along with them that just brightens up Union Coffee and brings all sorts of people together.”
The collaboration was initially planned as an evening wine bar sort of thing, a pop-up within Union Coffee. Perhaps this can still happen someday, but for now, you have a happy hybrid: one of the city’s best cafes that is simultaneously one of its best wine shops.
“The Seattle market for natural wine has never been better,” the Juice Clubbers told me by email, “and the goal is to have a selection that encapsulates what we’re most excited about, and to constantly be turning people on to new wines.”
There is much to be turned on to here: pure juice Beaujolais from La Derniere Goutte, stunner Mediterranean light bodied reds from Les Foulards Rouges, cultishly revered natural wine Instagram candy from the likes of Robinot and Vincent Marie’s “No Control” label, and more. Wine novices can chat with Union’s team about what they’re enjoying lately, or peruse Juice Club’s Instagram for new arrival recommendations.
There is something intrinsically delightful about a well-stocked wine shelf at a coffee bar, a delicious sort of now-and-later exercise. Vailoor reports that customers purchase most bottles in the afternoon, but plenty of people pick up a bottle with their morning coffee as well. “It’s just too convenient”, she says, but I think it’s maybe something more than that.
Why be coy? 2020 fucking sucks. It sucks, and if you love food and beverages or work around the food and beverage industry, it quadruple-double really sucks. All the stories are sad, and all the operators are stressed, and there’s not a lot to celebrate, which makes the rare happy node of collaboration and cultural overlap like this one feel all the more meaningful.
Proust had it right: “We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.” A cappuccino for now, a bottle of wine for later—in this life, in this year, you find your pleasures where you can.