Seattleites Are Getting Hooked on Natural Wine, One Juice Club Event at a Time squib

A new series of pop-up wine bar parties highlight the best "natural wines" currently dominating trendy wine lists from Tokyo to London to Los Angeles. by Jordan Michelman

Like so many good things in life—your last vacation or whatever wild shit you're getting up to this weekend—Juice Club was born from a group text. A roaming series of natural-wine bottle parties with an experiential, interactive bent, the events first started as a drinking hangout, bringing together a group of friends obsessed with wine (subject header: "Juice Club").

Now they're determined to get the city hooked, one party at a time.

Juice Club is the work of Ben Chaykin, Reva Keller, Lianabell Soto-Silva, Mckenna Dean, and Matt Lucas, a wine-loving quintet with combined experience encompassing everything from wine service to event management to interactive menu design. They all help pour wine, but Lucas is in charge of curating the menu, which leans heavily into expressive, vibrant, minimal intervention wines—the so-called "natural wine" currently dominating trendy wine lists from Tokyo to London to Los Angeles.

Juice Club launched in August of 2018 as a sit-down dinner series, and found its stride in January 2019 as a string of pop-up wine bar parties, offering wines by the glass and select small plates at a diverse cross section of establishments. "Seattle is just coming up on natural wine now," says Lucas, whose day job is at Vif, Wallingford's influential bottle shop and wine bar. "It seems like in the last year, there has been this dramatic shift of young people getting into natural wine, and maybe we've had a role in that."

It's true that while the import, bottle shop, and winemaker scene is booming in both Portland and the Bay Area, Seattle has been slower on the uptake. For an event series like this, teaching about wine starts with exposing people to the good shit, which means pouring wines from the best of the best natural winemakers.

At Juice Club events you can try wines by the likes of Cantina Giardino, a much-lauded collective in the Campania region of Italy, which works with indigenous Italian grapes like Fiano and Aglianico, and bottle "as is," without the use of additional chemicals or fining agents; Sébastien Riffault, an influential young Sancerre maker of fresh and complex wines; and the legendary Jean-Pierre Robinot, a former wine writer producing utterly compelling wines in the French region of Jasnières.

The Juice Club party series changes venues and vibes each week (check their @juice__club Instagram for updates), but once a month, there's a standing date at JarrBar, where Juice Club creates an intimate natural wine bar setting, offering the opportunity to go deep on bottle list offerings and small plates. Other recent events have included a 200-person blowout at Gold Club and an expansive rooftop hang at Mountaineering Club. "Moving around from space to space is pretty fun, but it also helps us give a different viewpoint on what Juice Club really is," says Chaykin, whose background is in event design and interactives.

"Sometimes it's bar events that feel like the places we like going in Paris or London," adds Keller, "and other times it's more like you're just at this amazing party that happens to have great natural wine."

I asked Keller, Chaykin, and Lucas what was next for Juice Club, and the group politely demurred. "Everything is up in the air now," Lucas said, "but we do have plans to expand further." The consensus on their ultimate setting for a Juice Club party, if it could happen anywhere in Seattle, is the Space Needle, though Keller listed a few other pipe dreams, including a takeover at China Harbor and a clandestine ferry party.

"We have a lot of ideas," the team tells me. Better order a magnum.

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