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You can trace most of the city’s emergent natural wine scene to two people. Shawn Mead at Vif and Marc Papineau, who co-owned and ran the Bar Ferdinands until last year. (Lower closed and he parted ways with Upper—now just Bar Ferdinand). Suzi An at Vita Uva? Worked adjacent to Papineau at Sitka & Spruce. As did Zac Overman, owner of L’Oursin. (As did I for a time.) Kathryn Olson, L’Oursin’s wine director, worked at Lower Bar Ferdinand for years. 

Now Papineau is back with Cantina Sauvage, a series of wine events, that serve a dual function. First, they’re a way for Papineau to create a more intimate, interactive experience with the types of wines he champions and sells: small producer, largely naturally produced—the sort of things people called artisanal before the word got tossed around by Dominos. (Papineau prefers the term authentic wines, thinking natural can carry too much dogma and trendiness: “At some point people are just ordering it without knowing what it is. It’s just rote.”) Second, they’re a way for him to get a feel for different areas in the city. He’s planning, eventually, to open another brick and mortar space. 

The first event is Tuesday, March 13 and will feature five winemakers from France and Spain: Manel Avinyó of Clos Lentiscus, Massimo Marchiori & Antonella Gerosa of Partida Creus, Athénaïs de Béru of Chateau de Beru and Sebastien Riffault of Domaine Sebastien Riffault. 

Jay Blackinton, chef of Aelder and Hogstone’s Wood Oven out on Orcas Island, will cater appetizers in an “intimate setting on Capitol Hill.” On that intimacy note, Papineau’s selling only 20-25 tickets ($75 a pop for tasting and food). 

After this first night, he expects events to run an event once or twice a month. They’ll involve wine, and ideally be in small settings (including his apartment), but specifics beyond that are not set: “I’m open to anything, really. I’d love to team up with Babeland and do wine and sex toys or something.”

As restaurants and bars continue to pop up, diners’ options become more specific. Papineau figures there’s always a place for ordering the house red at your neighborhood pizza joint, but there’s also a place—probably a small one in this city—for people who want to talk about it in depth with winemakers and importers: “I’m selling you something, but at the same time I want to foster community between you and me, between you and whoever you drink the wine with. It’s almost like you’re sharing a piece of art or poetry.”

If that sounds like your thing, you can email cantinasauvage@gmail.com for tickets.

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