Meet the Producer

Tourists love visiting the Pike Place Market, and many Market merchants love having them. But in one area the Market falls well short of being a perfect tourist destination: It's fun to walk through and attractive to look at, but not particularly "interactive." Sure, you can buy an apple to munch as you gawk or have a whole salmon shipped home, for that matter. But the majority of shops and stalls are too meat and potatoes to engage a hotel-dwelling visitor; you can buy just so many flavored vinegars or pots of honey before becoming conscious that you're shopping just to shop. For such visitors (and for the Market, too), the Tasting Room comes as a godsend. Open just a little over a month, it's already drawing significant foot traffic to an underutilized stretch of alley at the Market's north end. Its very off-the-Pike-ness is probably part of its attraction; just when aimless out-of-town strollers are starting to think it's time to backtrack, what should they discover but a charming hole-in-the-wall offering a place to rest, sip a glass of merlot or angevin, learn a bit about Washington wines and vines from a charming and knowledgeable hostess (sometimes even a winemaker), and pick up a bottle to share one day with faraway friends who'll be impressed with their sophistication in seeking out a vintage simultaneously so delicious and recherch鮍 The men who opened the Market's Tasting Room were directly inspired by similar experiences. Partner Paul Beveridge was a habitu頯f the chateaux that line California state Route 29 from childhood and, as an adolescent, met many of the men who founded the Washington wine business. "But what really got me excited was visiting little European tasting rooms in Barolo [Italy] or Bandol [France], where maybe 80 members of a cooperative would share a tasting room in the local castle and offer all their different wines in rotation—when one bottle's empty just open another." Such cooperation makes even more sense in the U.S. Small-production wineries have a lot of trouble finding distributors for their products, and many winemakers have day jobs (Beveridge is an attorney), which don't afford them time to schlep samples round to potential retailers. Nor can they afford to maintain and staff full-time individual tasting rooms. By banding together, the five wineries currently offering their wares at the Tasting Room—Beveridge's Wilridge, partner Robert Goodfriend's Harlequin, plus Camaraderie, Wineglass, and JM Cellars—can afford the services of a polished professional manager (Jen Doak, formerly of the Washington Wine Commission) and exposure for their wares at a premium traffic location. The founders confidently expect that other winemakers compatible with their goals will join the enterprise in time. "Maybe one day we'll actually make a profit," Beveridge says. Maybe one day soon; on a sunny winter weekday, there appeared to be no shortage of people willing to take a stool and sample three wines for $5. What's business going to be like when summer crowds return? The Tasting Room, 1924 Post Alley, 206-770-9463.

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