This is the first episode of "Wine and our stars", a meeting place with our customers from all over the world. We begin this section with Jeff Wanatabe, Director of The Harvest Vine, one of the most emblematic and Spanish-inspired restaurants located in Seattle (USA), at the foot of the Pacific.
RESTAURANT THE HARVEST VINE (SEATTLE)
The Harvest Vine is a true institution in the city of Seattle. 20 years serving Basque haute cuisine where collaboration meets craft and customers become friends.
Jeff Wanatabe is its charismatic GM and a great lover of Spain and its wines.
JEFF, how did you get into the wine industry?
My interest didn’t actually start in wine. It started in food because this man LOVES TO EAT.
When I arrived in Seattle in 1994, my first job was serving at a prominent vegetarian that when it first opened didn’t have a license to sell wine. It wasn’t until I had taken my first class at the CIA at Graystone in Napa, California, that I realized this was the business I wanted to pursue as a career. I was really inspired by the energy and professionalism of walking through the halls and training kitchens of the school.
After spending 13 years working and managing the vegetarian place the owner of The Harvest Vine, Carolin Messier, hired me knowing that I was seeking a change. Carolin was also in the planning stages of opening up a sister restaurant to The Harvest Vine. This little gem was a San Sebastian style pintxo bar in downtown Seattle. A year later, Carolin offered me the position of General Manager of both Txori and The Harvest Vine. This was a really chaotic time and I had to spend a lot of time reading and tasting wines along with all of the other responsibilities of running two restaurants. It took a few years but I can confidently say that I am well versed in Spanish wines now.
The Harvest Vine is a little piece of Spain in Seattle. You know our culture really well. What do you like about our country and our wines best?
Wow, that is actually a difficult question because there is so much I love about Spain! What I think I love the most is how interconnected the people are with the food and wine culture. I remember walking into a pintxo bar in San Sebastian. It was late at night and the bar was filled with so many different generations of people. They were all out having a grand time, drinking wine and eating little bites of food. A family entered. An elderly woman was in a wheelchair and her husband was pushing her through the crowd to get a bite to eat and little kids were running around. This scene was unique and it would be extremely rare to see something like this in America.
Have you seen a changing trend in the last years in the palate of your customers? What about their age?
It used to be that the younger generations were more interested in drinking cocktails than wine but I have noticed that they are now becoming more engaged in the wine world. I think they are learning to appreciate good wine at a younger age vs just getting drunk on liquor. They are also more interested in finding wines that aren’t from the larger producers but from more “boutique” style winemakers with smaller productions.
How much knowledge do your customers have on Spanish Tempranillo? What is the image among them?
Some of our guests are very familiar with Tempranillo, having been drinking it for years. Some are new to the varietal and really enjoy it. I think what they find most interesting is how different Tempranillo can be depending on where it is grown. i.e. Rioja, Ribera del Duero, or Toro.
Jeff and his husband in NEXUS BODEGAS with Camino Pardo
Could you describe with one word what Nexus & Frontaura wines evoke to you? And in one whole sentence? What would you highlight of our wines?
Progressive! A woman- owned bodega, with state of the art facilities, planting vines in the higher elevations of Ribera del Duero. You just can’t get more progressive than that.