Dame, the new natural-wine-dedicated restaurant, will open September 14 at 2930 NE Killingsworth St., right around the corner from Beast and DOC. The very idea of a restaurant dedicated to natural wine can be hard to swallow. First: natural wine. What have you done lately that's so great? Second: Is the concept delicious enough to fuel an entire restaurant?
The co-owners of Dame, celebrity sommelier Dana Frank and Jane Smith (The Knock Back), believe Portland, thanks to its love of transparency in food, seems particularly ready for a natural-wine restaurant. "People already care so much about where their food comes from," says Frank. "I want Dame to do the same for wine."
Frank says natural wines are characterized by their purity: Whereas other wines may contain any of the hundreds of additives commonly used in winemaking without listing them anywhere on the labels, natural wines almost never have additives. But natural wine does not have a government-endorsed definition, so to understand what you'll find a Dame, you have to know Frank's definition. She says she allows for some sulfur additions—otherwise a lot of good wine would spoil before reaching purple lips (and let's not forget sulfur is a naturally occurring compound in winemaking)—and all of the wines at Dame will be organic and biodynamically farmed and none will involve cultivated yeasts.
Natural wines are the truest expression of the place where they come from.
"I think natural wines are the truest expression of the place where they come from," says Frank, and the wines at Dame come mostly from France and Italy, with plenty of expert selections from smaller growing regions, like Croatia and Bosnia, as well as, from the Food & Wine Magazine 2015 Sommelier of the Year.
Another important piece of the puzzle, says Frank, is that natural wines are pretty rare in the United States. The Dame wine list touts some natural wines from Oregon and California, but for the most part, it's stuffed with little-known gems from around the world. Frank says it'll have plenty of bottles in the $30 to 40 range, with some killer wines in the $80 to 200 range, as well. Glasses will run the gamut from $9 to 18.
As the photos in the gallery above show, Dame has breathed new life into the former home to Cocotte with sexy deep blues, refinished hardwood floors, and classic framed pictures that look like they came straight from the Old Country. Designer Jasmine Vaughan of Maxwell Gray Interiors was enlisted for the job. "We wanted to create an above all personal atmosphere," says Frank. "Jane and I made every decision together."
Importantly, experienced Seattle chef Eli Dahlin (The Walrus and the Carpenter, Damn the Weather) will make a menu inspired by each night's featured wines—not the other way around. When Dame opens September 14, it'll serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday. Just what natural wines will inspired Dahlin to create has yet to be seen, so stay tuned.