With Valentine’s Day upon us, a bottle of Champagne seems like a fine way to mark the occasion. However, at Fat Cork, a small underground Seattle warehouse dedicated entirely to grower Champagne, the full staff strives to Celebrate Everyday. As they put it, sometimes the act of opening the bottle IS the celebration.
When I say Fat Cork is underground, I literally mean it: housed in the basement of a nondescript grey building triangled between three streets in lower Queen Anne, I had to circle the building to find the way in. Look for the tiny door plaque and button code “13” to get buzzed in, then head downstairs.
Founded by husband and wife team, Bryan Maletis and Abigail Richardson, Fat Cork’s mission is to change the perception of Champagne as an exorbitant delicacy to an exciting option for celebrating everyday moments. The organization does this by providing the nascent, hungry market of North American bubbly drinkers access to grower Champagnes.
“Even though we are hard to find in our small Seattle cave, we are breaking down the barriers of Champagne,” Bryan explained. “We go find the best growers in Champagne and bring them directly to our customers in a fun and approachable way. We want people to find us and find reasons to celebrate everyday.”
What are grower Champagnes? These are sparkling wines created by the growers and their families from their own vineyard grapes. The personalities and styles of the winemakers and vineyards are highlighted in the resulting cuvées. According to Wine Folly, less than 5% of the Champagne imported into the US is grower Champagne. And remember, only Champagne from the Champagne region in France can be truly labelled Champagne.
Fat Cork is both a shop to purchase Champagne, but also offers a club with multiple entry points to join: Each shipment is customized to the drinker based on tastes, feedback, and previous orders. Fat Cork represents 13 growers back in France and serves as the sole US importer for these labels so if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift, these wines are it.
Every Fat Cork club shipment is a gorgeous gift in its own right, carefully labeled with bespoke tasting notes and Pacific Northwest accompaniments like Ballard mustard or hazelnuts from Oregon. To date, the slow, steady Fine Champagne (FC) club’s growth is largely attributed to word-of-mouth referrals, but the team hopes to increase membership by nearly 30% this year by attracting attention in major US cities like New York and LA.
While exploring the facility, cave, and warehouse my guide Tori popped open a bottle of Hervy Quenardel Cuvée Brut Prestige Grand Cru. Aromatic and citrusy on the nose, this mouthful of silky pearls was both coating and refreshing, leaving me with a crisp dryness on the palate. A classic example of the power and beauty of traditional Champagne and one I’ll not be able to find anywhere else in America.
Fat Cork also offers select curated services to design your Champagne menu for special events, including weddings. For club members headed to France, Bryan and team will connect travelers with the actual growers so they can visit the vineyards and houses where their Champagne is made.
Simply curious? Fat Cork has an open public tasting the last Saturday of every month where you can sample some of the most unique, limited production Champagnes on the planet. What are you waiting for? Salud!
Amy L. Dickson is a communications professional, freelance writer, and contributor to Rain or Shine Guides. She’s currently training at the NW Wine Academy for her Level 1 sommelier certification. Follow her at @amyldickson75