I visited the Seattle location of Purple Cafe & Wine Bar on a hot weekday afternoon, intent on trying the wine program. Upon entering, I was drawn to the unavoidable vision of the immense wine tower in the center of the restaurant and bar. Hundreds of bottles surrounded the cylindrical tower, wrapped by a spiral staircase leading to the upper level. Floor to ceiling windows brought full lighting and color to the centerpiece, making it even more spectacular.
The wine list, while close to one-hundred pages, is not your typical volume. A selection of aperitifs, and why you want to drink them, precedes "brewed liquids" and almost thirty wine flight options. From simple descriptions (Rose, Spain) to clever, (Acid Freaks, Earth) there is a trio of wines to please any taste. Next are in-depth sections on Madeira and Sherry, with accompanying flights. Sixty wines by the glass from all over the world (Slovenia?) are available, and they are happy to provide a taste of any of these. Then comes the long list of bottles, with explanations of style and particular wines that are both informational and entertaining. "We were going to wait until they were old enough to drive, but we figured most of us got our learner's permit around this age" says the introduction to the trio of E. Guigal Cote Rotie 2000s. There is not a corkage charge on the first bottle, and most of the bottles are available for "retail sale" at forty-percent off the list price.
I enjoyed two flights of reds from France and Spain, while snacking on Gorgonzola-Stuffed Dates and Baked Brie. The pours were generous and full. Brief description cards helped identify the wines, but did not provide tasting notes that would affect my expectations of what I should taste. My server brought two additional red wines that she described as staff picks for the foods. This leads to another note on the wine list: "Every dish on our menu has been paired through a daily collaboration between our chefs and sommeliers." The staff was fully prepped and ready to recommend a wine for any dish on the menu.
Service was excellent throughout, and observant. At one point, the sun began to shine through the window on my table, immediately increasing heat and glare. No more than a moment later, the blinds to that window were being closed. My server checked on me and asked if I would be comfortable enough to remain at that table.
Purple is a different kind of wine bar, offering complete wine tasting experiences, for beginners to world explorers. I could easily see myself becoming a regular visitor, working my way round and around the globe, a glass at a time.
Purple Cafe & Wine Bar - 1225 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101