Vita Uva brings fresh wines and attitude to a surprising neighborhood.
By Tiffany Ran
Jan 24, 2018
With the new year came a new wine shop in the International District, the first of its kind in the neighborhood. Vita Uva is operated by Suzi Jane An and occupies a small but conspicuous area inside the newly opened Pho Bac Súp Shop. The rows of neatly displayed wine bottles are crowned by a shelf of gold and white fortune cats. Suzi struck out to open Vita Uva after making waves as the creative director of Salare and Junebaby and earning the title of Eater Young Gun in 2017. Young she may be but she is undeterred by naysayers with her why-the-f***-not attitude.
When did your interest in wine really start to bloom?
I’ve always had an interest in wine, ever since high school actually. I don’t think it was until after college that I really thought about pursuing something with wine. It was partly because of the trends and the Seattle food scene becoming prevalent and booming and I wanted to be a part of it and to contribute.
When did the idea for Vita Uva begin brewing?
It was a combination of things. First, I’ve always wanted to have my own business in some capacity. One year, I went to the RAW WINE Fair with and thought, “Maybe it would be fun to do retail space in Seattle with wine because there are that many.” Being at the fair was that moment when I became so inspired that I realized this is what I want to do. With physical space in Seattle being such a huge issue, when I was presented with this opportunity – the Sup Shop – I jumped on it.
How did the discussion begin with you and the Pho Bac family to open within their shop?
It was just random conversation. I think we had joked about it initially. I had a stable job at that time (as creative director of Salare and Junebaby), why would I leave that? But the more we talked about it, I just thought, “Well f***, why not do it?”
What would you say to young people who might wonder how about joining the industry, building expertise, or even becoming an owner of a wine shop?
I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by really supportive and inspiring people who were willing to help me in any capacity they can. I’m very spoiled in that sense. I also think my generation is more willing to take risks. I would say surround yourself with people who will be supportive and help you reach your goals. But you need to be in it as well. You need to have the mindset that this is what I’m going to do and this is how I’m going to achieve it. Don’t lose sight of that.
The partnership you have with Pho Bac Súp Shop seem to encourage pairing wine with Asian cuisine. What kind of advice would you give someone who enjoys Asian cuisine at home with family and wants to know where to start if they want to have a bottle of wine with dinner each night?
I would tell them to start with what they know and what they like. Typically, when people ask what wines pair with Asian food, most think of Riesling because that’s what goes well with spicy food. But there are so many other directions you can go. It depends on what you like to drink.
Additionally, most Asian food is not that heavy so staying with lighter reds, something with high acid would be my recommendation. You might know a really awesome Bordeaux but would that pair well with Asian food? Most likely not.
At the same time, a lot depends on each person’s preference and their palate. Wine is so personal. It’s different for everybody. You could pair anything with Asian food, truthfully.
If I were to approach going to Súp Shop and Vita Uva with the idea of doing a tasting menu, what would be your suggestions and pairings?
For starters, you’ll have to try (Súp Shop co-owner) Yenvy Pham’s chicken wings and that will pair well with the dry Riesling (Battenfield Spanier, Riesling Trocken) that they have on their list. The pork sliders are also good! They would go well with the Pinot (Gaspard, Pinot Noir) or the Gamay (Domaine des Potiers, Gamay).
I would then move into either the Short Rib Pho or the Dry Noodle. Both would pair really well with a Malbec blend (Fabian Jouves’ “You Fuck My Wine”; yes, that is the real name) that is really fantastic.