The Watering Hole: Bar Ferd’nand, 1531 Melrose Ave., 623-5882, CAPITOL HILL
The Atmosphere: Located inside Melrose Market, Bar Ferd’nand feels a lot like a warehouse assembled from vendors who were too high-end to be at Pike Place Market. Shops like Rain Shadow Meats, The Calf & Kid, and Homegrown surround the open-air drinking-man’s hitching post. It’s the brainchild of Sitka & Spruce chef/owner Matt Dillon, who owns Ferd’nand with Corson Building sommelier Marc Papineau. Wood-top tables, barstools, and flower-filled vases punctuate the wine bar; it and the adjoining bottle shop are a calming oasis in the bustling market.
The Barkeep: It seems like everyone who’s ever wined or dined at a Jim Droughman bistro knows Heather Mercier, manager of Bar Ferd’nand. She’s adorable, charming, and makes you want to drink whatever she recommends. She’s worked at Bar Ferd’nand since it opened in July 2010. The owners plucked her from downtown wine bar 106 Pine. “I was friends with one of the owners [of Bar Ferd’nand], and he wanted someone to back him up and help him when they first opened, and I was like, ‘Heck, yeah! That sounds great!’,” says Mercier, who at the time had just returned from a nearly three-month wine tour of France.
Before she left for Europe, she worked at Le Pichet for about eight years, honing her passion for grapes. “I learned from Joanne [Herron], who co-owns Pichet. She’s been a great mentor. After Pichet, I went to Café Presse and was the assistant manager there for a while, and did the wine list there and educated the staff. And then I left to do the France trip.”
Mercier is now learning from her new boss. “Marc Papineau is one of the owners, and he chooses all of the wine. He has a great palate, and he’s one of those guys who can look at a wine and smell it and taste it and tell you what it is. But if there’s something I’m particularly passionate about, then he’ll let me buy it. If I love something, I can sell it.”
The Drink: It’s one of those rare days when the temperature is pushing 60 degrees, so something cold is definitely in order. Mercier picks out Domaine de Couron, a rosé from the Rhône region (Ardèche). “It’s all grenache, and it’s just nice, easy drinking . . . Today I was sampling it, and everybody loved it. In fact, everybody who sampled it bought a bottle and left with it,” says the barkeep.
The Verdict: A very lovely wine, perfect for the warm(ish) conditions outside. I had two glasses and went home with a bottle—not Domaine de Couron, but an affordable red Mercier recommended after I told her I loved gamay and other friendly red wines. It didn’t disappoint.