The grapes got them first. When Nicole Sakai and Truen Pence, the creative couple behind emerging hospitality brand Sorta Summer, bought their house in NE Portland 6 years ago, there was a lot to like, but it was the pergola attached to the garage covered with mature Golden Muscat, Concord, Niagra, and Venus grape vines that really sold them. After all, their relationship had blossomed over a shared love of food and drink, and they spent countless hours on the road visiting wineries up and down the west coast.
In the years since, they converted the garage into Sorta Summer House, a photo studio and guest house that combines their mutual love for design, travel, and hospitality. And then they turned their attention to those vines, and with the help of some talented friends and a few more tons of locally sourced grapes, they made 18 cases of wine. What was initially meant to be a personal, collaborative expression of their mutual interests to share with family, friends, and guests of Sorta Summer House has, four vintages later, grown by a factor of 5. Nicole says, “Ultimately we want Sorta Summer to represent an array of unique experiences and products driven by the spirit of craftsmanship and hospitality.”
To that end, they worked with artist and designer Brett Stenson on all four of their labels. Brett, a close friend and frequent collaborator of Truen and Nicole’s, notes that this year’s label design started with a shared interest in jazz: “Motion and curiosity was a big influence on this process, allowing us to let go of literal depictions and embrace jazz in a visual and theoretical way. The primitive iconography throughout the label resembles simplistic notions of what is important to us as a collective at Sorta Summer, and what we felt best describes what we hope you engage in when enjoying this wine.”
And speaking of wine, for the last two years Sorta Summer has been working with Melaney Schmidt and Malia Myers of Landmass to incorporate those backyard grapes into thoughtful, playful wines that speak to the various collaborators’ sensibilities. Last year they produced a tropical pet-nat in homage to Nicole’s and Malia’s family ties to Hawai’i. This year’s wine combines an assemblage of PNW-grown grape varietals - including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Grenache, and Pinot Noir - with the aromatic table grapes from Sorta Summer House. The result is a juicy, mouthwatering cuvée that offers surprisingly harmonious grooves from seemingly disparate parts, a wine that we're excited to share with you at the Sorta Summer Wine Release Party on Sunday, June 26th.
Local artist and designer Brett Stenson is known for his vivid illustrations and distinct use of color. He recently designed a limited edition collection for Wellspent Market featuring designs inspired by our mutual love for vintage amaro labels, tinned fish packaging and old agricultural advertising.