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Keg wine? On tap? Thinking outside the bottle at Footprint Wine

As the name suggests, Footprint Wine Tap is all about sustainable and mindful sipping. For founder and owner Ken Dillon, his calling was an omnipresent force throughout his life, and was always present through everything he did. He was always drawn to wine and to sustainability — and saw untapped potential (pun intended) in combining his two biggest passions.

Dillon recognized lessons throughout his journey and was always raring to learn.

"As far as memory takes me, I've always been fascinated with the natural world and all living things," he said. "I majored in Biological Sciences with an Ecology focus, and I've always been passionate about music and singing, so I got a minor in Opera, naturally. My life has led me to continue exploring all things science and art, and when I could, wine, regardless of what job I had to pay the bills. Wine can be a perfect example of balancing and blending science and art, and with my similar background, it seemed to make more sense to explore the possibility of making wine the forefront of my life versus a hobby."

Footprint Wine Tap provides keg wine on tap amongst Seattle's myriad breweries. While kegging wine is eco-conscious in itself, they try to be sustainable in every other way possible as well — right from sourcing to transportations to interior design. Besides wine, they also offer ciders, meads and artisanal bites to go with all the libations.

So what are the most significant benefits of kegging wine?

"For starters, savings. Savings of space, weight, labor, transportation, materials, waste, money and time," said Dillon. "A more specific example, the size of the keg we use saves almost 27 glass bottles per keg. This translates to extraordinarily little to no waste from our kegs, and we never have to worry about a keg wine being 'corked,."

Glass bottles not only cost more to produce but are heavier, take up more space, and cannot always be recycled and/or end up in landfills. This isn't even counting labels, corks, boxes, etc. A steel keg, on the other hand, can be reused countless times. With wine on tap, you not only save countless bottles from ending up in the landfill, but you also reduce wastage of perfectly good wine. It is not only environment-friendly, but there are many fringe benefits when it comes to the taste as well — no corked flavor, no heat damage, no oxidation and easier sampling. You know the wine is at its best, versus being poured from a bottle that has been sitting around for way too long.

"At the end of the day, it's a win(e)-win(e) for everyone."

In 2014, Dillon was still working full-time in HR by day and making elaborate plans of manifesting Footprint wine to life by night. He recognized a local need and set about filling it.

"During my conceptualization in 2014, the wine bar scene in Seattle seemed to be pretty lacking in both the number of bars and what those bars offered," he said. "They did not feature many local and Washington wines, sold mass-produced wines you could find at every grocery store, or were simply too expensive."

Dillon made the jump from his 10-year long HR career in 2016, to start a career in wine. After working his way up from being a tasting room associate to bar manager at renowned local wineries, he found himself signing a lease for his dream venture. In 2018, when events were still a thing, he hosted his very first event at Footprint Wine Bar, and just like that, they were in business.

Cut to 2021, and Seattle is in the midst of a huge wave of sustainability, and responsible drinking culture is catching on fast - whether that be reusable stainless steel straws, canned wines or paper-based beer packaging. Footprint Wine is in the epicenter of it all, and the response from the wine industry has been phenomenal.

"The community and wine industry response have been incredibly positive and supportive, loving our story and what we do, and of course the food and wine," said Dillon.

For a city that loves its wine, Footprint is redefining how we drink it. It should come as no surprise that wine-loving and eco-conscious Seattleites are taking notice of his trendy, mindful offerings. Traditionalists may prefer classically bottled wine, but Dillon urges you to give kegged wine a try.

"Try it. I've done a few blind wine tastes with friends and customers, and they were not able to tell the difference between which wine was from a standard glass bottle or keg, but they knew they enjoyed both of them."

It helps that they're based in Capitol Hill.

"The Capitol Hill wine community often makes it a point to shop small and has people of diverse backgrounds and age ranges," he said. "It feels like an extended large family. We have a solid community here — members, wine industry insiders, Friday night regulars, and new customers ranging from wine connoisseurs to brand-new wine drinkers. A lot of our patrons want to know more wine tech, and when given the opportunity, we love to geek out with them."

Dillon believes that a glass of wine conveys so much more on a deeper level, whether it comes from a barrel or bottle.

"Wine can tell a story from the people that tend to the land and grapes in the vineyard to the people that make it generation after generation, minor and major geological events that span decades, centuries and more. Wine can capture time, people, place and a story in a vessel, and those facts alone are incredible."

The wine curation at Footprint is local, delicious and value for money. Dillon ensures that consumers find a good spectrum of wine varietals and styles whenever they visit.

"We work with several different local/PNW boutique, small to mid-sized wineries and distributors. On a rare occasion, you'll find an imported wine that we're featuring in our bar and retail. Some of the local Washington wineries we currently work with are Hard Row To Hoe Vineyards, The Walls, Terra Blanca, Wilridge, Two Mountain, T2 Cellar, Patterson and Alexandria Nicole Cellars. About half of our product offerings are in regular supply, and the other half rotates so you can always find something familiar and fun," he said.

Like almost all small businesses, Footprint is focused on surviving the pandemic and looking forward to restarting normal operations when things are safer. They're also doing a great job of maintaining safety regulations. So mask up and get yourself a glass of wine (or three) and be an eco-warrior while you're at it!

Want to support more small businesses like Footprint? We're proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find/connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.

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