Kim Kent rarely reads a good book without a matching-in-quality libation nearby. But what makes a glass of wine — or any drink, really — a good counterpart to your favorite novel? It’s not science, but closer to an art defined by instinct; something she can’t quite explain. It’s also at the heart of her newly opened shop, Drink Books, which specializes in curating and selling books and natural wines.
“For me, it starts with a book,” Kent explained. “It’s all very atmospheric and subjective, but it’s usually like, I’m reading something and I think, what would I want to drink with this? Other times, I take notes a lot as I read, so I’ll jot down things that strike me and I’ll be like, oh, that description is kind of like this type of wine. It’s mood-based.”
Though Drink Books just opened its doors on November 5, its origin story goes back to pre-pandemic times in 2019 to a book club coined Book Cru at Molly’s Bottle Shop in Sunset Hill. Kent approached owner Molly Ringe while she was still bartending next door at Baker’s, and pitched her the idea of launching a book club for wine lovers: “She said hands down, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’”
Kim then met her business partner, Emily Schikora (who also owns Editor Consignment in Ballard), through Book Cru, and they started brainstorming over socially-distanced porch wine-drinking sessions during the pandemic. Finally, on September 1, 2021, they took the plunge and signed the lease on their new space. “We just had one of those friend moments like, Oh, I see you,” Kent says. “During the pandemic, we would sit on the porch and talk about books. She’s kind of the one who was like, ‘I think you can do this. We can do this.’”
Drink Books was born out of a pandemic dream-turned-reality. When you enter the shop now, in December, it’s clear that Kent’s heart is on display in the space. Handbuilt shelving lines the walls, and in the back, a cozy seating area invites guests to settle in and stay awhile. Books and bottles sit neatly paired together; Pond by Claire Louise-Bennett sits with a sharp Weingut Sankt Ana, while Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light has found a companion in the sensational, otherwordly Amplify Granacha. Central to the space, a bar stocked with a rotating selection of wines and bottled cocktails provides the perfect stage for discussing Kent’s favorite topic: literature. In short, it’s a home away from home.
“Truthfully this place wouldn’t exist without my community,” she says. “This is part of what is so cool about living amongst other people in a city, is to actually get to be present with them. It’s kind of like hosting people in your home — this is just an extension of that, or I hope it is.”
Though the word “home” might come with a certain sense of permanence, Drink Books will not be around — in this iteration, at least — forever. The building is scheduled to be demolished in two years. In its place, affordable housing organization Homestead (which was awarded funding by the city) will build a five-story condominium with approximately 25 homes, all of which will be affordable to people who make 80 percent less than the area’s median income.
“I actually think I would’ve been too terrified to sign any longer of a lease because this is the riskiest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “Just knowing that we could grow and adapt and make two years work felt way more manageable. In two years, I can re-evaluate and say, ‘You know, do I still want to be doing this every day?’”
Though Kent is a curator — of both books and booze — her philosophy on both is ultimately quite simple: read (and drink) whatever you want.
“I think my premise for both is that I think people should read what they like to read and drink what they like to drink,” Kent says. “We’re reading a book, we’re consuming it. We are having a reaction to it — or not — and just because someone says, This is a great piece of literature, doesn’t mean it is to you. Or if someone says, This is the fanciest bottle of wine on the Earth, well, that doesn’t mean you’ll like it.”