The space on Ponce de Leon Avenue encompassing 8Arm has been a changing hot spot since the 19th century. It continues to evolve today, with the reopening of the restaurant’s bar as 8Arm Wine, in place of Ink Cocktail Bar.
The street owes its name to the now-covered natural springs people flocked to in the mid-1800s for that fountain of youth feeling. Soon, the streetcar was extended to bring people to the area. The Air-Line Railway was completed in 1873. Ponce de Leon Amusement Park arose. Our first baseball stadium was built around a giant magnolia tree that still stands. In the 1920s, Sears and Roebuck Co. built the massive distribution center that is now Ponce City Market, and sent goods along the rail line. That rail line is now the Atlanta Beltline, connecting art, dining and social spaces. It runs adjacent to and above 8Arm.
Nhan Le and Angus Brown opened 8Arm for dinner in August 2016. It soon had an adjoining coffee shop, and started serving lunch. Sadly, Brown died, but the shipping container he envisioned as a bar opened on the patio, which was enclosed. Ink, a Japanese kanzume-style bar dreamed up by General Manager and Beverage Director Joshua Fryer, opened in late 2018.
Anyone familiar with Ink won’t feel disoriented by the latest iteration, rechristened 8Arm Wine last week, though you now can enter from the parking lot. It’s very respectful of the much beloved space, and now is devoted to natural wine.
“I honestly envision a space where people can come and drink some great natural wine, knowing that whatever they get doesn't have a bunch of crap in it — a place where we can have an honest conversation about wine,” Fryer said.
“Natural wine” is simply wine that has been transformed from grapes without adding or removing anything in the production process. These wines typically are produced in minimal quantities by smaller vineyards. They use organic fruit, often farmed biodynamically (using permaculture).
The result of minimal intervention is wine that is living, with naturally occurring microorganisms. It’s the most ancient form of wine.
For many drinkers, natural wine is new territory, as are natural wine bars. They exist as counterpoints to the stodgy wine bars that arose in the 1980s.
8Arm Wine still has an antiestablishment vibe. It’s dark, and exceptionally cool, with walls painted black. There is none of the wine-themed decoration typical of wine bars. The staff is friendly, attentive and eager to discuss “varietal” vs. “variety.” Music plays on a record player. Sometimes, the tunes are deep alternative cuts from Fryer’s personal collection; sometimes, vintage jazz.
“I want it to be an open and inviting space where people don't feel intimidated, can come back day after day, find something new each time, and have a fun experience with us each time,” Fryer said. “We want 8Arm Wine to be somewhere you can pop into for a quick glass, or hang out all night.”
The wine list is diverse and purposeful, spanning wine regions from Slovenia to South Africa. Fryer, who holds a CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) Level 1 distinction, made sure to include men and women, from new and old world regions, from among the small producers he has followed for years.
Fryer said he created the opening list by trying to focus on “some of the iconic (producers) and trailblazers for natural wine in France, Italy and California — Dirty & Rowdy, Thierry Puzelat from Clos du Tue-Boeuf in the Loire, La Clarine Farms in California, Arianna Occhipinti from Sicily, Elisabet Foradori in Northern Italy, Celler-Escoda-Sanahuja in Catalonia.”
Like Ink, the natural wine bar has a menu of tinned seafood and conserva, with the addition of a few plated dishes — cheese plates, pates and desserts. The tea ceremony known as gong fu still is offered, with a long list of rare teas. The bottle list is unified with 8Arm restaurant, though there are more by-the-glass options in the wine bar. There also are fortified wines by the glass or flight, and a small list of cocktails. Daily specials include rosé and orange wine on Tuesdays, wines by female producers on Wednesdays, sherry on Thursdays, and magnums on Saturdays. Fridays bring the opportunity for vertical or horizontal tastings.
Soon enough, you might find yourself saying something like, “I had the most effervescent, off-dry, skin-contact chenin blanc from Conca de Barbera last night.” Or, you might just say, “I had a yummy glass of red wine at 8Arm Wine last night.”
Either would sound perfect coming from customers of a new natural wine bar.
710 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 470-875-5856, 8armatl.com/
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