Urban wineries often lack the sweet surroundings of their more bucolic counterparts, but you don’t always want to drive for several dozen miles to reach your wine country sit-and-sip delights. Enter Amaterra Winery, a new wine and dining destination overlooking Portland’s sprawling Southwest Hills that’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown.
Opened in January of this year, Amaterra’s restaurant is a stunning focal point of the property’s show-stopping 12-acre vineyard.
At Amaterra Restaurant, former executive chef at Downtown Portland’s Departure Jami Flatt serves mouth-watering dishes executed with an exciting culinary sensibility not often found west of NW 23rd. Dinner is off to a strong start with the appetizers: the sensory glory of tearing apart piping hot olive and herb fagoza bread—think an uber-decadent, pull-apart focaccia—in a miniature cast iron pan is overshadowed only by dunking delicate, expertly-fried house French fries into a tangy roasted pepper aioli.
Two entrées stood out, including the pan-seared scallops, which lay atop fluffy wild rice and a umami-filled, miso-carrot puree. The scallops were pleasantly crisp on the outside, while moist and tender on the inside, and wonderfully complemented by the punchy carrot puree. My boyfriend, meanwhile, would come back for the classic smash burger alone, topped with pickles, grilled onions, and a slice of American cheese served on a toasted brioche bun. The wine menu’s $26 tasting flight offers diners a sampling of four different wines, my favorites of which were a knock-your-socks-off, full, juicy rosé of cabernet franc from 2019 (an absolute must-try) and a silky, red berry-forward Oregon pinot noir from 2017.
Matt Vuylsteke, Amaterra Winery’s general manager who oversees wine production “from grape to bottle,” tells me that three-quarters of the wine made at Amaterra is pinot noir and chardonnay, but they also take a fun-loving approach to other wines, like rosé of cabernet franc: “Rosé in our mind is the perfect opportunity to be kind of playful…It's different than our normal style of rosé.That particular wine is pretty rich, super juicy.”
Vuylsteke credits Amaterra cofounder Werner Nistler with choosing the winery’s location perched atop the West Hills off of bustling SW Barnes Road, an area perhaps better known for its strip malls and car dealerships than for its agriculture. “They had a very long term vision on doing something here in the West Hills…And then over the course of discovery, finding that this is actually a really great site for vineyards.”
The dining room windows boast stunning views of Southwest Portland, with the potential for a glimpse of the Oregon Coast Range. We sat in a cozy, comfortably upholstered booth near the horseshoe-shaped bar. Once we filled our bellies, we eagerly accepted our waiter’s suggestion to take our glasses of wine out to the back deck to admire the view’s twinkling lights and warm up next to several crackling stone fireplaces.
Amaterra Winery, located at 8150 SW Swede Hill Drive, is open Wednesday-Sunday. Wine tasting and snacks are available from noon-4 p.m., and dinner is from 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).