Wine lovers rejoice: Last year’s closure of Dan Beekley’s Square Deal Wine dealt a blow to oenophiles in search of small-label gems at accessible prices, but after a brief hiatus (and a lot of bottles of wine) Beekley is back. CorksCru – at 339 NW Broadway – marries Beekley’s great-wine-for-the-masses ethos and Portland’s pop-up food culture. The new space is connected to KitchenCru, Old Town’s new state-of-the-art ‘Culinary Incubator’ for artisan food professionals, bringing wine and food pairing to a whole new level.
We sat down with the Portland wine boss himself to get the inside scoop on the new shop, his wine picks for summer, and how he’s still rooting for the little guy.
1) Tell us a bit about the new CorksCru shop and location.
The new shop is a classic ‘good things come in small packages’ setup. When we saw the space we had to figure out how to get a reasonable selection into only 760 square feet without it feeling over or understocked. The final setup feels a lot like a restaurant wine cellar. There’s room for about 300 different wines, and we’ve opened with about 175. I think I tasted about 1000 to get there. The location is on the dividing line between the Pearl and Old Town, in the former Captain’s Nautical building. Our wines lean toward Europe, particularly French, and I’m not afraid of selling bohemian stuff like Irouleguy from the southwest of France, Pelaverga from Piedmont, or Portugese Alicante Bouschet. In fact, I find that the more unheard of it is, the better I like it, and the more interesting it comes across to consumers. After all, we’re not selling sneakers or orange juice here.
2) What sets CorksCru apart from other wine shops in Portland?
The obvious answer is that the store is part of KitchenCru. This great new location will give us great flexibility and possibilities in terms of having events, doing dinners, and conducting tastings and classes. The not so obvious answer is that we’re really trying to champion the little guy (something I’ve done all my wine life) by talking about farmers, young winemakers, up ‘n comers, mom-n-pop operations, etc… I’m not much for what I would call ‘corporate’ wine, or beverages produced on a mass scale. Typically our wineries are small (under 5000 cases) and when we deal with them we deal with owners, not marketing departments.
3) Any fun events in the works?
Oysters and Champagne in December, maybe a Pig Roast, Paella in the Parking Lot… The kitchen gives us lots of potential for being creative and keeping things fresh.
4) On your website you say "Instead of the perfect dish with a particular wine, or the perfect wine with a particular dish, we concentrate more on experiences." Can you tell us a bit more about that?
It has always been my philosophy that a great bottle of wine goes well with a great meal. Fresh ingredients make the meal, and fresh wine enhances it (there has never been a great bottle that has made a bad chicken taste good). That being said, my memories of meals are more experiential. For instance, I remember a lunch in Vouvray about 10 years ago when the winemaker’s dog got loose during the meal and chased the proprietors rooster all around the restaurant. We were dining au terrasse and it became quite the melee. Patrons were screaming, glasses were hitting the ground and I’ve never heard so much barking and cackling. The lunch was awesome. Belon oysters on the half shell and a perfectly roasted duck leg with fresh asparagus while we downed a demi-sec Vouvray. I will never forget that lunch!
5) What are a few of your favorite recent wine finds?
I have two 2010 reds available already. Think of that… 6 months ago these were grapes on the vine! One is a Marcillac that comes from the southwest of France near the city of Rodez. It is made of a local native grape called Mansois. The other is a wine of the Ardeche (the west side of the southern Rhone) and is a Grenache based wine called Petanque. Both wines are oak free and are really fresh, bright-fruited, and juicy. I will drink them both with impunity over the summer.