Oregon is going through a major tasting room boom. From House Spirits’ art-deco hanger bay to the relocated Smith Tea sipping lounge, there has never been a better time to be a curious tippler in the Beaver State. Last winter, while other distilleries were planning major tasting outposts (including House Spirit’s PDX airport extension), 20-year-old Ransom Spirits quietly opened a counter inside McMinnville’s beloved Peirano & Daughters Deli. Small but great, the Ransom Wine Co. & Distillery tasting room offers surprising cocktail flights with sandwich, charcuterie, and cheese pairings from next door.
If you want a taste of Prohibition-era drinking, when booze was meant to taste like booze, you’re in luck. Purists can sample Ransom’s full line, from the barrel-aged like Old Tom Gin, revitalized with help from historian and mixologist David Wondrich to the Emerald 1865, a traditional Irish whiskey formulated from a list of 19th century ingredients.
For $10 you can sample a flight of three cocktails meant to highlight Ransom’s variety of spirits, courtesy of tasting room manager Art Tierce, a disciple of the venerable Teardrop Lounge. The always-changing flight recently included classics like the Boulevardier (a Negroni-like drink made with Ransom’s malty rye and sweet vermouth) and the Rolls in Reverse, a soothing, herbal, vermouth-forward cocktail with a hint of fruit.
“We’ve been surprised by people’s palates here,” says Tierce. “They’re experienced tasters, maybe thanks to the wine scene, and it means we can really push the boundaries with our cocktails.”
As tasting room fare goes, Ransom has the distinct advantage of sharing a space with Peirano & Daughters, the lunch side of Willamette Valley legend Nick’s Italian Café. (Plan your visit for the third Friday of every month, when the flights come with complimentary pairings). A chalkboard list of sandwiches runs from pork terrine pancetta to a roast chicken with cranberry brie and arugula. Grab a cheese board to accompany your wine tasting, fresh hand-stuffed ravioli for dinner, or a salami for the road (road salami is totally a thing.)
Ransom Spirits’ McMinnville outpost may not offer views of shiny stills or tortured craft liquor makers toiling away, but it’s a food-fueled, relaxed way to sample the greatest hits while exploring wine country.
Ransom Distillery Room
525 NE Third Street, McMinnville
Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-7pm