Cellar Notes

Rosé City

More winemakers are moving inside city limits, which means tasting new pinots just got a whole lot easier.

By Mike Thelin May 19, 2009 Published in the August 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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TO DRINK WELL is the way of the Portlander. And for Portlanders whose drink of choice is Willamette Valley wine, life is about to get much better. This year, several Oregon winemakers are planning to move their bottling facilities from the pastoral, vineyard-dotted valley to the concrete side of the urban growth boundary.

“There’s absolutely no reason wine-making can’t be connected to Portland,” says Athena Pappas, one of the head winemakers at Boedecker Cellars. This fall, Boedecker plans to team up with John Grochau of GC Wine Co, move out of its Carlton location, and establish a shared winery and tasting room, called the Portland Wine Project, in the Northwest industrial district. And at Square Deal Wine Company’s digs in outer Northeast, proprietor Dan Beekley has hired winemaker Sheri Hood to eke out a few thousand cases of wine, which will be sold under their Real label. (Fear not: Beekley’s NW Thurman Street storefront will remain ground zero for consumer tastings, sales, and wine classes.)

These winemakers will continue to use grapes grown in the Willamette Valley (so don’t go letting visions of vine-wrapped alleyways dance in your head). They’ll just schlep the fruit to Portland during the harvest instead—a change that, Pappas says, will, in theory, expose more people to wine, since they won’t have to make a long haul to taste it.

“In the past, when we would have events, customers said, ‘We really wanted to go, but it was just so far,’” Pappas says. “Getting the full winery experience will be easier for Portlanders now.”

Making wine inside city limits isn’t exactly new; the trend has roots in the French “garage wine” movement of the 1970s, in which vintners in the Bordeaux region began producing wines out of farmhouse basements. In the 1990s, the trend spread to cities. Today, garagistes might use a warehouse in the urban core—someplace, perhaps, like Northwest Portland, where Bishop Creek Cellars’ proprietor, Reuel Fish, opened a tasting room and small-scale wine-making facility called Urban Wineworks back in 2000. A year later, Hip Chicks Do Wine began bottling in Southeast Portland; it now cranks out 5,000 cases of 14 varietals, including pinot, chardonnay, and syrah, each year.

At 10,000 square feet, the Portland Wine Project is set to be one of the largest urban wineries in Portland to date, and its owners have plans to make about 6,000 cases each year. There, visitors can expect to find the same things they would have encountered in the rural valley: a full-fledged wine-making operation and a tasting room that serves flights of Boedecker’s and GC Wine Co’s latest bottlings. But now, instead of spending their pennies on petrol, oenophiles can spend them on that coveted bottle of renowned Boedecker pinot noir.

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