Les Caves (which translates to “the cellars”) is one of the most unique wine bars in Portland—an eighteen-seat tasting room opened in 2017 in a space with a bunker-like feel that dates back to 1910. Guests could sip on glasses of wine from Oregon and the rest of the world, snack on one of the bar’s famous grilled cheeses, and sit in a tiny alcove furnished with a cozy couch. But when the pandemic began, Les Caves’s 700-square foot tasting room was temporarily shuttered, and the staff initially shifted their focus to delivering curated bottle packs before turning their attention to a future reopening.
On Friday, August 13, Les Caves’s newly renovated tasting room will reopen for the first time since March of 2020. Even more exciting: on that date, Les Caves will also celebrate the opening of its brand new permanent patio wine bar, Le Clos. The name, which translates to “the enclosure,” refers to the walled-off section of a vineyard where grapes are grown. The plant-adorned patio has room for 20 guests seated at tables, couches, and old church pews, featuring four walls with airflow on every side and a rooftop with an oculus for ventilation.
“[We] just wanted to have an outdoor space where people can really feel like they’ve escaped Alberta Street,” says co-owner Jeff Vejr. “The last thing I wanted to do is build one of those A-frames or pitch a tent in a parking lot. We wanted to make something that was permanent: a four-season outdoor space that was unlike anything else that’s currently available in Portland.”
The wine menu at Le Clos will be the same as at Les Caves, and similar to what the bar offered before the pandemic. Wines are available by the full or half glass, served in Gabriel-Glas universal wine glasses with prices ranging from $8 to $20 per full glass. (Vejr is vehemently anti-wine flight; “everyone's focusing on which one they like the best,” he says.) Look out for wines from Vejr’s label, Golden Cluster, as well as co-owners John & Ksenija House’s label Ovum Wines, plus other Oregon wines and wines from around the globe, as well as an especially wide selection of orange wines. The most popular choice is the Winesman’s Pick—a glass (or half-glass) of the bar’s choice, unknown to the guest until after they’ve tasted it, that might be a rare Turkish white wine, or a wine from Georgia or Armenia.
“I really tried to hone in on grapes that people aren't as familiar with,” says Vejr. “If you like local Pinot Noir...there's plenty of wine grapes and styles around the world that can fit into that palate profile. People love that discovery factor—it kind of breaks them out of their typical doldrums of their drinking and really frees them up to try wine on a wider scale.”
Also returning to the menu: Les Caves’s popular grilled cheeses, including the original Spanish-inspired number with smoked paprika, cheddar, and havarti, an Alsatian with smoked pork, and an Italian with provolone and mortadella, plus a few to-be-announced new sandwiches. Other offerings include Albina City sweet-spicy hazelnuts, plus several German beers in bottles and cans, and non-alcoholic options including rose lemonade, cherry tree cola, and Spanish volcanic sparkling water.
Les Caves and Le Clos will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are required, and proof of vaccination is required for both indoor and outdoor seating at Les Caves and Le Clos.