The Willamette Valley is one of the world’s top wine regions, with over 600 vineyards and wineries. For a taste of wine culture, minus the long drive to the country, visit these six urban wine spots. These urban wine spots — shops, wine bars, and wineries — give you a chance to imbibe the best of local viticulture (grape growing) and enology (winemaking) right in the heart of the city.
Pairings Portland (455 NE 24th Ave.)
Pairings is a great place to start your wine odyssey. Owner Jeffrey Weissler wants to make wine “comfortable, fun and approachable.” He’ll explain how “fishmouth” (for the uninitiated, this is when you “chew” your wine, opening and closing your mouth like a fish to aerate it) makes wine taste better, and guide you through bottles paired to movie characters, astrological signs, moods, and even pets. Tasting flights start at three wines for $10. Wine club membership, $30 per month and up, includes discounts on all wine purchases, plus free tastings. Check the online calendar for events.
SE Wine Collective (2425 SE 35th Pl.)
Discover the benefits of cooperation at SE Wine Collective, which is made up of 11 wineries working together to push the boundaries of urban winemaking. Founded by Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe, of Division Winemaking Company, the Collective is an opportunity for small wineries to grow sustainably by sharing costs and opportunities. Drop by at happy hour for a budget-friendly way to try some of its 20 varietals including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Mourvedre, and Chenin Blanc. Join the wine club for discounts and keep an eye out for free weekend tastings with guest winemakers.
Coopers Hall (404 SE 6th Ave.)
There is not a bottle in sight at Cooper’s Hall, which has 40 different wines on tap. “We do some kegging and blending on site,” Assistant Manager Megan Haynes explains. “You can sit at the bar and see what’s going on in the cellar area,” she adds.
Half of the wines are Cooper’s Hall’s own, the others a rotating selection of guest wines. Drop by for happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily for a great list of discounted wine and food. The chic, airy space is popular for special events, meaning it is closed to the public on Saturdays for the rest of the year.
Garagiste Wine Bar (1225 N Killingsworth St.)
Jan-Marc and his wife Barbara were professional chefs before they began making wine in Portland. They opened Garagiste as a tasting room for Jan-Marc Cellars, complete with a small but elegant menu of hand-crafted delights. Relax indoors amidst the barrels, or enjoy the summer sun on the patio. Glasses are gently priced at $7 to $9, bottles run $18 to $26, and are perfect for sharing along with nibbles like crostini with chevre, or bruschetta with white beans and ricotta.
Teutonic Wine Company (3303 SE 20th Ave.)
For a taste of Europe with rock’n’roll flair, swing by Teutonic Wine Company. Winemaker Barnaby Tuttle works exclusively with grapes characteristic of Germany’s Mosel Valley. He and wife Olga built the business from scratch, growing grapes on borrowed land, learning to make wine, and finally opening this tasting room. Members of the wine club, dubbed “Wine Crüe” in honor of Motley Crüe, get a variety of discounts. And there is happy hour for everyone, daily from 3 to 6 p.m.
ENSO Winery (1416 SE Stark St.)
ENSO was born in a garage on Southeast Stark Street – and that garage, transformed to an upscale wine pub, is now its storefront. Winemaker Ryan Sharp is dedicated to making great wine on a “human-sized” scale. He sources fruit from Oregon, California, and Washington to create wines with complex characters that reflect their origin and climate.
This ethos extends to ENSO’s buzzy tasting lounge. The long tables are a perfect place for an afternoon with friends. During the Aperitivo Happy hour (4 to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday) you get $1 off glasses of wine plus a free portion of olives and almonds. Communications Director Seana Yee recommends ENSO’s Inner Circle wine club, which is free to join. Member privileges include 10 to 20 percent off wines and two release parties per year.
After you’ve visited a few of these excellent wine venues, you’ll understand why Portland is increasingly becoming not just a beer mecca but a wine lover’s haven as well.