Portland, Oregon is known for many things – beer, distilleries, roses, and general weirdness being among the more common associations.
But did you know that Portland has one of the most robust urban wine scenes in the country? An urban winery is simply a winery where the winemaking process is done on-premises within the city; obviously, the grapes are brought in from further afield – we don’t have quite that much room here in PDX!
Urban wine rooms make for a great way to spend an evening, educating yourself a little bit more about wine and making some new friends in the process. I’ve been to pretty much all of Portland’s urban wineries; here’s a run-down of my favorites and what to expect.
The Best Urban Winery in Portland: Alchemy
Let’s cut to the chase: all of the wines made in Portland are quite good. For the best wine in Portland, I reluctantly have to give that award to the beautiful creations from Nic Donahue at Alchemy Wine Productions. Nic had quite a lot of winemaking experience before opening his Portland winery, perhaps giving him an edge on all the other delicious wines in the city. Make the trek to his tasting room in the southeast industrial district – you’ll be thankful.
Wine to Try: The Edwin Dyer Pinot Noir is stupendous.
Most Personable Winery in Portland: Hip Chicks Do Wine
Looking to sample wine in a fun, relaxed setting? Then you’ve got to head for Hip Chicks Do Wine – doesn’t the name alone sound fun? Owners Laurie and Renee keep it real with their wide variety of blends, such as Drop Dead Red or Wine Bunny Rouge. They have frequent events in their tasting room almost every weekend, typically with homemade snacks and goodies or cheese pairing menus. (Laurie is a genius with the cheese pairings – I always come away with yet another local cheese or cracker to stock up on.)
Wine to Try: Ask for a sample of their port, bottled under their Tiernan Connor label; it’s the only port made in Portland, and it tastes like jalapenos. (Yes, really – it’s good!)
Best Tasting Room in Portland: ENSO
I could be biased on naming ENSO Winery the best tasting room in Portland, because it also happens to be the closest tasting room to my house. This was my first urban winery to visit, and it’s still one of my favorites – on a still evening, the candles, simple industrial space with touches of upscale & upcycled furniture make this a wonderful date night spot. Ryan, the winemaker, seems to always have something up his sleeve so be sure to ask what’s new.
Wine to Try: Resonate Red #8. It pairs with everything perfectly, including an empty glass.
Best Winery for Buying Souvenirs: Seven Bridges
Thinking about bringing someone a Portland wine as a gift, or want a nice memory of your PDX trip? Then pick yourself up a bottle of Seven Bridges, because their labels feature various bridges in Portland (hence the name, obviously). The bridges are custom drawings, not photography, so you can have some fun trying to figure out what’s not geographically correct. Their wines are rich, full bodied reds – if that style doesn’t appeal to you, try it – they’ll change your mind.
Wine to Try: The 2009 Resolution is a perfect blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot.
Best Tasting Room for Beer Lovers: Clay Pigeon Winery
Don’t like wine? That is unfortunate. However, if you want a wine tasting room experience where both beer and wine lovers can coexist peacefully alongside beautiful trays of meats and cheeses, check out the easy-to-reach central eastside tasting room of Clay Pigeon Winery. They offer excellent Portland brews on tap alongside their own tasty creations, and their snacks are just lovely.
Wine to Try: You’re in Oregon, so it’s time to have the Pinot Noir.
Quirkiest Winery in Portland: Jan-Marc Cellars
What on earth could qualify as being quirkiest urban winery, when this is Portland, the weirdest of the weirdest cities? Well, Jan-Marc Cellars takes this charm in stride because the winery is in…. his garage. Don’t worry, he’s properly licensed, but not as a tasting room, so you’ll have to call or email for an appointment (or hope that the garage door is up!). He’s work on expanding his plans but for now, I’ll take the quirk – it adds flavor.
Wine to Try: While I do like the Pinot Noir, I think Jan-Mac’s Cabernet Sauvignon is the smooth, drinkable winner in this unique tasting room.
Best Tasting Room for the Undecided: Southeast Wine Collective
Can’t decide which winery to go to? Then get yourself to the Southeast Wine Collective, a small tasting room that serves as a shared space for three (soon to be four, I believe) Portland winemakers: Helioterra Wines, Vincent Wine Company and Division Winemaking Company. You can enjoy any of their wines in this edgy modern space in a wonderful southeast location; many of the winemakers are often here pouring, and winemakers from other wineries are often spotted here as guests, pouring their wines.
Wine to Try: Ask for the daily “surprise” flight, which will feature wines from a variety of winemakers.
TRAVEL TIP: Plan on visiting more than one winery? Save big with a PDX Urban Winery Passport. Don’t want to drive and feeling intimidated by the local transport system, Trimet? Check out the Portland Short Bus, which has regularly scheduled wine tours.
Photo Credits: Neighborhood Notes (ENSO, Clay Pigeon, Jan Marc), all others courtesy of venue.