The saying “wine is made in the vineyard,” speaks to the impact sense of place, or terroir, has on wine. Many of Oregon’s winemakers subscribe to this philosophy, with a hands-off approach to winemaking, allowing wines to express the vintage. In Portland a group of urban winemakers, who also believe in a sense of place, are crafting high-quality wines amidst the city’s tree-lined avenues and industrial rail yards, proving that wine can express terroir even when made far from the Willamette Valley’s bucolic vineyards.
The young entrepreneurs and winemakers involved in Portland’s growing urban wine scene share a common passion: community. While producing wine in a city is not avant-garde, visiting a winery inside Portland’s city limits is novel for locals and visitors alike. As urban facilities continue to grow (there are more than 10 wineries currently), the Pacific Northwest’s best wines are becoming more accessible to all. “There’s a different wine for everyday — happening right here under this roof,” says Kate Monroe at Division Winemaking Company.
Not at all thankless for the Willamette Valley, Monroe gives rural winemakers abundant credit. She appreciates the hard work that happens in vineyards, but cherishes that an urban location permits she and her husband, Tom, to reach more people than they could in the valley. Monroe believes their wines, featured at the Southeast Wine Collective with three other urban producers, provide accessible wines for customers who might find a trip to wine country time consuming or intimidating, while also acting as a “gateway to the Willamette Valley.”
Anne Hubatch, Helioterra Wines, and Vincent Fritzsche, Vincent Wine Company, are also part of the SE Wine Collective. They agree being near their customers was essential to making wine in Portland — not to mention the short commute, and more time spent with their families. “There is no trade off for the visibility we get by being in the city,” says Hubatch. “Portland is a craft food and beverage mecca. It just makes sense to operate in the heart of it all!”
Fritzsche lights up with a brilliant grin explaining how people begin to smile, almost uncontrollably, at the thought of urban-made wine. However, some don’t fully grasp that the wines are made in the city — often steps away from where they are poured. Fritzsche creates context saying, “we bring exceptional produce to the city and turn it into something great,” just like restaurants, farmers markets, bakeries, and breweries in town.
Portland’s urban wineries offer diversity — and convenience — that can be appreciated by anyone. Oregon’s rural wine country maintains a sense of romance between the vines and continues to gain recognition for our state as a world-class wine destination. But now more than ever, any trip should also include discovering a new sense of place, exploring Portland’s neighborhoods and the wines being made just a short bus ride from downtown.
For a listing of urban wineries in Portland and details for visiting their tasting rooms visit the PDX Urban Wineries website. Visitors should also check out the Portland Short Bus, which offers tours of the city’s urban wineries and distilleries.
Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to pick up your PDX Urban Wineries Passport, a $20 passport delivering free tastings and tour notes across participating urban wineries and distilleries.