Many Oregon vintners celebrate terroir — their grapes’ natural environment — with a hands-off approach, allowing the wines to express their vintage. In Portland, urban winemakers have been crafting wine for the past decade 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 has become a more common experience as urban facilities continue to grow, making high-quality wines more accessible to all. “There’s a different wine for every day — happening right here under this roof,” says Kate Norris, co-founder of Division Winemaking Company, one of the city’s first urban wineries, founded in 2010.
Not at all thankless for the Willamette Valley, Norris gives rural winemakers abundant credit. She appreciates the hard work that happens in vineyards but cherishes that an urban location permits her and her husband, Tom Monroe, to reach more people than they could in the valley. Norris believes their wines, featured at the SE Wine Collective, provide accessibility for customers who might find a trip to wine country time consuming or intimidating, while also acting as a gateway to the Willamette Valley.
Since 2012, SE Wine Collective has been an incubator for upstart winemakers — a dozen of which now use the shared custom crush facility. Many host wine dinners and tasting events at the restaurant space, Oui! Wine Bar + Restaurant, and benefit from the power of partnerships in the urban winemaking and culinary community. Visitors can watch some of the winemaking in action and choose from a list of 30-plus wines by the glass. Check their calendar for guest winemaker evenings, wine-focused classes, special dinners, brunches and other events.
Anne Hubatch of Helioterra Wines and Vincent Fritzsche of Vincent Wine Company were two of the collective’s early winemakers. They agree that 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.”
If you go:
- Southeast Portland: Fausse Piste, Hip Chicks Do Wine, Clay Pigeon Winery, Enso Urban Winery and Willful Wine Company. Located at SE Wine Collective: Jasper Sisco, 51Weeks Winemaking, Esper Cellars, Gersing Cellars, Laelaps Wine, Loop de Loop Wines, Open Face, Ore Winery, Pampleau, Statera Cellars, Stedt Winegrowers and Welsh Family Wines.
- Northeast Portland: Viola Wine Cellars
- North Portland: Jan-Marc Wine Cellars, Seven Bridges Winery
- Northwest Portland: Boedecker Cellars
Portland Short Bus offers tours of the city’s urban wineries as well as distilleries. Spend four to five hours visiting three urban wineries without the worry of a designated driver, with tasting fees and a free wine glass included, and you can enjoy your wine purchases on the bus. Join a group of 14 riders or book a private custom tour. Look for special holiday tours, too. Or plot out a few favorites and hit them up on a walking or bike tour, or by TriMet bus or light rail.