Enjoying the view from the enormous back patio of the new Amaterra Winery across the estate vineyards that grew the grapes now in your glass, you could be forgiven for forgetting where you are — just minutes from downtown Portland.
Amaterra opened in January 2022 — a 46,000-square-foot facility with a 12-acre vineyard — in the West Hills area of Portland. In doing so, the city gains a robust wine-tasting experience typically found deeper in the Tualatin Valley or neighboring Willamette Valley, but one that’s an easy ride-share away from the heart of downtown. This is no regular tasting room with finger food; visitors can enjoy their wine with a meal in a full-service restaurant as they gaze out at fuzzy bottomlands of the valley far below.
Winemaking On Site
“It’s literally five, 10 minutes to downtown, and here we are, an estate vineyard and winery in wine country,” says Matt Vuylsteke, the general manager and head winemaker. “A big part of this has always been to bring food and wine to places where the people are.”
Urban tasting rooms are hardly rare, especially in Portland — from one-label spots like Erath to group efforts like the Southeast Wine Collective — but unlike those outposts, Amaterra makes the wine right on-site. A 12-acre vineyard sits just beyond the building at around 800 feet elevation on Swede Hill, a dollop of volcanic soils, windblown sediments and bits of an ancient seafloor that, combined with a southwest exposure, produces grapes with smaller berries, thicker skins and complex flavors that become age-worthy pinot noirs. The winery pulls grapes from other growers in the region, too, but it’s all stemmed, crushed and fermented in those giant tanks you see on the lower floors when you walk in.
More Aromatics in Each Glass
To make a projected 10,000 cases annually of predominantly pinot noir and chardonnay, Amaterra lets gravity do much of the work, a method that’s ideal for creating delicate wines. Juices flow between tanks thanks to 4-ton bridge cranes that can hoist fermenters to let the liquids move naturally. Vuylsteke, whose aunt and uncle were among some of the earliest Willamette Valley vintners, even invented a new tool, a special hopper, that allows winemakers to layer in whole clusters of grapes, stems and all, with batches of more prepared fruit to add character.
“Being able to handle that fruit gently is super important for a nice texture,” he says. “The more careful you are, the more aromatics and flavor you’ll get in the glass later.”
The winery has a tasting service from noon to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, after which the room becomes a full restaurant run by chef Jami Flatt, who came up through the ranks at places like The Nines and the Ritz-Carlton. The idea, he says, is to show off the wine, yes, but also the bountiful selection of local foods.
Sourced Through Local Bounty
On mornings and weekends, you might find Flatt sampling various carrots at Pablo Munoz Farms in Dayton or cruising nearby farmers markets looking for just the right greens. He’ll make pan-seared dover sole paired with crab chowder, or “Swede Hill” meatballs with a white-wine reduction cream and red-currant sauce. The spiced-pork osso buco, inspired by Flatt’s Mexican Colombian chef de cuisine, comes with a mole that takes five or six hours to make.
“The bounty in our backyard is just so big,” says Flatt. “We want to showcase some of these things to the point that guests are, like, you know, ‘This is the best I’ve ever had.’”
The restaurant and tasting rooms are open to all (reservations recommended), but non-wine-club members pay a one-time $25 membership fee that covers up to four people and can be used toward a club membership or future wine purchases.
More Spots to Sip
If you’re looking for more wineries in the vicinity, be sure to check out the Vineyard and Valley Tour Route, a 57-mile driving route around the Tualatin Valley where you’ll find other wineries like Abbey Creek Vineyard and Ponzi Vineyards, among dozens of others. May is Oregon Wine Month — the Oregon Wine Board has itineraries, events and ideas on how to make the most of it.