Wine Tasting Has Never Been Easier: Portland’s Urban Wineries

Photo © Mattie John Bamman

by Mattie John Bamman

Step through the garage door at Enso Urban Winery, past the hand-painted sign from the building’s 100-year past—Storage Rates, Parking 35 cents—and enter the industrial-chic wine lounge. A chalkboard lists 17 house wines by the glass. Well-heeled Portlanders sit on couches and bar stools casually sipping happy hour bubbles and pinot noir. It soon becomes clear, this is a wine bar, and they make their own wines.

In 2011, Enso Urban Winery was the first winery in Portland to embrace a wine-bar atmosphere. “The idea came from a trip to Paris,” says winemaker Ryan Sharp. “I got on a train by myself into the Loire Valley, and then I walked 20 miles and visited three wineries. What I loved about them… they were village wineries.” With Enso, Sharp created a Portland winery, a place for wine-loving locals and travelers to connect.

Wine has never been more accessible thanks to urban wineries, where the wine is made within the city limits. Visiting urban wineries, you connect not only with local culture but also winemaking. Most urban winemakers make wine just steps from their tasting bars, and, during the fall grape harvest, the SE Wine Collective lets you join in.

“Each Friday during harvest, we invite people to visit, drink wine and view the grape harvest and winemaking process in action,” says winemaker Kate Monroe. Depending on the stage of harvest, you can chomp the Collective’s pinot noir grapes or taste juice straight from its press.

Monroe makes wine for her Division Winemaking Company label alongside nine other urban wineries at SE Wine Collective. The Collective is also home to the swank Tasting Bar, and, for those wanting to taste wines by several urban wineries all in one place, this is the spot.

Among Portland’s urban wineries, the trend to take the stuffiness out of wine can be traced to Hip Chicks do Wine. Opened in 2001, it is the oldest urban winery currently operating, and, from the get-go, winemakers Laurie Lewis and Renee Neely have promoted the “drink what you like” philosophy. “Often, people come in and, as though they have to apologize, whisper, I only like bubbly or I only like sweet wine,” says Laurie. “I make wine for them. We don’t judge.”

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