Loosely, an urban winery is defined as one that crafts, bottles and ages their wine all in the heart of a city as opposed to acres of land out in the pastoral countryside.
It follows, then, that a great urban winery would be located near a stellar grape source or, even better, several. That’s where Portland, Oregon has it dialed in. Situated an hour from Hood River or McMinnville, three hours from Yakima or Roseburg and four hours from Walla Walla, the 12 members that make up PDX Urban Wineries have their pick of the crop and they’re taking full advantage of it.
It was my encounter with Anne Hubatch, winemaker at Helioterra Wines, that brought me to the PDX Urban Wine Experience and the dark cherry, savory and leather notes of her 2013 Mourvèdre that made me a believer in what’s going on behind the concrete and exposed beam façades of their spaces.
A familiar name to many is Hip Chicks Do Wine anchored by two sassy chicks—Laurie Lewis and Renee Neely—and an idea to make approachable wines for a less fussy generation. Their Bad Girl Blanc is made from 100 percent pinot gris sourced from the Umpqua Valley and retails from $15.
ENSO Winery and Clay Pigeon—a couple other big names in the urban wine scene—both have tasting lounges and thoughtfully-compiled food menus. While ENSO specializes in pinot noir and syrah made from Oregon grapes, it was the ageability and restrained vanilla notes of Claypool’s 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Rogue Valley that piqued my interest.
Set within a 10 mile radius on the east side of the Willamette River, no one winery is far from another and they share marketing, as well, with a complete and interactive passport. Visit five members, have your passport stamped at each one, receive “perks” for patronizing each stop and become enrolled in their email blasts for all the great events that they put on throughout the year.
Navigating is even easier with one-stop sipping at the Southeast Wine Collective on Division—here is where Helioterra, Division Wine, Fullerton Wines, Jackalope Wine and Vincent Wine set up their tasting bar with several flight options and a wine-focused food menu. Other smaller wineries bring the Collective to a total of 9 currently and exciting Winemakers dinners are offered throughout the year featuring wines within and outside of the Collective.
PDX Urban Wineries is not some fly-by-the barrel experiment comprised of a bunch of wanna be winemakers. Their quality, as well as their concept, has caught the attention of Food & Wine, The New York Times, Wine Spectator, Sunset Magazine and Wine Enthusiast.
All this attention hasn’t gone to their heads. This is still terrific wine at value prices. We’re talking meaty cabernet sauvignon for $26 (Fausse Piste), a velvety merlot blend for $28 (Seven Bridges), a zinfandel with vanilla on the nose and cracked pepper on the back palate for $22 (Jan-Marc Wine) and a white blend of gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc and moscato giallo with delicate floral notes for $16.50 (Viola Wines).
Approachable wines and winemakers in laid back spaces make it truly all about the grape.
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