Portland is known as a beer-obsessed city, but thanks to its close proximity to wine country, it’s also a prime destination for red, white and bubbly. Read on to learn which Portland wine bars local sommeliers, wine sellers and wine writers choose when they want to raise a glass.
Sharing a space with the Red E Cafe, Ardor is one of the city’s best places to learn about (and taste) natural wine. Offering sips made from organically and bio-dynamically grown grapes, the folks at Ardor really know their terroir. They buy bottles from small producers in limited quantities, which means their wine list is always changing. Order a pasty, a smoked trout board or a cassoulet from next-door Saraveza to pair with your pours.
As Vinopolis wine-seller Saul Mutchnick explains, “Ardor serves a bunch of funky wines that don’t get represented well in retail.” This makes the pop-up wine bar a great choice for the curious and adventurous drinker. “They serve wines that are more fragile and require more attention in presentation and storage, and the result is that the wines taste pure and bright and fresh.”
Bardot Wine Bar
Opened in 2016, downtown Portland’s Bardot Wine Bar has attracted fans like Andy Zalman, longtime sommelier at nearby restaurant Higgins. Bardot offers Northwest staples like Willamette Valley pinot noir and Eastern Washington chardonnay, along with obscure and rare wines and libations from around the world — orange wine or Basque cider, anyone?
“Bardot serves really good charcuterie,” Zalman says. “When you’re tasting good wines, the acidity cuts the fat of the charcuterie for a beautiful combination.”
Garagiste Wine Bar
To taste small batches of Columbia Gorge and Willamette Valley vinos from Jan-Marc Wine Cellars, roll into Garagiste Wine Bar. Order a glass (or fill up a bottle, which you can bring back next time for a deposit) of pinot noir or a lesser-known varietal, such as Gewürztraminer. Come hungry to taste the menu, which changes daily to reflect ingredients sourced from farmer friends. (Don’t forget to save room for dessert made by co-owner Barbara Baker.)
“Their wines are all on tap in their tasting room, so they’re happy to let you sample to find exactly what you’re looking for,” says Portland blogger Erin Lynch, who writes Platings and Pairings. “Because Garagiste is such a small operation … Barbara will be cooking your food while winemaker Jan-Marc is behind the bar telling you exactly where the grapes in your glass came from.”
Oregon Wines on Broadway
Zalman has memorized the address of Oregon Wines on Broadway because he recommends it to customers and visiting friends so often. OWOB (as it’s known to people in the business) offers pours of around 40 wines, primarily from Oregon and Washington, as well as shelves packed with hundreds of other bottled offerings. Sip them by the taste, glass or flight, and buy bottles from the impressive shop to uncork at home. Look for the wrought-iron “Morgan’s Alley” sign to find this spot’s unassuming downtown storefront.
“OWOB specializes in champagne, which is the wine geek’s Holy Grail,” Zalman says. “They have flights of three to four half-glasses of superb champagne on Friday and Saturday nights at a ridiculously low price.”
A small bar and shop selling wine, cider and beer, The Prospect satisfies the group that can’t decide on exactly what they want to drink — or eat. Order by the glass, or open a bottle off the shelf without paying a corkage fee. Best of all, you can bring in your own food to accompany the beverage(s) of your choice.
“They have a good selection of wine at reasonable prices, but more importantly, I can get takeout and bring it in there,” Mutchnick says. He recommends pairing a Riesling with fried chicken from nearby Hat Yai.
There’s a reason TeSoAria’s wines are bedecked in more medals than Usain Bolt: They’re really, really good. You’ll want to plan your visit to the North Portland TeSoAria tasting room to coincide with one of their weekly events. These include Hangry Hump Day (when you can nosh on free nibbles with your wine) and Wine Trivia Thursdays. Hospitality is on tap here, too. “They tend to greet you with a glass of their sparkling wine, which you can purchase and take home by the growler,” explains Lynch.
“One sip of their Bull’s Blood will have you hooked with its smooth, silky texture,” Lynch says. “[There’s] a story behind it that you just have to hear.”