Each step of Ryan Sharp’s winemaking process embodies the small-batch ethos. Within the Eastside headquarters of ENSO Winery—Wine Press Northwest’s 2013 Oregon Winery to Watch—he mixes several winemaking techniques, yielding complex flavors inside miniature fermentation bins. He mashes grapes in miniature crush equipment and ferments whites and rosés in steel-jacketed tanks no larger than a fully grown mannequin. He sources grapes only from the West Coast, giving himself a framework for his experiments with varietals such as pinot gris, pinot noir, zinfandel, and counoise. As part of his craft-oriented operation, he never makes more than 100 cases at a time of the wines from his ever-evolving roster.
At ENSO's Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge, rustic wooden chairs gather under bare light bulbs and tin lampshades, surrounding a tasting bar crafted from old wooden timbers. Guides stationed at the bar pour tastes of ENSO- and Resonate-label wines, explaining how to decipher each wine's flavor notes. These wines—along with two rotating draft beers and libations crafted by 10 other local urban wineries—complement plates of marbled artisan salamis cured by Olympic Provisions, blocks of raw and aged cheeses from Steve’s Cheese Bar, and sweet and savory pies from Pacific Pie Co.
Wayne Oppenheimer, the man behind WineUpTV.com—a website dedicated to educating others about wine—has made the transition from the web to the world with WineUp on Williams. His wine bar and shop has taken over the building that once housed the famed Cleo-Lillian Social Club, a staple in the black community for decades.
Inside the cozy 30-seat space, visitors sip wines and beers from across the globe, including many that change weekly, while noshing on paninis, cheeses, and other small bites. WineUp even has a chilled cellar with 80 wine lockers where customers can store and age their own wines, instead of simply burying bottles in the backyard.
When chemist Gary Gougér first started making wine, he was an amateur who was simply translating his love of vino into a pleasurable hobby. Soon, his passion took over, and he began racking up numerous International Gold awards for his red blends. His science background, coupled with training at one of the world’s finest winemaking schools in Australia, helped Gougér take his wines to the next level. Gougér now oversees his own winery, built in 2013 inside a renovated firehouse, where his bottles take center stage at tasting-room events ranging from holiday events to varietal samplers.
When Jeremy Brown's wife was expecting her second child, the couple realized their small house wasn't going to fit a family of four. Upon moving to a 5-acre fixer upper outside Battle Ground, the pair raised their kids as Jeremy nurtured another project: using those acres to create his own winery.
Since starting with his quaint, Tuscan-inspired tasting room, Jeremy has expanded his grounds to include several large patios and a wood-fired oven in the kitchen, where chefs prepare pizzas and small plates. Live musicians grace Rusty Grape Vineyard's stage Wednesday–Saturday, adding soothing tunes that complement the tasting room's draft beers and rotating selection of wine by the glass and bottle. Available pours might include a 2011 riesling or a complex red wine whose hints of cranberry give way to an oatmeal-cookie finish.
For more than four decades, the Ponzi family has used the rich soil of the Willamette Valley to produce lush, sustainable wines. Winemaker Luisa Ponzi worked alongside her father for many years, gaining hands-on experience with viticulture and foots-on experience with grape stomping. She deepened this education in Beaune, France, where she studied Burgundian practices. In 1993, Luisa earned her Brevet Professionnel D’Oenologie et Viticulture certificate, a first for an American woman.
Luisa and her sister Maria carry on the dynasty started by their parents, creating wine varietals suited to the climate with sustainable practices that respect the tradition of winemaking. In addition to stocking the cellar with an award-winning collection of pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay, and white riesling, the Ponzis fill bottles with arneis and dolcetto, two rare Italian varietals.
A refurbished relic of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland's first and only "World's Fair," the Aurora State Bank building has gone on a hundred year journey to become the landmark it is today. Transported from Portland to Aurora in 1905, its vaults have played host to robberies, Hollywood productions, and dental cleanings. Though the bank's two original vaults remain, they now house racks that Pheasant Run Winery fills with their small-batch, locally sourced wines. Winemakers harvest their grapes from local and sustainable vineyard estates in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, and Horse Heaven Hills and ferment them into New World-style wines. They cold-soak grapes in small bins to extract more color and flavor for their signature pinot noir and blend merlot, syrah, and cabernet grapes to create a rich red with notes of blackcurrant and plum and the power to unite feuding grape vines.
This grey brick building is also home to their tasting lounge. Guests walk through the original doors and across the original lobby tiles to savor glasses at tasting tables surrounded by dark wood-trimmed windows. Visitors can also find a rotating collection of prints, paintings, ceramics, and jewelry from local artists. The winery owners also connect to the community through their donations to local charities and non-profits.
Born into a winemaking family in Hungary, Josef immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s to pursue baking. After more than a decade, however, he cooked up a new idea. Together with his wife Lilli, he purchased a scenic plot of land in the Willamette Valley and planted his first grape vines in 1978—making St. Josef's one of the earliest wineries in Oregon. Even as his ambition grew, Josef never forgot his roots; his first varietals—namely, riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot gris—harkened back to his youth in central Europe amid the Adriatic's glistening waves of chablis.
Today, the 40-acre winery—now by a third generation of Josef's family—produces bottles of crisp whites and earthy reds, filling at least 90 percent of each batch with grapes grown on the St. Josef's vineyard. Even as Oregon's wine industry has grown over the years, Portland Monthly praises the well-aged coziness of St. Josef's, saying they've “yet to find a better sipping spot” in all of Willamette Valley.