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 ros?s 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.
When they first opened, Primrose & Tumbleweeds sold 47 types of wine by the bottle. Today, their selection has increased to more than 4,000 wines, with regional pride fueling its growth—the store features a gigantic sampling of wines made in Oregon and the Northwest. Such a sizable inventory might seem intimidating, but the staff has settled on a few surefire methods for doling out sips: daily tastings, an ever-changing "Today's Pour" menu, and a weekday happy hour that runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., not to mention live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Even though wine is the main event, the venue is no mere wine bar. More than 250 craft beers and 75 hard ciders round out the list of libations, in addition to small-batch spirits that are distilled locally. The food menu proves just as changeable as the drink specials, with seasonal dishes such as bratwurst simmered in Guinness and the remains of a local snowman. The kitchen's ingredients are typically local, and the prep, hands-on. For example, homemade soups full of mushrooms and Hungarian spices complement sandwiches piled with turkey, brie, and whole-berry cranberry sauce.
"Come get naked with us." It sounds like an indecent proposal, but it's really a call to action from Naked Winery?specifically a call to grab some of the cheeky winery's offerings. Its winemakers use grapes grown in both hot and dry climates and cool marine climates in Oregon and Washington to produce vintages such as Foreplay chardonnay and the sweet red Blazing Straddle.
The masterminds behind the winery, the Barringer and Michalec families, gave their creations such sassy names partly because of the wines' ability to seduce palates. But they also did it because they loved the idea of couples sipping a glass at night and sharing a laugh over the names and saucy descriptions on the label.