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.
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.
The foursome behind Ye Ol' Grog Distillery doesn't just make specialty liquors—they make the tools that make specialty liquors. Comprised of three engineers, the team built the microdistillery’s two stills, including a completely redesigned version of a traditional pot still. This machinery not only helps churn out an extremely smooth vodka, but two variations of Ye Ol’ Grog’s namesake, an alcohol beloved by sailors throughout history. Sweetened with blue agave, the distillery’s grog includes the butterscotch-flavored Good Morning Glory and the 100-proof Dutch Harbor Breeze, which is aged in charred oak. To add an extra touch of sweetness, Ye Ol’ Grog’s proprietors complement samples of their liquors with adult shaved ice's made in house.
Dinner and a movie is a classic date-night combination, but Vinotopia at Mill Plain takes it a step further. The independent, locally owned movie theater and restaurant adds upscale food and an award-winning wine list to an already luxurious movie-going experience.
In all auditoriums, patrons can stretch out in extra-wide Ultra Leather seats with extra leg room, and stadium seating ensure excellent views. In luxuriously appointed Grand Auditoriums, films project in Digital Super High Definition for additional visual and auditory intensity. Skybox-like Living Room Theaters pamper viewers with pre-show dining delivered from the restaurant and VIP seating with ottoman footrests. Chefs can also prepare to-go trays to take into the auditorium should diners run the risk of missing even a single executive producer’s name in the opening credits.
The dining room is an elegant space; its clean white tablecloths, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a grand fireplace that create a perfect atmosphere for a romantic date. Works by local artists dot the walls, and colored glass in the ceiling fills the room with ambient light during the day. An outdoor garden hosts comfortable outdoor dining, granting enough privacy for intimate conversations with the plants.
In either location, guests can sample the full range of Vinotopia's Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence–winning wine list. The restaurant's enomatic wine-dispensing system produces one-ounce pours from the more than 85 different bottles for only a small fraction of the bottle price. Patrons take their pick of sips from producers such as Leonetti, Betz, Quilceda Creek, Beaux Freres, Caymus, Shafer, K Vitners, and Ken Wright. A staff of trained sommeliers can suggest which vintages to pair with a chef's tasting plate or entrees from local favorites salmon and seabass, to heartier pot roast and pork chops. They might suggest a Pinot Noir to suit the herbs in the Creamy Penne Pesto, an everyday Syrah with a half-pound Double R Ranch burger, or a Riesling to bring out the bright flavors of Yellow Fin Tuna with sesame seeds and yakisoba noodles. Sean Levy of The Oregonian found the restaurant “as posh and professional as anything in downtown Portland,” and “worth visiting just for the wines.”
Portland Pumpkin Farm's 100 acres of picturesque rural farmland yield a cornucopia of produce, which its workers cheerily harvest and sell directly to Portland residents. Not content to keep customers well fed, the farm also draws families, music lovers, and food aficionados to its pastoral atmosphere with a plethora of seasonal activities. A series of harvest festivals fill the air with blues, rock, bluegrass, and country music and simultaneously sate the appetites of guests with food-cart fare, local microbrews, and wine from Bella's own organic winery, which include creations made from berry, cherry, rhubarb, and traditional grape wines. Sun-soaked youngsters can take refuge on cow and grain trains, relax on a hayride, or explore a petting zoo stocked with barnyard animals and friendly carpet samples.