Urban winemaking. It almost sounds like an oxymoron.
But it’s one of the best new trends in wine. Especially since it allows winemakers to work in collective or shared facilities or even in their own garages – lowering the costs and barriers to entry, and giving them the freedom to experiment with varietals sourced all over the place. And that leads to a newness and freshness that these emerging winemakers thrive on.
There are more than a dozen urban wineries in the Portland area – but there are also urban wineries in Eugene, Roseburg, and even as far South as Medford – and they’re making some fantastic wine. We’ve devoted several of our monthly selections to urban winemakers and collectives, and I always love highlighting these winemakers and letting people know how easy it can be to taste wine right in the middle of your city!
Viola Wine Cellars
Viola Wine Cellars is about wine crafted in the Italian style using Northwest ingredients. But instead of being in some fancy Italian villa in wine country, all the wine is produced in owner and winemaker Darryl Joannides’s garage right in Northeast Portland. As a chef, Darryl was beloved for his cozy Italian neighborhood trattoria, Assagio. After putting Assagio in the rearview mirror, his love of all things Italian inspired him to create his own wine in the Italian style using grapes from the Columbia Gorge. You can find Darryl’s wines at his tasting room at 2901 NE Alberta, Portland.
Jan-Marc Wine Cellars
Making wine in your garage seems to be a hallmark of urban winemakers. Jan-Marc Baker’s garage may only be 350 square feet, but he’s making quite a lot of wine there – 1,000 cases! He’s making eight different varietals, all in small batches. Drive by his North Portland house on a sunny weekend, and you can tell immediately where the winery is. His house is surrounded by friends and neighbors who have stopped by to taste his new releases and catch up on local news. Find them at 2110 N Ainsworth, Portland.
51 Weeks Winemaking
Urban winemakers often exhibit a creativity and uniqueness in their wines that comes from having the freedom to select grapes from anywhere they can get them. Nancy and Matt Vuylsteke, the husband and wife team behind 51 Weeks Winemaking, fell in love over a bottle of Sangiovese. They knew when their love turned to starting their own winery that this unusual varietal for Oregon wineries would be the star of the lineup.
Pam Walden of Willful Wines used to make her wine down in the Willamette Valley, but wanted to be closer to her family and have the opportunity to collaborate with other winemakers. So she relocated to Portland to join its hot urban winery scene. You can find all three of her urban-made wines at Southeast Wine Collective on SE 35th and Division.
J. Scott Cellars
Jonathan Oberlander, winemaker and founder of J. Scott Cellars, loves experimenting, dabbling, and playing with new varietals and unusual blends. As he told his hometown paper in 2013, “I have a buddy who has only made Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. To me, that’s like painting in the colors red and blue only. You have this entire palette; why limit yourself? I go for it.” And he does. J. Scott features 22 different wines. Jonathan’s attitude is a great representation of most urban winemakers. J. Scott Cellars is part of the burgeoning urban winery scene in Eugene, with a facility in an industrial park on the outskirts of town. The brick-and-mortar location is a nice step in the evolution of J. Scott.
Paul O’Brien Winery
Dyson Paul DeMara and Scott O’Brien Kelley of Paul O’Brien Winery are shaking up the wine scene in Southern Oregon. They met working for some of California’s most prominent wineries, but when Dyson (Paul) moved back to his home state of Oregon to take over Oregon’s oldest winery, Roseburg’s Hillcrest Winery, he encouraged his friend Scott to do the same. They ended up creating the first urban winery in the Umpqua Valley in the historic Hansen Chevrolet building. With a decidedly European approach to wine, they are working with dry-farmed vineyards all over the Umpqua Valley to produce some of the area’s most outstanding wine.
Whether you’re a wine country regular or just starting to explore, there’s a lot to be discovered from the creative winemakers who are blazing new trails with their urban wineries. From Portland to Eugene to Roseburg and beyond, take a look at the wineries close at hand the next time you want to explore Oregon wine. Here at Cellar 503, we love the urban winery movement and trying wines from inspiring new winemakers doing innovative things with grapes. Cheers!