Posted by: David Stewart | March 16, 2012

Finding Wines in Portland

It can be more than a little intimidating walking into a snooty wine shop and fear that you will be seen as the newbie you are.  But you don’t want to pay top dollar either. How about trying to find both good bargains, great selection and knowledgeable people.

Portland is blessed with a number of great options. Here are my favorites:

  • Vinopolis – in downtown Portland is about as low key and non-snooty as you can get. Brian and his crew have a reasonably large space with sections (or perhaps I should say “piles of bottles”) informally dedicated to different regions. Each section is nearly as large as some of the smaller shops in the area, so if all you like are Oregon Pinots you don’t have to be distracted with the sections on Burgundy reds and whites, Bordeaux, Rhone, Germany and Italy.  The staff is very relaxed, but if you ask them you will get good recommendations. Their excellently written weekly email newsletter is very informative and has caused me to take advantage of a number of their sales. (1025 SW Washington St)
  • John’s Market – this very unassuming Multnomah Village landmark is known as having the biggest beer selection in town, but their wine section is fantastic as well, presided over by the always opinionated and bearded Mr Mike. This is usually where I go to pick up great value Oregon Pinots, though they have some higher priced ones as well. The first time I met him, I had quite a heated debate with Mr Mike over screw caps versus corks but I was kind of trying to egg him on a little. He is usually there on Fridays and often has a glass of something or other open  (3535 SW Multnomah Blvd)
  • Liner & Elsen – in Northwest Portland has a good selection of Oregon Pinots and French wines. They have less overall space than Vinopolis but there are occasionally wines they feature that you can’t find at other places. I like the fact that they have a selection of wine paraphernalia (cork screws, foil cutters, etc) which they offer without heavy price mark up. (2222 NW Quimby)
  • WineUp! Wine Shop – I know how it is, hanging out with the other hipsters at Grand Central Bowl, wishing there was somebody who knew something about wine who didn’t look like your grandpa. Hey, who is that guy with the purple hair? Sure enough, it’s Wayne Wine Wizard. Purple hair, purple nails, wizard’s throne and staff, massive wine glass. Here is the guy who brings the rock and roll aesthetic to wine in his relatively tiny shop in inner Southeast. But Wayne has perhaps the most complete suite of “channels” around. He offers wine classes, a wine club with monthly deliveries, tastings every Friday, tours of wine country and a video blog called “WineUp TV.” Despite its diminutive size, the shop is purple (of course) and has some fascinating gems like a 1990s era Carnerros Pinot and 2006 and 2007 single vineyard Domaine Serene Pinots four a couple. Wayne is quite accessible and can introduce you to wines, wineries and his own goof-rock vibe.   (840 SE Alder St)
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