Opened in 2002, Noble Rot is one of the original wine bars in Portland, with two wine-experts Kimberly Bernosky and Courtney Storrs stocking an interesting list of local and worldly options by the glass and flight. Sit in the sunshine on the rooftop patio and tour the Willamette Valley’s pinot noir regions through a flight of three wines or be led into Oregon’s lesser-known grapes and regions – Hood River mencia to Willamette Valley grüner veltliner or Rogue Valley Rosé of Counoise. All of these are offered alongside an approachable menu of small plates, with ingredients sourced from the rooftop garden grown by co-owner chef Leather Storrs.
A relative newcomer with a unique approach to the standard wine bar and tasting room bunker from owner/winemakers Jeff Vejr of Golden Cluster and John and Ksenija House of Ovum. Located in what was the boiler room for the original Victoria Theater (1910-1965) and multiple churches until 2007, the culture of the building’s past flows below and takes added inspiration from underground wine bars like those of London, Barcelona and Tbilisi. Pouring their own rare varieties alongside some of the most eclectic by-the-glass pours in town, a visit to the intimate cave is sure to have you exploring the palates and minds of these eccentric vintners and the wines that inspire them.
This brand new wine bar, situated next to the restaurant of the same name, is eye candy of stunning postmodern Italian design with a glass encased two-storey wine cellar on show and Champagne cork-inspired bar stools. The 2,000-plus bottle cellar is expertly stocked by sommelier Austin Morris Bridges, whose love of Italian and Spanish natural wines made from indigenous varieties is centrestage. All of the wines are expertly paired with a fantastic menu of Italian bar snacks.
The newest venture of Portland’s natural wine devotee, Dana Frank. The exclusively natural 25 by-the-glass-only wine list (plus retail bottle shop) is both wild and refined. Offerings of well-known Willamette Valley pinot noir sit alongside unknown village wines from northern France and beyond. It may seem daunting, but it’s all made less intimidating by the friendly prices and enthusiastic staff.
‘Seasonal food and natural wines’ is the tagline for Dame, the wine bar and restaurant first created by Dana Frank before she moved on to Bar Norman (above). Dame features chef pop-ups paired with local winemaker pop-ups and subscribes to the organic and natural wine movement. The intimate space has a deep list from Greece to Georgia to the Willamette Valley, and you’ll often have a visiting winemaker on hand to guide your journey.
A natural wine dive bar, created by Simon Lowry and Liz White, that takes over breakfast cafe Sweedeedee four nights a week. Lowry, a Paris-expat, has managed to tap into the millennial craft beverage drinker, offering wines not listed by brand or variety but by tasting note; a glass of matzo meal, walnuts, thyme and umami – it’s a brilliantly devised approach that all can embrace. Lowry will often theme the week, offering wines from the Jura or Loire alongside White’s humble and authentic snacks of tinned fish, spicy boquerones and seasonal cheeses. This is a return to the Portland of old; full of passion and funk.
Sitting within a working winery this wine bar acts as part-time tasting room for Division Wine Co.’s expansive small bottlings. There's a menu created by chef Althea Potter that doesn’t shy away from generous seasonings and flavours. Potter's effusive flavourful plates stand up to the wines from Division Wine Co. Explore their varieties found in the Pacific Northwest alongside a list made up of drops from winemaker friends from across the US and beyond.
Advanced Sommelier Stacey Gibson curates this new-classical French wine list with a locavore twist, seeking out Oregon producers whose wines fall well within the Old World style of restrained fruit with vibrant acids. Gibson fell for gamay hard and has searched France, Oregon and North America for the best expressions of this wild fruit variety. The list is matched seamlessly with food by chef Karl Holl, who brings his self-cured meats and local farm-sourced produce to the table in creative food offerings.
It’s all about the bubbles at sommelier David Speer’s Portland Champagne bar. The intimate room makes one feel like they are part of a Wes Anderson set design while receiving a tour through the villages of Champagne. You’ll notice familiar names like Roederer, but Speer spends at least one month every year in Champagne seeking out new grower names and older offerings, and his finds don’t disappoint.
There’s a reason Pairings Portland has adopted the title of ‘Portland’s Weirdest Wine Shop & Bar’. In addition to the requisite wine-with-food pairings, owner Jeff Weissler also pairs wines to TV and movie characters (for example Game of Thrones with the sanguine and meaty Côtes du Rhône-Brézème Vieilles Vignes Domaine de Pergaud Syrah from Eric Texier); songs (for example Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ with Clos Canarelli Corse Figari Rosé); dog breeds and astrological signs are other categories for pairings.
While Weissler’s approach to wine is fun and frivolous his criteria for the wines on offer is anything but, with roughly 80% of the wine on the list and shelves sourced from organic producers, who use minimal filtration and ferment with natural yeasts so that the selections best represent the places from which they come. Very Portlandia!