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10 Best Portland Wine Bars
Dated: September 30 2014
107 S.E. Washington St.
Champagne is an expensive habit. Not as expensive as designer clothes or designer drugs, perhaps, but not far behind, either. The beauty of Ambonnay, the sparkling-specific bar tucked in the southwest corner of the Olympic Mills building, is that they keep these designer wines within reach. Sure, there's a reserve list that starts at $100 a bottle and head north to $1,000. But there's also a glass of bubbly for $8, plus a half-dozen Champagnes in the $12 to $13 range, which you can pair with a plate of cheese, olives or pistachios.
Owner David Speer and his staff can nerd out, weighing each pour on a digital scale, discussing RS (residual sugar), dosage (added sweetness) and mousse (foam) until your attention turns to the freight train passing by the window. Or they can play it casual, steering you to the perfect wine based on abstract, sensual properties. Either way, you'll soon find yourself craving more. Ambonnay is the ultimate gateway wine bar.
Who's sitting next to you? A recent divorcée with a taste for fine wine and money to burn.
Signature drink: Wines from Ambonnay village, which gives the bar its name, designated on the menu with a red letter "A."
-- Michael Russell
2138 S.E. Division St.
Randy Goodman, one of the proprietors of Bar Avignon pulls down a bottle of wine off the shelf.
It's not often you get a chance to enjoy a beverage while watching the kitchen crew washing dishes by candlelight. It was so artfully choreographed, expertly lighted and tastefully set-decorated — with vintage sauté pans swinging overhead — that it felt like a scene from some tedious yet beautiful European art film. And an evening at Bar Avignon could make you feel like you were in it.
Perhaps with a charcuterie board in front of you just slowly savoring a glass of wine, it's the kind of spot that invites dawdling conversation — more of the first-date banter variety than rueful epiphanies, though the latter wouldn't be out of place. If you like wine, you'll inevitably want the long bottle list (you can take most home for 25 percent off). But there's also craft beer on tap and interesting cocktails to tempt you. A Dark & Stormier with both ginger beer and Domaine de Canton liqueur satisfies if you like some spice.
Who's sitting next to you: So many date-night couples that inspired a little jovial bitterness from a single member of our party.
Signature drink: A bottle of wine. You'll want to linger.
-- Colin Powers
COPPIA RESTAURANT & WINE BAR
417 N.W. 10th Ave.
Coppia celebrates the cuisine of Piedmont, Italy and specializes in wine and food pairings.
Alysha Beck/The Oregonian
This Piedmont-focused Italian restaurant and bar embodies the Pearl District of the mid-2000s, after the muffler shops had closed but before Safeway moved in. (The place opened as Vino Paradiso in 2006). It's owned by a very minor celebrity, Pink Martini vocalist Timothy Nishimoto; it looks like a cross between an art gallery and a lighting showroom; and its wine list features budget Malbec alongside a 13-year-old Barbaresco at $16 a glass.
Coppia is a fine spot for a an early-evening snack -- try the silky bagna cauda -- and a couple pours from the lengthy and wide-ranging glass list, which features some intriguing flights such as Italian rosatos and white Oregon Pinot Noirs. If you stick around for dinner, go for a plate of the housemade pasta and take advantage of the pairing suggestions listed for each dish. Nishimoto's excellent palate hasn't failed us yet.
Who's sitting next to you? Serious Wine Spectator types to the left, a boisterous family chatting in Portuguese to the right.
Signature drink: A glass of big, earthy Piedmontese red.
-- Ben Waterhouse
1111 E. Burnside St.
The outdoor seating at Noble Rot hangs right over Burnside.
Jamie Francis/The Oregonian
Noble Rot doesn't have the height advantage of Departure or Portland City Grill, which makes its stunning views from a fourth-floor perch on East Burnside all the more impressive. Grab a patio table or a window booth and sip a happy hour glass of house shiraz or chardonnay, lingering as the sun makes its descent over the West Hills.
If the name didn't clue in the oenophiles among us — Noble Rot refers to a benevolent fungus that plays well with wine — the bountiful display of reds and whites lets you know wine is the star here. You'll find a 300-plus bottle list, with plenty of local and global choices. Beer and mixology lovers are in luck, too, with draft options and a solid cocktail program. The apricot collins — with rum, lemon, apricot liqueur, soda and bitters — is lightly sweet and refreshing. If you're looking for a bite, the menu boasts vegetables from the bar's rooftop garden. All that, and a view.
Who's sitting next to you: A group — fresh from the office? — taking advantage of the spacious booths to talk business over a little wine.
Signature drink: Wine flights, such as a Willamette Valley pinot noir trio.
-- Colin Powers
OREGON WINES ONBROADWAY
515 S.W. Broadway
Emily Klein serves up good conversation with the bottles at Oregon Wines on Broadway.
Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian
Upon entering pinot proprietress Kate Bolling's downtown sanctum, you'll be tempted to slip into the row of cushy banquette tables hugging the front window -- they're quite comfortable, and have a scenic view of adjacent Teuscher Chocolates' truffle lineup. But the action's at this boisterous wine bar's, well, bar, where regulars who seem familiar enough to be family gather to sip, swap, and thoroughly discuss their best-loved vintages.
Buoyed by the 36 freely flowing taps, intimate atmosphere, and catchy tunes, perfect strangers will almost invariably offer you a pour from their bottles -- don't be surprised if you end up dancing under the disco ball well past closing. OWOB's niche is Oregon pinot noir, but they offer a half dozen whites as well, and bubble buffs won't go thirsty, especially on Champagne Friday. Cheese, charcuterie and Pearl Bakery baguette are on hand if you get hungry, and nobody minds if you BYOChocolate; just make sure you have enough for everyone in your new family.
Who's sitting next to you? Pinot savants, longtime regulars who quaff and quibble like family, downtown tourists lured in by the 36 taps and the twinkle in the disco ball's eye.
Signature drink: Pinot noir, unless it's Champagne Friday.
-- Jen Stevenson
726 S.E. Grand Ave.
The bar is featured prominently at Oso Market + Bar.
Emily Jan/The Oregonian
Welcoming, friendly and serious about its food and drinks, Oso is the kind of place you'd expect to find in a quiet Portland neighborhood. And yet, here it is, stationed at the eastern base of the Morrison bridge, on the highway otherwise known as Grand Avenue. The space looks très Portland, but the food and drinks are grounded in Europe (oso is Spanish for "bear"). The by-the-glass wine list hovers in the $12 range and focuses on offerings you don't often see: rosé from Bandol, txakoli from the Basque country.
Beers, too, tend to be obscure German or Belgian styles while the small cocktail list comforts rather than challenges. The menu is snacky, seasonal and leans toward familiar Mediterranean classics with a Northwest spin. Caprese salad comes artfully arranged with peach slices tucked between tomatoes. The Nicoise uses smoked trout instead of tuna. Of the montaditos, the marinated octopus with chorizo served on a slice of roasted potato was a standout. Part artisan market/bottle shop, part restaurant serving just about every meal of the day (it offers a small weekend brunch), Oso is special enough to warrant the trip and comfortable enough to make you come back for more.
Who's sitting next to you? My kids, because Oso is cool like that. Up front, it's all date-night two-tops, while at the bar friends sit and enjoy a drink after work.
Signature drink: An international expo of Spanish reds, French rosés and Belgian beers.
-- Danielle Centoni
2225 E. Burnside St.
Inside Pix Patisserie on East Burnside.
Eilise Ward/The Oregonian
With a mini vineyard out front, tapas bar, dessert counter (and chocolate case), a petanque court and more bottles than you can fathom, it's not difficult to find a reason to hang out at East Burnside's Pix Patisserie all day (and night). Pop over to Bar Vivant, Pix's tapas bar, where pinxtos (small snacks), such as bacon-wrapped dates, montaditos (small, open-faced sandwiches), boquerones (anchovies in olive oil) and more are available by the bite, and the txakoli (slightly sparkling, very dry white wine from Basque Country) is poured high.
Come back after dinner for a handful of macarons -- Pix makes nearly 30 flavors -- and French pastries paired with a glass (or bottle) of wine off the mammoth list – easily 50 pages, if not more, of bottles, sweet wines (17 styles, everything from port to Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh), beers (37), mead, cider, coffee, tea, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. The Champagne collection alone is so vast that World of Fine Wine magazine recently awarded the bar with the title of "best champagne and sparkling wine list in the world." Don't care about wine? Pix hosts a formal tea every Saturday and Sunday.
Who's sitting next to you? An elderly couple enjoying an early afternoon glass of wine and some snacks from Bar Vivant.
Signature drink: Grower Champagne.
-- Samantha Bakall
REMEDY WINE BAR
733 N.W. Everett St.
Remedy Wine Bar is located at 733 NW Everett St., on the South Park Blocks.
Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian
Tucked unassumingly into the side of a former pharmaceutical building along the Northwest Park blocks, Remedy owns its status as the cure-all for after-work woes with a cushy, living room vibe, carefully curated wine list, seasonal small plates and medically-themed logo. The refreshing wine list offers a long menu of rotating glass pours (sparkling, white, rose, red and geek pour of the day), fortified wines by the glass, bottle or tasting of three, wine cocktails and a 100+ bottle list to satisfy both wine novices and experts.
While still offering classic wine bar snacks -- nuts, olives, things on bread, cheese and charcuterie -- Remedy's food menu, from chef Ingrid Chen, also delivers tasty "small" plates (come hungry) of boudin blanc sausage, tortilla espanola, grilled cheese and more. And it's likely the only bar in Portland that pours its water from an Erlenmeyer flask.
Who's sitting next to you? A man, sitting alone next to an open window, enjoying a balloon glass of red wine.
What's everybody drinking?: Flights of sherry and glasses of rose.
-- Samantha Bakall
2425 S.E. 35th Pl.
Inside the tasting room at Southeast Wine Collective in Southeast Portland.
Courtesy of SE Wine Collective
One of the happy offshoots of Portland's recent generation of urban vintners is that many of them double as great wine bars. At working wineries like Enso (1416 S.E. Stark St.) and Clay Pigeon (815 S.E. Oak St.) -- not to mention the recently departed Sauvage at Fausse Piste -- garage-rock producers pour their own pinots alongside an eclectic mix of New and Old World guests in attractive, close-in spaces.
Our favorite of the new crop is SE Wine Collective, a small wine bar attached to a production facility that currently hosts ten small wineries. The bar, despite being just off rapidly developing Division Street, has a cozy, neighborhood feel, with handsome banquettes, a back bar made from cross-cut barrel staves and a smart bar menu from chef Althea Grey Potter. With 65 wines by the glass, including 25 from in-house members (plus emeritus winery Bow & Arrow), SE Wine Collective rewards repeat visits.
Who's sitting next to you? A table of three spooning into a massive, gooey chocolate chip cookie.
Signature drink: Intriguing flights, including a recent run of Chenin Blancs, meant to be paired with a house pork meatball and sambal mayo banh mi (on Little T baguette).
-- Michael Russell
TASTE ON 23RD
2285 N.W. Johnson St.
Quartet of deviled eggs from Taste on 23rd.
Grant Butler/The Oregonian
It may have a generic-sounding name, but this relatively new Alphabet District wine bar is anything but ordinary. From window tables in the second story space, there's good people-watching with the steady parade of customers heading into the bubble tea shop that's directly underneath. There's plenty to see inside, too, from sassy young women flirting at the bar, to the amiable owner who always sports a bow tie and suspenders.
But the scene is a mere distraction once beautiful small plates of tomato bruschetta, gourmet olives and tricked-out deviled eggs start arriving. Most plates are only a few bites, serving more to supplement the long list of wines by the glass, including crisps roses from France, smooth Chianti from Italy, and gentle Oregon pinot noirs. Bartenders who double as waiters offer wine suggestions geared to your mood, though with most glasses priced around $12, your tab can add up fast. But hey, good taste comes with a price tag.
Who's sitting next to you? Hello, date night! Most tables are intimate two-seaters, and you can overhear plenty of romantic chatter. At the bar, though, the mood is more convivial, as women compare notes about their shopping triumphs while knocking back mimosas.
What's everyone drinking? Mouthwatering reds rule here, but it would be a mistake to miss the wine cocktails, like the Orange Blossom, which mixes Prosecco, orange bitters and elderflower liqueur.
-- Grant Butler
For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 30 years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in ....
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