Monday, June 4, 2012
Why are these niche bars all the rage? Hint: it's not just the wine.
I love wine bars, but not for the reasons you might think. Many years ago, I was living in San Francisco. Like most people residing in that area, the monthly rent drained my bank account. I had just graduated with an art degree and was working in galleries, but extra income was a must, so I applied for a job at a wine bar. During the interview process the owner asked me a few questions, to gauge my knowledge on wine, such as: “What is the grape used to make Chianti?”—to which I gave a grossly incorrect answer. Somehow (must have been my sparkling personality) I landed a job behind the bar pouring wine. The owner took a chance on a girl who didn’t know the difference between Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon—and the job changed the direction of my life. I have a certain nostalgic draw towards the wine bar because of that experience, and Oregon is swimming in them. Some are casual, raw and gritty; some are contemporary and modern, while others are plush and comfy. Here are few of Oregon’s stand-outs.
The Hop and Vine
1914 North Killingsworth St. / 503.954.3322 / www.thehopandvine.com
Cozy | Distinctive | Charming
When I first moved to Portland, I was lucky enough to live around the corner from a wine bar. I hadn’t even unpacked my U-Haul yet, but after an 1,800-mile drive with a weighed down Subaru and a fidgety 90 pound dog in my front seat, I needed a drink. To the wine bar I went. I sat down and to my pleasure saw that they had one of my personal favorites available by the glass, Cabernet Franc. Upon looking through their beer selection I found another gem, Boulevard Beer—the brew of my hometown, Kansas City, and the place of my recent tearful goodbye. I felt like The Hop and Vine was giving me a big hug. Since that day, they have opened a bottle shop next door where hand-crafted beers and a well-appointed wine selection are at your fingertips. They also have full bar of spirits and creative libations for every type of adult beverage enthusiast.
2754 Northwest Crossing Drive / 541.385.1777 / www.portellowinecafe.com
Urban | Fun | Friendly
Portello winecafe has been a favorite amongst Bend’s wine-loving community for almost six years, serving lunch and dinner alongside over 27 wines by the glass; and hosting a beer selection of Oregon brewers, as well as other national and international microbrews. On Mondays from 4-9 pm, and Wednesday through Saturdays from 11:30-4:00 pm, ALL wines by the glass are only $5. Live music on Saturdays starts at 7pm. Wines are also on display for retail sale. “We were really inspired by the combination of creating a European style neighborhood wine cafe so folks can walk or ride bikes over. We have a passion for fresh food choices and handcrafted wine selections with the feel of an urban, yet casual atmosphere,” says Lance Newman, co-owner of portello. They have achieved just that.
Vinotopia Wine Restaurant and Wine Bar
12345 SW Horizon Blvd, Suite 231 / 503.597.6900 / www.cinetopia.com
Welcoming | Innovative | Entertaining
Taking dinner and a movie to new heights, Vinotopia, located at the Cinetopia center in Progress Ridge, has one of my favorite by-the-glass programs in the state. Lead by wine director extraordinaire, Kim Oshiro, Vinotopia boasts over 58 wines by the glass. Each glass pour is available to enjoy at the bar, restaurant OR, best yet, in the movie theater. If you ask me, this is the best way to watch a movie—and it sure beats sneaking a bottle of wine into a movie theater (not that I have ever done that). One wine that Oshiro is really excited about right now? “The 2009 Domaine Comte Abbatucci ‘Faustine’ from Ajaccio, Corsica, France. This wine makes me homesick for a place that I have never been.” Looking for a little education to go with your movie? Wine 101 classes are taught by Oshiro on the first Tuesday of every month for $30.
Liquid Assets Wine Bar
96 North Main Street / 541.482.9463 / www.liquidassetswinebar.com
Elegant | Comfortable | Classy
Offering more than 20 wines by the glass, a “seasonal French-inspired” menu and beers on Tap, Liquid Assets is Ashland’s hot spot for wine lovers since 2006. Husband and wife owners Jim Piotter and Denise Daehler-Piotter both bring to the table several years of restaurant experience and education. Their objective is to maintain an interesting selection of handcrafted wines from Oregon along an international selection—with over 250 wines available for retail purchase. Liquid Assets opens at 3 every day and offers wifi; it’s the perfect place to get some work done, if you ask me. They also offer live music, tastings and classes. As members of the Ashland Gallery Association, the owners rotate the art that adorns the wine bar walls bi-monthly—highlighting the work of locally and internationally acclaimed artists.
White Buffalo Wine Bar
4040 Westcliff Drive / 541.386.5534 / www.whitebuffalowines.com
Hidden gem | Homey | Quaint
In 2005, Sarah Gumm and her mother, Mary Gumm, came up with a plan to turn an old ARCO gas station in Hood River into a fun and inviting wine bar. Their plan came to fruition in 2008 when White Buffalo Wine Bar opened its doors. Sourcing fresh and local ingredients, the Gumms have created a menu to stand alongside the 250 wine selections (10 by the glass)—which are all also available for retail sale. Thursday nights they offer free wine tasting for a chance to “try before you buy,” absorb a little wine knowledge and have some fun in the process.
B² Wine Bar
2794 Shadow View / 541.505.8909 / www.b2winebar.com
Chill | Sheik | Romantic
B2 is located in Eugene’s Crescent Village and offers 30 wines by the glass, anther 30 by the bottle and a full bar with plenty of beer options, from micro to not-so-micro. Executive Chef Garrett Kirsch executes a menu of Northwest cuisine that complements their wine selection. Kirsch’s personal favorite wine to pair with her provisions? “It's summertime so our b2 Pinot Gris 2009.”