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Discover Portland’s Urban Winemaking Industry

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Darryl Joannides of Viola Wine Cellars

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 and they’re making some fantastic wine.  In March, our Cellar 503 selections focused exclusively on urban winemakers and collectives – including two of the amazing winemakers making wine in Portland.

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’ garage right in Northeast Portland. As a chef, Darryl was beloved for his cozy Italian neighborhood trattoria, Assagio.  After putting Assagio in the rear view 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 Cork – A Bottle Shop, 2901 NE Alberta, Portland.

Jan-Marc Baker of 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 sq. ft, but he’s making quite a lot of wine there – 1000 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. janmarcwinecellars.com, 2110 N Ainsworth, Portland.

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.  Anne Ebenreiter Hubatch of Helioterra Wines experiments with unique varietals with her Melon de Bourgogne and her newest release: Arneis.  Justin Paul Russell of Jasper Sisco reinvents a classic with his Momtazi Pinot Noir.  And Corey Shuster has brought a beloved Southern Oregon grape to a Portland market with his Jackalope Wine Cellars Cabernet Franc.  You can find all three of these urban-made wines at Southeast Wine Collective on SE 35th and Division.

Whether you’re a wine country regular or just starting to explore, there’s a lot to be discovered right here in Portland – without having to fight the traffic in Dundee and Newberg. And at Cellar 503, we love trying wines from inspiring new winemakers doing innovative things with grapes. Cheers!


Carrie Wynkoop is the founder of Cellar 503, a new wine club featuring unique, high quality, affordable wines that represent the full range of great Oregon wine.  Cellar 503 is for anyone who loves Oregon wine and wants to explore.


Related Slideshow: 9 Of Portland’s Top Brewers

Here's a look at 9 of Portland's top brewerers and their best creations.

All photos are courtesy of the breweries. 

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Jason McAdam, Burnside Brewing Company

Jason McAdam from Burnside Brewing Company is a quiet craftsman. His lineage includes being at the helm of Roots Brewing. A fan once said of him "if he could get away with putting a cat in a batch of beer, he'd want to try." Even without that, his beer is the cat’s meow. From a big bold IPA as Burnside's mainstay, to a smoked wheat Gratzer, and a more than few things in between, McAdam, should be toward the top of any list of Oregon Brewers.

Recommended: Oatmeal Pale Ale

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Doug Rehberg, Widmer Brothers Brewing

It is said Budweiser may have the best brewers in the world. You'll never hear their names. Unlike in the craft brew world, macro brewers aren't considered rock stars. Doug Rehberg at Widmer Brothers Brewing is somewhat of a crossover. He brews beer for Widmer, who brew just shy of a million kegs of beer annually. Over the past decade when Oregon Brewers entered the recent "creative" era, Doug has ensured these big boys didn't rest on their laurels. If you want to really know what I mean, go visit the brewery, where they have nearly 30 beers on tap on any given day.

Recommended: Ginger Brrrrbon 

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Mike Wright, The Commons Brewery

There is nothing common about Mike Wright, the owner and brewmaster of The Commons Brewery. He started his business in his garage less than five years ago and is already preparing for his second major expansion. That is great news.

Commons zigs when most of Portlands breweries zag. Farmhouse style ales are a gateway drug to the Belgian beer revival that seems to be occurring. Maybe not always as sour as your typical Belgian but decidedly different than your average Portland brew. 

Recommended: Flemish Kiss

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Alan Taylor, Pints Brewing

Pints Brewing at times seems more busy during their morning coffee hour than happy hour, which is a shame. Head Brewer Alan Taylor learned the craft while in Germany and his hiring brought new life to the fledgling Pints - literally. Pints recently opened an out of state off shoot and are in the works to open a second Portland location (each under a different brand name). Pints as a name may not ever become a household name. Taylor’s beer just might.

Recommended: Seismic IPA

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Ben Love and and Van Havig

Ben Love was at Hopworks when Van Havig got foolishly ousted from a chain brewpub. Together they opened Gigantic. Soon the rest of the city learned what beer insiders had long known: Van is the real deal. Ben, no slouch himself serves as an equally talented brewer.  

Recommended: Pipewrench Gin Barrel IPA

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John Harris, Ecliptic Brewing 

John Harris at Ecliptic Brewing has the longest credits of any Portland brewer. Put shortly, he is legendary. In a beer world where the brewer can be a rock star, Harris stands out for not standing out. Instead of shaking hands and retail politics with those who've enjoyed his products for decades, Harris remains behind the kettle further perfecting the craft at a level other brewers should aspire to. Haven't heard of John Harris? You may recognize some of the names of beers he's credited with creating: Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter and Jubelale for Deschutes Brewery. He went on to spend 20 years at the helm of Full Sail before setting out on his own in 2013.

Recommended: Phobos Extra Red Ale

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Ben Edmunds, Breakside Brewery

If you gain an audience with Ben Edmunds, a former teacher, of Breakside Brewery, you'll walk away knowing that he blended that career with his current one and will have learned a few new things about beer. You'll also gain an appreciation for the creative mind that grew Breakside from a nano-brewery on Dekum to a large production facility in Milwaukie in just a few years. The array of beers that Edmunds produces is impressive. Be careful though, my recommended brew is a might bit spicy.

Recommended: Aztec Amber Ale

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Christian Ettinger, Hopworks Urban Brewery

Christian Ettinger left Laurelwood Brewery to open up his first brewpub, Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB). Apparently he lived by the motto "go big or go home,” and therefore didn’t face the challenge of other brewers on this list spending their early years building out new space while trying to brew and serve. In what surely was considered a risky location, HUB saw gold in their SE Powell location. They were right. Having a good product surely helps.

Recommended: Organic Abominable Winter Ale

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Alex Ganum, Upright Brewing 

Alex Ganum at Upright Brewing is another chain brewery expatriate and opened shop in the basement of the Left Bank Annex in 2009.  Upright Brewing “specializes in farmhouse inspired beers rooted in France and Belgium but made with a Pacific Northwest twist, while also dabbling in both classic and quirky projects from around the world.” Their limited taproom hours includes before each home Blazers game.

Recommended: Engelberg Pilsener


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