Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Portland, Where All the Hot Girls Drink From Wine Glasses

By Jenny Mosbacher 

Oh, Portland. Isn't it bad enough that you have a pay-cable television show dedicated to mocking your self-indulgent hipster proclivities? Do you really have to justify it by turning a tasting event for upstart winemakers making their way and their wine within city limits a rock-concert-like atmosphere? Apparently so.

Welcome to the PDX Urban Wineries Premiere, a mix-up tasting of smaller operations collaborating to present themselves as a much closer, much more alternative alternative to the established "Oregon wine country" just 45 minutes southwest of Portland proper. A perfect draw on a warm-ish Sunday afternoon for the lazy hipster looking for a one-stop happy hour within biking distance. The $20 cover proved a good valued use of one's barista tips, and within minutes of the start time, "The Slate" industrial event space at NW 19th & Vaughn was flooded with thirsty locals lapping up limited-production offerings.

As I crowd-surfed my way to each tasting station amidst a cacophony of discussions over grape-sourcing and fermentation technique, with a backdrop of train yards and dilapidated warehouses set to a Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack, I found more good wines than one can put a bird on.

Eight different exhibiting wineries were spaced out in the industrial garage space, ranging from the tried-and-true Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs to heavy reds sourced further afield in Washington.  Here are the highlights:

2010 West Coast Rosé Saignee, Enso Winery ($20)
Keep your eye out for Enso Winery as they expand their operations, right now they're dealing in super tiny quantities but the wines themselves are big personalities. All of their wines expressed a strange aggressive character that were also bizarrely balanced and pleasant. Their rosé is the standout, a mix of Zinfandel, Malbec, and Mourvédre. The nose is redolent of a PB & strawberry jelly sammy and a banana from last week's neglected lunch smooshed in the bottom of your work bag. That said, the actual taste was surprisingly delicate, bright and structured. Super huge on the palate but with enough acid to keep it lively. My co-taster said it best, "this is elegant, on 11."

2009 Syrah, Columbia Valley, Helioterra ($20)
The wines of Ann Hubatch were easily some of the best wines sampled during the event. Her Pinot Blanc blew most other whites served straight out, and her Syrah topped all other Washington-sourced wines without second thought. A powerful showing of intense fruit and floral character, the mix of 95% syrah and 5% viognier from Coyote Canyon Vineyard within the Horse Heaven Hills AVA is pure marionberry jam smeared across wet asphalt with smoky spice. This could totally stand a few more years in the bottle, but for now is dandy with some serious red meat. Which is murder, but, whatever. Delicious.

2009 Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Vincent Wine Company ($24)

One of the nicest Pinot Noirs we tried was from Vincent Wine Company, the eponymous project of garagiste-turned-real-deal Vincent Fritzsche. I have been lucky enough to try this wine a few times before and it never fails to keep it real, or something. Front-loaded with sappy notes of cassis and blackberries might deceive you into thinking this isn't a really solid, elegant Pinot but the mouth is all inflections of minerals and dried herbs. There's still some chocolately heft from the barrel showing up, but for a hot vintage in Oregon this is acid-driven to the core and comes out lithe and energetic. This dude is living the dream.

At the time of this report, all of the above wineries and others repping at the PDX Urban Wineries premiere have started to show up in articles written locally and online, so do yourself a favor and get a hold of some of these now so you can tell people later that you were so into these even before they were cool.


Good stuff. Great to see you there Jenny.

Enjoyed the post, apparently we share similar taste, these were my favorites as well. :)

Hey Jenny:

I was at the registration table carefully checking for interesting media personalities. How did I miss you? :)
Cool article, thanks for writing about the event!

Always happen to see my pdx homies pouring their stuff.

Agree with the comment about Anne's Syrah.. but have a little patience and that sucker is going to be freaking awesome this winter ( and next )

Josh.. great to see you as well ( and you as well Carl )

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