Skip to main content

Urban Winemaking in Portland

Urban winemaking red wine
Image used with permission by copyright holder
If you’ve visited the wineries just outside of Portland, or the sprawling vineyards of Napa, then you might be more used to the huge tasting rooms and cellars that seem to continue miles into the ground. Urban winemaking packs all the fun of crushed grape based alcohol into a much smaller operation, opting instead to buy fruit or juice from vineyards who grow too much, and blending and fermenting in-house for a refined taste without the overhead.

While a huge vineyard might grow hundreds of acres of pinot noir grapes, even the major wineries will end up purchasing other fruit for mixing with theirs before aging, or juice after for blending. The only difference in urban winemaking is, that instead of growing some and buying the rest, the winemaker can select the best available juice each season based on his or her goals for the wine. Since all of the juice is purchased from elsewhere, the risk is relatively low. While a vineyard might lose an entire year’s profits due to environmental factors like drought or insects, a smaller winemaker can typically find at least enough juice for at least a couple of distinct wines.

The operations aren’t without their risk, though. Fruit shortages lately have driven the price of good juice up significantly, as larger wineries buy up as much as they can in an effort to get their line started. This can leave smaller wineries rushing to find enough juice to keep up production, even in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. When fruit is readily available, however, winemakers are able to get their hands on a hold of a wide range of grapes and juice, allowing them to experiment with styles that most Oregon vineyards can’t attempt, like the Seven Bridges Sangiovese, a dark and earthy wine. While it’s not viable to grow these types of grapes in large quantity, the fact that the smaller wineries don’t rely on a harvest for profit means they can purchase the fruit that’s around and blend themselves.

In Portland, a large chunk of urban wineries have gathered in southeast, where industrial warehouses and old shipping yards are transforming into tasting rooms and trendy patios every day. Wineries like Clay Pigeon and Enso have nestled in between breweries and burger joints to serve hand crafted wine with rare cheese plates.

Editors' Recommendations

Brad Bourque
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Brad Bourque is a beer and sneaker writer, retired fantasy football commissioner, and devout Portland Timbers. On the…
Get Naked with Independent Winemakers with NakedWines Delivery Kit

Just as there are craft breweries and distilleries that produce smaller amounts of spirits, there are also small-production wineries that, unless you are living in the immediate area of the vineyard, you will most likely never hear about.,
a wine delivery service, is on a mission to change that by working with independent winemakers to showcase their wines to a global audience. To do this, they work with “Angels,” investors who make a $40 contribution each month to help support the winemakers. Since launching in the United Kingdom in 2008, (thanks to the Angels) has invested in 159 independent winemakers in 14 countries.

Through the site, allows users to purchase wines from these independent winemakers based on previous user rankings or by choosing a pre-selected box that is made by the company. This is not a subscription service, as there are no monthly or quarterly deliveries. Instead, it functions as a normal marketplace, but with a very specific focus.

Read more
An Astronomically Fun Chat About Space and Wine With a Winemaker and Former Physicist
Vidon Vineyard Wine Grapes

Which new bourbon are we pumped about? What does it take to be a master journeyman? Where are we excited to travel to next? Each week, The Manual Podcast invites an expert, artisan, or craftsman for a roundtable discussion on what’s new, exciting, and unique in their trade.

For this week’s episode of The Manual Podcast, the gang's all here as Nicole, Sam, and Greg sit down with Don Hagge, the owner of Vidon Vineyard -- and a former physicist for NASA.

Read more
What Is Natural Wine? An Introduction to the Hands-Off Winemaking Mentality
red wine glass vineyard

Wine is s going au naturale, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s the latest trend in the ever-evolving drinks scene and it's bringing funky, fascinating, and flavorful new players to bottle shops, restaurant lists, and wine bars all over the country.
Identifying a natural wine can be tricky. Unlike a genuine craft IPA or certified sustainable Merlot, there is no logo on the label designating its status. Falling somewhere between free-range, organic, unconventional, and indie-rock, natural winemaking is about the closest thing there is to letting the grapes, and the region they’re rooted in, speak freely.

Generally, these wines are made with a hands-off mentality. That translates to no artificial sprays in the vineyard and no additions in the cellar (commercial yeast, sulfites, etc.). Resulting wines so unique they’re just about impossible to replicate. Terroir subscribers often argue that this style of wine exhibits an extreme sense of time and place.
"The phrase 'natural wine' doesn't have a definition, so it can mean anything anyone wants it to mean, which is where the problem lies."

Read more