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Ripe time for urban vintners

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Articles - April 2013
Monday, April 01, 2013


0413 FOB Dispatches DrinkCity 02
0413 FOB Dispatches DrinkCity 03
Enso Winery owner Ryan Sharp transfers Grenache wine from barrels to tank to prepare for bottling. The so-called "racking" separates the liquid from remaining sediment.
// Photos by Sierra Breshears

Opening a winery in the city does have its drawbacks, including steeper rents. But with comparatively scant startup costs, it’s much easier to grow a metropolitan winery than a typical one, says Jill Ross, who handles all non-winemaking tasks at Seven Bridges Winery in North Portland, which released its first vintage in 2008. Ross says husband Kevin and Switzer, Seven Bridges’ winemakers, are “both engineers, always tinkering with the process. They just wanted to make the best wine, and the business grew from there.”

The urban location also allows for increased interaction with customers. “About 80% of our business is direct to client,” says Lewis, most of which comes from their wine club, in-store sales, release parties and events like their annual “Squishfest.”

Enso Winery in Southeast Portland opened its doors in 2009 and is one of several wineries diversifying by offering tastings and happy hours, and holding joint events with restaurants. “We’re set up like a wine bar,” says owner Ryan Sharp. “We can charge by the glass. So from a business standpoint, we’re dealing with much higher margins than strictly wholesale.”

Until more customers learn that they don’t have to leave the city limits to discover great wine, the Willamette Valley remains the standard location. But when it comes to luring in new hordes, a Portland address may be just the right choice for the startup vintner set. Seven Bridges gets “a lot of people in the tasting room who wouldn’t normally go wine tasting in the valley. “They come in during bike rides,” says Ross. “You don’t have to make a day of a visit.”


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