A Winemaker's Oregon Nouveau Party

Portland, Oregon's new urban winemakers release their version of France's ultimate party wine with a celebration on the sidewalk.


Even though there's still tons of work to be done in the cellar, the Collective takes time to celebrate the harvest with its Nouveau.© Michael Turek

When your house is on the same block as a winery, you might need to dodge forklifts when you walk your dog, or navigate around a sorting table when you ride your bike. Such is life in Portland, Oregon's Southeast district, home to the Southeast Wine Collective. An incubator space with seven small producers sharing equipment and know-how, it's part of Portland's growing winemaking scene—with a welcoming tasting bar for locals to sample the wines.

The couple behind Division Winemaking Company, Tom and Kate Monroe, founded the Collective in 2012. After studying with winemakers in Burgundy's Beaujolais region, they knew they wanted to start a winery in Oregon but weren't sold on country living. Today, in a warehouse surrounded by restaurants, shops and Craftsman-style houses, they turn Pinot Noir and Gamay (Beaujolais's signature grape) into outstanding wines.

Finding enough fruit is a challenge. "There was a fair amount of Gamay planted in Oregon in the late 1970s and '80s," says Scott Frank of Bow & Arrow, a former member of the Collective. "But a lot was torn up. We have to be grape detectives to find hidden plots."

Inspired by Beaujolais—where winemakers celebrate the first wines of the vintage, called Beaujolais Nouveau, on the third Thursday in November—the Collective teams up with St. Jack restaurant for an Oregon Nouveau party. Made in five weeks, the wines deliver fruity, juicy pleasure. "Tom and I joke that if we catch anyone sniffing or swirling, we'll knock the glass out of their hands," says Frank.

Joel Gunderson, St. Jack's sommelier and general manager, came up with the idea for the party, which takes place on the street. St. Jack's chef ladles out bacony, Gamay-infused beef bourguignon and the pastry chef turns île flottante into a sliceable meringue—much easier to handle while dodging forklifts.

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