There is something so, well, civilized about wine bars, isn’t there? Jack Daniels isn’t invited; there’s no Scandinavian black metal screaming from the jukebox; and you might actually see someone born before 1970 tossing back a few at the bar. But civil doesn’t have to mean boring. And whoever said ‘In Vino Veritas’ wasn’t just a genius—he also knew a good wine bar when he saw one. We think he’d approve.
What you’re drinking: Veuve Clicquot
If IKEA opened a wine bar, it would feel a lot like this Scandinavian-inspired escape from Northeast hipsterdom. (In fact, the swoopy, oddly comfortable chairs were designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, the guy behind the St Louis arch.) Enclosed within Pour’s mod, spaceship-cafeteria décor, urban sophisticates chatter and sip glasses from a Northwest-centric wine list—a list that owner Robert Volz has forbidden to be diluted with varietals owned by corporate interests. (2755 NE Broadway, 503-288-7687)
What you’re drinking: The flight of the day. Or two.
Like that musty yet undeniably romantic Madrid hangout where you pretended to practice your Spanish during your college year abroad, this loud, chaotic, crowded, sometimes steamy wine bar never strays far from your thoughts. Of course, it could just be the power of that German Riesling kabinett or the Oregon pinot you just tasted, or the fact that your server knows how to use “awesome” and “hints of bacon” in the same sentence, that makes an evening here so memorable. Or maybe it’s simply the sight of all those red leather booths filled with flushed-face oenophiles actually having… fun. (2724 SE Ankeny St, 503-233-1999)
What you’re drinking: A glass of Rioja
There is a distinctly stealthy quality to this nook of a wine bar tucked between a bike shop and a weedy alley in North Portland. Little more than red lights and a sign bearing the image of a wolf on the door announce its existence, but once inside this cozy lair where nary more than a dozen people can comfortably sip at once, you’ll find that what the place lacks in size, it more than makes up for in wine. Let other establishments specialize in pinot. Here, a bottle of South African sauvignon blanc pairs seductively with a selection of sheep’s milk cheeses—a bit of decadence disguised in wolf’s clothing. (3955 N Mississippi Ave, 503-287-5872)
What you’re drinking: An Argentinean Malbec
The 1960s-gigolo motif would almost be too much, except there’s something about the lack of snoot at this Pearl District art-and-wine bar that keeps us coming back. Perhaps it’s the disarming bartender who suggests the best pinot gris to a bawdy bunch of girls one evening, or the humble waiter who convinces a table of dapper old fellows to try a bottle of port on a Sunday afternoon…after they’d split a bottle of champagne. (417 NW 10th Ave, 503-295-9536)