Another day, another urban winery. One of the newest additions to Portland’s bourgeoning industrial wine bar scene is Cyril’s, a culinary incubator and cheese heaven flanking Clay Pigeon Winery on Southeast Oak Street. With a tiny wine list, a case of curated cheeses and a simple lineup of comfort snacks, Portland’s newest erudite food-couple is paving the way for a curious generation of wine-lovers.
Take a seat at the white marble bar supported by old wine-barrel staves and rest easy in the capable hands of the nerdy, affable Michael Claypool whose impressive resume includes a stint at New York’s lauded Blue Hill, pairing wine with the award-winning farm cuisine of Dan Barber. Over at the display case, cheese-wiz Sasha Davies, alum of such notable dairy strongholds as Murray’s Cheese and Artisanal in New York and Steve’s Cheese in Portland is busy wrestling a 53-pound wheel of Montgomery’s Cheddar.
Claypool and Davies are trying to do for wine what the craft coffee movement did for caffeine-enthusiasts: put the inside baseball of grapes and provenance into less abstruse terms. “Both of us feel strongly that everyone has taste—everyone has preferences,” says Davies, “it’s just a matter of encouraging people to get in touch with and wake up their palate.” That means a dozen vintages, with local favorites like Teutonic and Fausse Piste, and a handful of small-producer labels, all around $10 a glass. Davies rolls out a black slate of cheeses from a tiny selection ranging from Ardrahan (a buttery, honey-hued cows milk variety) to Ossau Vielle (nutty sheep’s milk cheese aged in the Pyrenees.) This is a cheese monger's paradise.
Small plates are arranged in the open kitchen under Cyril’s head chef Laura Dirshan, with weekend appearances from former Paley’s Place dessert queen Kristen Murray. Between the two of them, a seasonal, vegetable-driven short list of wine-friendly bites rounds out a battery of local charcuterie. Carmel-capped Brussels sprouts come bubbling in a ramekin of cream and funky Stilton with a few slabs of bread for dipping, while something called “The Beast,” (a heavy wedge of leek and squash bread pudding) is smothered in pungent Gruyere.
But the chef’s counter is just the beginning. Cyril’s immense space is littered with foodie paraphernalia, from favorite vintages to inexplicable cans of Heinz baked beans. While they wait for their Syrah and Pinot Noir grapes to ferment across the room for their first Clay Pigeon release, the winemaking couple holds classes for culinary inspiration—everything from "Wine Pairing 101" to showcasing the sweet wares of local honey makers.
Cyril’s is many things: a wine bar, a gourmet retail space, a comfort-driven bistro—but above all a place to diffuse wine insecurities, and inspire a thirst for new flavors. It’s a welcome addition to the urban winery boom in Portland and a place to watch.
815 SE Oak Street
Tues-Sun: 4-10pm, 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays