Stepping into Sauvage is like discovering an underground supperclub: its entrance is unmarked, a long communal table stretches the length of the room, and the servers are also your chefs. But here your servers-cum-chefs are also winemakers, crushing and fermenting the wine list a few feet away. Sauvage is an urban winery departing the familiar waters of Oregon Pinot with an eclectic, natural wine list and a thought-provoking, locally driven menu beyond the ubiquitous cheese plate.
Here you can drink an entire flight of biodynamic varietals, grab a glass of pear-scented, white Roussanne bottled across the room, and wolf down an entire 5-course farm-driven “Mystery Dinner,” highlighted by crabapple soup with shaved chanterelles and a beet and porcini salad in black sesame dressing.
In Portland’s growing constellation of urban wineries and wine bars, Sauvage introduces a different breed: the self-described “enopub.” Owner Jesse Skiles—one of the city’s youngest winemakers—started his own naturally fermented, minimalist urban winery, “Fausse Piste,” in 2008. Each varietal uses native yeast (from the grapes themselves) giving the wine an expressive showcase of local terroir. The adjoining dining room, Sauvage, followed last summer, with a wine-focused food menu and a beautiful, polished space on SE Ash and 6th Ave complete with red brick walls, glowing Edison bulbs hanging in glass fermentation jugs and a salvaged bowling lane doubling as a communal table.
Inside the unmarked, subterranean dining room, an unstructured list of small plates traipses alongside the wine program, from a half-dozen deviled quail eggs stuffed with creamy, foie-whipped yolks and dusted with fiery orange flakes of Piment d'Espelette to a pile of melted boar ribs in red wine, garlic and hazelnuts. Dishes like the “Tombo Carpaccio” are artfully composed and well balanced; thin sheets of albacore decorated with wedges of grapefruit, nutty fried capers, bitter curls of baby kale and a spicy mustard vinaigrette. The indecisive can opt for Sauvage’s “Mystery Dinners,”—3 or 5 course affairs driven by the season.
The kitchen is run by a co-op of food personalities brought together under Skiles: Jeff Vejr (Alu Wine Bar), Chris Vandersloot (Bluehour and Cheese Bar), and Nick Duff of the now shuttered 50 Plates. Skiles and his team slide periodically through the tall glass double doors to the barrel-stacked Fausse Piste on the other side, while acquainting thirsty patrons at the L-shaped bar with a natural Italian vintage made by nuns in Rome, and adding the finishing touches to a plate of squash and bone marrow ravioli topped with dried tuna. It’s this level of intimacy with the chefs and wine-makers that distinguishes Sauvage from its urban contemporaries and makes its mark amongst wine geeks and foodies alike.
537 SE Ash St. #102