New Tasting Room Signals Wine Growth

Winemaker Sarah Cabot. Credit Sander Gusinow

Battle Creek Cellars, a tasting room serving exclusively Oregon wine, is a signal of Oregon’s wine boom.

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On the wall of Battle Creek Cellars tasting room hangs a wood carving of the Willamette Valley, with special indentations depicting the vineyards from which the grapes that supply it are grown.

The new tasting room, located in the heart of Portland’s Pearl District at 820 NW 13th Ave. and which opened this week, offers wines from Battle Creek Cellar’s vineyard as well others in the state. You won’t find French or Napa Valley vintages here, only Oregon-made offerings, with a special focus on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

The focus makes sense for an Oregon-only tasting room. More than half the grapes produced in Oregon are Pinot Noir. The region is ideal for winemaker Sarah Cabot, who makes her own Pinot Noir blends.

“If I could be anywhere in the world, I would be here,” says Cabot, who brings eight years of winemaking experience to her role.

Cabot says she is grateful to be working in a region that makes the what she claims is the best Pinot, and to work for a company that allows her the flexibility to create unique wines rather than simply telling her what to make and at what price point.  

“I don’t ask for much, but when I do, they say ‘yes’,” says Cabot, who debuted her own blend at the opening event, which was filled with wine and food writers, and bloggers who came to sample what the Pearl District tasting room has to offer.

The tasting room also tries to be sustainable. All Battle Creek Cellars vineyards are certified by LIVE, which classifies wineries as having environmentally friendly business practices, as well as Salmon Safe, which certifies companies that keep rivers and waterways clean for wildlife.

The tasting room opens against the backdrop of a serious wine boom in the state. Oregon is now the third-largest wine grape producing state in the country.

According to the Oregon Wine Board’s annual report, which came out this September, Oregon’s wine industry is robust and growing. The overall number of wineries increased 3% to 793 in 2018, and case sales jumped 15% to 4.15 million.

Perhaps the wine renaissance could be the result of the Willamette Valley’s unique soil composition. The volcanic sedimentary seabed creates diverse growing conditions. Perhaps the boom is the result of Oregon’s proximity to wine-friendly California, or perhaps the wine surge is just the result of Oregon’s larger economic upswings.

What is certain is that the tasting room in the heart of downtown Portland is part of the growing wine industry.

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