Last week I had the opportunity to visit the very recently opened Cyril's tasting room/Clay Pigeon Winery at 815 SE Oak. It's helmed by a couple, Michael Claypool and Sasha Davies, who switched their careers to follow their true passions, wine (him) and cheese (her). After basically haunting their favorite artisanal businesses (the couple has bounced around New York and California before landing here) until internships or jobs materialized, it didn't feel right for their venture not to have an educational element. To that end they've pioneered a type of "wine school," wherein you're presented with several types of wine and cheese and invited to mix and match pairings—they appreciate the fact that everyone's palate is unique, and de-emphasize the notion of the "perfect pairing." The idea is to be more exploratory, and to help you define what your own preferences are, so that you can walk up to the cheese/wine counter with some useful information to better ensure your own happiness/flavor success.
The space itself is vast and attractive, with patched wood walls and ambient lighting. They just began offering a happy hour menu for the after-work crowd (because why not wait out the horrorshow of making your way east between 5 and 7 pm) to get your feet wet with small plates and a range of local and international pours. (Soon to come are their own bottles, produced literally in the other room, and take-home growlers) The whole concept of a wine bar reads as pretentious and expensive, but Michael and Sasha are as approachable, earnest, and nerdy in their fascination with their goodies of choice as your favorite salt monger or meat curer. It was inevitable in Portland culture that urban wineries would become a thing, and while it may not be as cost effective as, say, neighboring dive fave the Slammer, it's a pleasant, big-kid respite.
Did I mention that Davies is a huge cheese geek? If you love cheese, you need to have a conversation with this woman. She just published her second book, The Cheesemaker's Apprentice, containing tutorials alongside engaging interviews with international cheese experts. The night I was there she was getting ready to crack into a 55-pound block of English cheddar worth about $1,000. That, my friends, is how these people roll.