Just when you think Portland can't get any more precious, it goes and becomes a hub for the revival of urban wineries. Diversifying away from the sacred cow of Pinot Noir, these small-batch operations are bringing wine making back to the city, as is European tradition. (And yes, they buy their fruit. Most winemakers, even out in the Valley, are not vintners, apparently, and that whole "wine tasting in the country" thing is an American invention, anyhow.)

So. On Saturday I caught the Short Bus for one of their periodic urban winery tours (other tour themes include an all-lady sex toy shopping excursion, FYI). It took us to four locations, starting at the Southeast Wine Collective, which houses Division Wine Making Company, Fullerton Wines, Vincent, Helioterra, and Bow & Arrow. It was the only place on the tour that I was already familiar with, and it was there that I bought my first bottle of the day (this would become a re-emerging theme).

The deal with the bus is that you can drink on it—they even provided us with insanely thick, idiot-proof wine glasses, but pace yourself. The tour lasts for almost five hours, and there is a lot of wine involved. The smallest location we visited, by far, was Jan-Marc, who produces an astonishing seven types of wine out of his garage in residential North Portland. Sitting in the sun on his driveway sipping his amazing "Bastard Red" goes down in the top five most Portland moments of my life.

The ride on the bus alone is $35 a head, and you'd be best advised to purchase an urban winery passport for $20, which covers the day's tastings and gets you a 10% discount on any bottles you purchase (and you will). I ended up buying four bottles of wine, you guys, instead of groceries, the water bill, and cat food. I feel fine about this, but if you take one of these tours (it was really quite delightful), you'd better bring your wallet. It was not the cheapest afternoon, although I was very impressed that the pricing was reasonable, with most bottles falling somewhere between $15-30. (Do I sound like a yuppie? I really, really feel like a yuppie.)

Barrels of fun at Alchemy Wine Productions.
  • Barrels of fun at Alchemy Wine Productions.

But seriously, next time you are showing a foodie of any stripe around town, this is a pretty slick move. It nails a lot of the city's most winning qualities (funky buses, micro-production, day drinking) in one fell swoop.