Molly Walsh

What's the best supermarket for wine?

Supermarket? You should be patronizing your local bottle shop, attending tastings, and learning all the appellations of Burgundy. Failing that, supermarkets do have their uses. An industry insider tells me that the Hollywood Fred Meyer (3030 NE Weidler) sells more wine than any other store in the city. The selection is large and wide-ranging, and they take risks to find good value for your money. The staff is knowledgeable and can point you in the direction of something to suit your palate or, if you prefer, challenge it. (Note, not all Freddies are created equal: The wine selection at the North Portland store is pitiful.)

While New Seasons may be considered a higher caliber market (with prices to match), their wine buyer also knows a bargain, with a selection of respectable bottles for under 10 bucks—Italian and Spanish reds tend to feature—making it a trusty fallback.

Where to go for wine happy hour?

Given the vitality of Portland's happy hour scene this could be a very long list—but M Bar (417 NW 21st) is a fun and cozy spot. It has space for a dozen, plenty of candles, and only deals in wine, beer, and digestifs (which is impressive). Not only does its happy hour start when most others are finishing (6-8 pm), their offer is $3 off a glass—which means the already reasonably priced reds, whites and rosés can be had for as little as three bucks.

Which place is good for food and wine?

If we're talking wine bars that do food (as opposed to straight-up restaurants), you should visit Oso Market (726 SE Grand), which faithfully delivers an excellent menu of European-inspired dishes with an appealing wine list of local and Old World wines. (You can also drink anything off the shelf for a $10 corkage). Meanwhile, the folks at C'est Si Bon! (22 NE 7th)—a crêperie that also has excellent salads and a few entrée-sized dishes—also know their wine. They do more than a dozen by the glass, ensuring there's always something new to explore.

Where to get cheese and wine?

Despite all the talk of how well beer and cider pair with cheese, it is basically a sin to disregard wine. Cheese Bar (6031 SE Belmont) is an obvious choice as their cheese selection is unsurpassed, but the mark-ups on the wines can be a little steep. So my vote is for Blackbird Wineshop & Atomic Cheese Bar (4323 NE Fremont), which has an impressive cheese case and an extensive selection of well-priced wine. Order the cheese plate and ask the owner, Andy, what to pair it with—you won't go wrong.

What about champagne?

If you're serious about your champagne, it has to be Bar Vivant (2225 E Burnside). It's won prestigious awards for its champagne and sparkling wine list, which stretches over 20 pages and ranges from half bottles to giant Imperial formats (that's eight standard-sized bottles, in case you're looking to party). They even list when the bottle was disgorged—though that's something that only real champagne nerds need to worry about. Well-known houses rub shoulders with small producers, and (it has to be said) there are a bewildering array of price points—seek advice in navigating the intricacies of the menu.

Also not to be missed is Ambonnay (107 SE Washington, #167), a bijou champagne bar that's great for glass pours and flights, a perfect way to sample and find out which types of bubbles you like. They also carry a solid bottle list, and they're open Sunday afternoons—the unsung hours of champagne drinking.