Considering the growing wine scene in the Northwest, it seems the possibilities are infinite these days. So infinite, in fact, that overwhelmed wine lovers tend to stick to their same old favorites out of habit. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case.
Carrie Wynkoop, owner of Oregon wine club Cellar 503, has made it possible for sippers to discover all the grape-filled goodness Oregon’s wineries have to offer. “I felt passionate about wine but I didn’t know what my place was in the industry,” says Wynkoop of Cellar 503’s beginnings.
“All I wanted was someone to send me wines from the little wineries all over the state. You get tired of tasting the same wines all the time – why can’t someone just pull Oregon wines together for you?” Wynkoop remembers asking herself.
Cue epiphany: Cellar 503 was born.
Members of Portland’s Cellar 503 choose from a variety of clubs, including red wine club, white wine club and a club offering a mix of both reds and whites. Shipment options include two or four bottles monthly, or four bottles seasonally; these options allow each budget and palate to taste Oregon’s finest vino.
Adding to the fun are themed shipments. Each month beckons a new appropriate theme; for example, April draws off of Earth Day to highlight environmentally conscious wineries – this time around featured specifically dry-farmed wineries; May features wine produced by women winemakers in light of Mother’s Day; and September is a play on “back-to-school,” where Wynkoop selects uncommon varietals for members to learn about. Each month’s shipment is a learning experience regardless, complete with tasting notes of the chosen wines and stories of the wineries.
In a state with over 600 wineries, how does Wynkoop narrow down her choices? “I taste as much as I possibly can and make a list of what I enjoy. I also ask winemakers who else I should be talking to. And I constantly do research,” she explains. Each of these would-be tasks go hand-in-hand with traveling throughout the state to small-scale wineries and tasting away.
The small-scale wineries she currently works with produce less than 10,000 cases of wine per year. Previously featured wineries include West Linn’s Ribera Vineyards, Talent’s Upper Five Vineyard and Newberg’s Brick House Wines.
Wynkoop says this relationship is more a partnership than anything. “I feel very strongly that this is a partnership between me and the wineries,” says Wynkoop. While she sells leftover beloved bottles to eager club members, the goal is to introduce exceptional wine to her members in the hopes of fostering relationships between wine crafter and wine lover. “I encourage my members to get in contact with the wineries and develop those relationships so the wineries have an outlet.”
To further encourage these relationships, Wynkoop holds monthly “Sip 503” wine shipment pick-up parties at Cellar 503, where members can grab their latest goods and chat with featured winemakers. Oftentimes, Wynkoop says, winemakers will bring a wine to share that wasn’t featured – a cause for more elation and education.
In the works for Cellar 503 is an official vintage industrial-inspired tasting room and new location for the monthly tasting events. The southwest Portland tasting room is open to the public by appointment starting June 1; the grand opening celebration is also open to the public and is scheduled to coincide with Sip 503 on June 19 from 2 pm to 5 pm. Along with pours of the monthly wine choices, local beer will be on tap in the tasting room and food will be aplenty at this all-ages event.
“I’m happy with Oregon right now and the Oregon wine industry is growing so fast,” says Wynkoop. Bringing together good wine and good company, it’s safe to say Wynkoop has found her place in the industry.