In an effort to keep you up to date on wineries in Portland we will be featuring one winery a month in an email and on social media. The plan is to give you a couple of highlights in this email and then follow us on Facebook or Instagram to hear more about each winery.We hope you enjoy this snapshot into each of these unique small Urban Wineries.
A big THANK YOU! has to go out to Aliya Hall for taking the time to interview our winery members.
Clay Pigeon Winery
When did your winery form and how did you get into the wine industry?
Clay Pigeon was founded in 2011, so its our 10-year anniversary!
The full story is that I got into wine in an interesting way. I’ve always had a day job, working largely in marketing and advertising, and I was living in New York. My wife, who was working more in high-tech, decided she didn’t want to do that anymore and decided to take an internship in cheese at a place called Artisanal. When she went to do that I thought “I’ve always liked wine. I’m going to study wine,” and decided to take some classes. This was in early 2000, and I studied with Wine and Spirit Education Trust out of London. I took classes with them and basically started working at a wine shop on nights and weekends to keep up with my knowledge as you’re learning so much in 16 weeks of an intensive course.
That lead to an interesting opportunity where I got to work as a sommelier at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. I had this amazing opportunity and was there for about a year, and I worked nights and weekends, mostly weekends. I was an assistant sommelier – I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was a sommelier. From there, I got an opportunity to go out to Sonoma and be a cellar rat for a vintage in 2005. Largely what I was doing was trying a bunch of different jobs and seeing what I liked. I really got bit by the bug of wine making. I always loved the sommelier job; I loved the food and wine pairing aspect of it. With my wife studying cheese and working at Murray’s Cheese, it opened my eyes to the idea of pairing and complementing food and wine together and I really fell in love with that. But, working in the restaurant world, it’s a pretty tough life and so when I went out to Sonoma I really fell in love with wine production and thought it would be an interesting mix. At that time, we were still living in New York and soon after that we decided that we’d move out to Portland, Oregon.
We kind of chose Portland because of its proximity to wine and being up and coming city getting a lot of press in the food scene. We got in and bought a house in September and I had already arranged from a grower to buy a half a ton – the amount of grapes I could fit in the back of a pickup truck – and in 2009 made one barrel with a little topping up wine of Pinot Noir. So I had my first wine and that ended up being friends and family wine. I played around with it in 2010 and made two barrels that year and realized in Oregon you could convert your garage and make it a winery so I did that. The first vintage of Clay Pigeon was in the garage, and we did that for one year before moving into a different space.
Why did you decide to be an urban winery instead of in the valley?
We moved to Oregon and moved to Portland, got to town and were renting and trying to figure out where to live, and I’ll be honest — I really thought I was going to move down to the valley. I thought, we’ll move down to the edge a little bit, because I still had a day job and I needed the airport; I was flying a lot to LA and everywhere. It was a little of a pull of, “Well, I don’t want to be too far away” but I think we got nervous about moving to such a new place, and especially living in a city like New York City, there’s so many things and so much activity we got a little gun-shy about fully moving down into the valley, even though there were certain areas that I really dug and thought would be cool to live in.
So, we stayed in the city, and I think part of it as we we’re getting to know the city I realized that there’s a pretty interesting urban wine scene happening in this town, and that was happening when urban winemaking was very new to Portland. I thought, “Oh, this could be interesting, and kind of the best of both worlds.” I think like probably most who move here, that, “Oh, I guess I’ll move to the valley” and then you go, “Wait! Maybe I don’t have to.”
To hear more about Clay Pigeon be sure to check out our Social Media pages and you can find a link to them on our website.
News or Events from other PDX Urban Wineries
Effective Friday August 13th Masks are required indoors at all Restaurants, Bars and Wineries in Multnomah County. Our member wineries appreciate your cooperation with masking up for safety.
Corks & Cones August 14th & 15th @Hip Chicks do Wine
Join us for a fun Summertime event pairing wines with wine-based ice cream! Our tasting flight will consist of 5 wines + 1 Sangria. Three of those wines will be paired with a sample of a wine-based ice cream.
Reservations are required as there is a limited amount of ice cream. Additional wines and a small plate menu are available for purchase.
RAM Cellars Summer Shindig & TLDEF Fundraiser
Sunday August 22nd 5pm – 8pm
RAM Cellars will be pouring a special lineup curated by Viv for your tasting pleasure that includes 4 of our current VIV label wines as well as 4 RAM cellars label wines.
We’ll have those 8 wines open, charcuterie, cheese and other complementary small bite foods to pair with the wines (vegan options available), music from several of our talented friends, and an evening of good times raising $10 per tasting fee for our VIV label partner organization the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) in support of their Name Change Project. Advance Ticket purchase is required. Get your tickets here.