Enso Winery Review
Address: 1416 SE Stark Street Portland,Oregon 97214.
Phone Number: 503-683-3676
Tasting Hours: Mon-Thurs 4:00-10:00, Fri 4:00-11:00, Sat 1:00-11:00, Sun 1:00-10:00
Region: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Review Date: 3/18/2012
Reviewer: Rob Boss
Urban wineries are a relatively new concept that is about to reach its tipping point. While at first glance incongruous–the image of the chateau producing wine taken from surrounding bucolic slopes is the image most people have when they think “wine”–the truth is, the grapes themselves are very picky about where they’re grown but not where they’re crushed. In fact, all over the world, freshly plucked fruit is transported hundreds of miles at a time to wine-making facilities. So why not take them into the city?
Add to this, the French term “garagiste,” of garage wine maker and you’ve got Enso’s humble roots. Winemakers Ryan Sharp and Chris Wishart (admirably) did not open the doors on a whim, wing or a prayer, but instead made wine for three years in a garage. While joking about their driveway/crushpad they strengthened their winemaking skills and focused their vision. Simply put, their wines are very, very good–with more on that in a moment. Although they knew they’re objective was a full scale winery, Wishart hit on the idea of a brewpub model. The end result is a neighborhood wine bar, and a charming one at that.
Entering Enso’s door is not unlike entering the original garage surroundings–or any other club built in urban warehouse space. In this case, the building is mid-20th century Portland brick. Comfortable chairs (none of which match), benches (former church pews) and tables warm the concrete floors, and simple, rough wood countertop offers a rusticity that brings many a wine country tasting room into the city. The room continues back into an barrel area that looks like, well, a garage. The clientele are often from the neighborhood and this is their hang out, with Chris or Ryan behind the bar pouring glasses of wine or beer (Enso keeps two beers on tap for customers, as well as the winemakers themselves who require it for wine production. Ahem.) $5 buys a four-wine flight of the Enso brand: Resonate is a cuvee of white or red, along with Malbec and Zinfandel ( fifth, Mourvedre, is sold out). An additional $5 adds four guest wines from local colleagues. Several Portland winemakers have garnered 90+ points in Wine Spectator–these are not lightweights to make the Enso boys look good.
No, that’s not the case at all. Enso’s Resonate White, an Alsatian style blend of Riesling and Pinot Blanc, exhibits a nose of honeysuckle, with Granny Smith apples and honey on the palate. There’s little more than that but there’s elegance in the simplicity. It’s a plain but pretty wine.
Resonate Red is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend reminiscent of the very best California Meritage. There’s a big licorice flavor with espresso, cocoa and dark fruit flavors. The wine minds its manners with a velvety mouth feel and medium-long, satisfying finish.
Either of these wines is worth the $5 tasting fee, but things escalated from here. The 2010 Malbec showed crushed fruit and pine in the nose, but the dark plum and cherry flavors, figs and stewed fruit were a palate to die for, with a hint of pepper in the finish. A brooding, thoughtful wine.
Finally, the showstopper was the Enso 2010 Zinfandel. Their was jam, dried and candied fruit in the nose–a raisiny nose like a good Amador County Zin. The palate offered blackberry, raspberry and black cherry jam flavors. Alcohol is a staggering 17% but the wine is so well balanced that it’s almost unnoticeable (until you stand up from the table).
As if they hadn’t proven themselves already, Sharp and Wishart can use their Zinfandel as a calling card. This wine wasn’t an accident–these guys are the real thing. Enso is a good winery, and a real gem in the heart of Portland, Oregon.