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Ed Fus, Laureen O’Brien, Pam Walden and Joe Williams toast Urban Crush, the newly opened shared winemaking space in Southeast Portland.##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser
The converted building formerly contained House Distillery.##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Crushing It in Portland

Winemaking facility/tasting room set to shine in Southeast

By Jade Helm

Portland’s wine community continues to expand with the opening of Urban Crush in Southeast Portland’s Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood.

“We have wanted to be part of the energy of this neighborhood for quite some time,” explains Laureen O’Brien, co-owner with her husband, winemaker Ed Fus.

She considers Urban Crush a place for “adults at play.” This could apply to guests relaxing after work or the resident winemakers enjoying the work they love.

Fus and O’Brien established their brand, Angel Vine, in 2007.  Eight years later, they finally have their own facility close to home and home to two custom crush winemakers: Joe Williams of D’Anu Wines and Pam Walden of Willful Wine Co. 

Angel Vine wines encompasses a variety — Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir — but it’s the couple’s Zinfandel that commands center stage.

“Zinfandel is what tickles my fancy,” says O’Brien.

When Fus settled on planting Pinot in their Willamette Valley vineyard instead of not-so-suitable Zinfandel, they looked to Washington to source fruit.

Choosing the road less traveled is seldom a straight path.

“I learned how to make wine from Pinot Noir producers. So, I’m a Zin winemaker who makes wine like a Pinot Noir winemaker,” explains Fus. The couple loves their “unpretentious Zinfandels that can be cracked open on a Tuesday night.”

Williams brings a wealth of cellar experience from experience at Panther Creek and Carlton Cellars.

“He is one former cellar rat that can run circles around everyone else,” Fus says.

D’Anu wines include Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend.

Combing experience in winemaking and tasting room management, Walden contributes to the facility her own variety of wines: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, rosé of Pinot Noir, and a blend of Alsatian whites — Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. In addition, Willful soon will release a Tempranillo.

Walden is looking forward to having a tasting room and wine production in one location.

“For the first time, consumers can sample all of our wines in one place, and there are opportunities for more wine club events, like blending workshops and seminars,” Walden adds.  

Eventually, Cinzia Wines will be made on site. These will include Amarone-style wines from Pinot Noir and blends of Primitivo, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.

“We are excited about sharing space and building Urban Crush with this little working family of winemakers,” O’Brien explains. “We are all pretty mellow,” adds Walden.  She predicts the biggest argument will be which beer to drink during harvest. 

Also on site is Oliver, the white terrier cellar cutie, always ready with a friendly greeting.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the winemakers — and Oliver — as they each take turns pouring in the tasting room. The team hopes to add educational experiences as the business evolves and surprise opportunities such as barrel tastings.

“I have what one might call an immature palate,” explains O’Brien. “But, I have learned what I like — yes, it is Zinfandel. We hope guests will learn more about their personal preferences and enjoy the experience more by tasting with the winemakers.”

The space, bright and beckoning, features cream-colored walls, clean lines and a lightly colored Douglas fir bar to create an inviting setting to enjoy the eclectic mix of wines.

To start, Urban Crush will offer a traditional tasting room experience — albeit with the convenience of an urban location — but with the nooks and crannies in the building, they are envisioning more. Upstairs, overlooking the large winemaking facility and brightened with skylights above, is a tasting lounge waiting to happen.

“We don’t have vineyard views, but we can provide guests winemaking views: the where, how and why of the process,” says O’Brien. 

Once the tasting lounge opens, Urban Crush plans to offer wines by the glass, small plates and bring the vineyard to the city by showing vineyard scenes on a large screen television. Food served will be all local, tapping into artisan bread, cheese, charcuterie and candy makers such as Ancient Heritage Dairy, Olympic Provisions, Meduri World Delights and Twila’s. The couple has also hired the architect, contractor and signage company from the neighborhood.

Urban Crush hopes to become a neighborhood destination: a place to taste and discover wine, an enjoyable hangout while awaiting restaurant reservations, a spot where great date nights begin or a place to spend the entire evening once the lounge opens. 

Urban Crush is located at 2025 S.E. Seventh Ave., formerly House Distillery, with ample convenient parking and space for corporate events. Hours are Thursday–Saturday, noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.urbancrushwine.net.

 

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