#9 Story: Iconic Tasting Room Closes

First Published in theJuly 2009 Edition

By Karl Klooster

The Oregon Wine Tasting Room, the first and longest-operating independent wine bar and retail store in the Yamhill Valley, ended its almost three-decade run June 22, according to owner Myron Redford.

Redford, a Yamhill Valley wine pioneer who co-founded Amity Vineyards in 1974, opened the business in the Lawrence Gallery at Bellevue over the 1980 Memorial Day weekend. He offered wines from throughout the region rather than only those from his own winery—an innovative concept at the time.

His manager, Patrick McElligott, has overseen day-to-day operations since December 1980. Industry insiders consider McElligott’s knowledge of Oregon wines unsurpassed.

When a free-standing building across the street from the Gallery, formerly housing the Farmer’s Market, became available in 2003, Redford seized the opportunity. And McElligott put it to maximum advantage.

After extensive renovation of the 1920s-era building, they moved the renamed Oregon Wine Tasting Room and Bellevue Market into considerably larger space. In addition to featuring wines from every Oregon American Viticultural Area, or AVA, they were now able to offer a large selection of gourmet beer and food items, many of them locally produced.

“When we started out at the Gallery, we had 20 wines from 12 wineries,” McElligott said. “In the new facility, we carried 300 wines from 100 wineries.”

Redford said they initially enjoyed a steady increase in business after the expansion. But he said sales began to stall last year and slide this year.

McElligott blamed massive gas prices for last year’s lack of growth and the economy in general for this year’s downturn.

“We all see that gas prices are shooting up again,” he said.  “People aren’t traveling as much, and they’ve cut back on unnecessary expenditures. When they do buy wine, it’s not higher-end Pinot Noir.”

Being on a major route to the Oregon Coast, tourists have always been a key factor in their business.

“We used to get a lot of good customers from northwestern Washington, as far north as Seattle,” McElligott said. “We don’t see them any more.”

Memorial Day Weekend has traditionally given sales a big boost, but the one just past proved disappointing.

“Traffic volume is down and people going to the coast are worn out from driving, particularly dealing with the big backup at Dundee,” he said. Spirit Mountain attracts a lot of people, but he said, “Not very many of them are wine drinkers.”

The entire inventory was sold off at a 20 percent discount across the board, ending June 22. The building is now for sale. If anyone is interested in operating a wine business, Redford would be happy to talk.

“I was particularly proud of the breadth of wines we offered,” he said. “Something from every part of the state.

“No one else does that. It was unique. I think it will be missed.”

Redford noted the closure has no effect on Amity Vineyards & Winery, which is an entirely separate business. 

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