Matt Berson processes fruit during the 2019 harvest at the new Portland Wine Company in Southeast Portland. ##Photo provided
A contractor paints the modern-looking logo on Portland Wine Company’s newly revitalized building in Southeast Portland. ##Photo provided

Going Urban

Love & Squalor celebrates new Rose City space

By Mark Stock

Just in time for this year’s harvest, Portland Wine Co. has settled into their new world headquarters in the southeast part of the city. The space, a 5,000-square-foot former showroom and warehouse, now houses the winemaking and tasting room for Love & Squalor Wines. It officially opened to the public on Oct. 24, amid fermenting fruit and another fantastic Oregon vintage. 

Couple Matt Berson and Angie Reat bought the place after several years of sniffing around their hometown of Portland; Berson previously made their wine at Goodfellow Family Cellars in McMinnville’s Granary District. Before launching their label in 2006, Berson worked crush pads all over the planet, from Germany to New Zealand to Argentina. He considers late greats Patricia Green and Jimi Brooks to be his first major mentors.

Prior to Love & Squalor, the tasting room and barrel cellar areas of the newly renovated structure served as a local grocer dating to the 1920s. The adjoining production space was built a few decades later, most recently in operation as a fire extinguisher service company. As Portland Wine Co., it will serve as a gathering place for folks in the surrounding, bustling neighborhoods like South Tabor, Foster-Powell and Richmond. Plus, it’s only a short drive the airport and downtown, making it an easy stop for Oregon’s growing tourist traffic.

Portland Wine Company owners Angela Reat and Matt Berson.##Photo provided

For Berson and Reat, the move made sense on a lot of levels, including being able to show the inner workings of their craft to an eager Portland audience. As the city’s dynamic wine scene has demonstrated, urbanites — not always up for the hour’s drive to the belly of wine country — enjoy being able to witness winemaking in action.

But, most importantly, he’s much closer to those he cares about most.

“I really wanted to bring my girls out of the office and into the cellar, to mix it up a bit,” Berson says. “Now, with all the winery operations and tasting room under one roof, there is plenty to keep the whole family busy and still have dinner together at our kitchen table.

“Also, we are only a few blocks from our daughter’s school, so I hope to be able to train her after class lets out to take over the winemaking someday,” he says with a wink. Roxy, just 9 years old, represents the second generation of the family business — of course, time will tell what their daughter will choose.

Love & Squalor is perhaps best known for its stunning family of Rieslings. It’s also responsible for varietals such as Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Gamay Noir, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. The label pulls from storied vineyards throughout the Valley and beyond, some of which are well-established sites first planted in the 1970s. The name is a nod to iconic author J.D. Salinger, while partner, Reat, a graphic designer by trade, is responsible for all of the branding, including labels.

The new space also provides a place for experimentation and side wine projects, like Marty, Berson’s red blend of Southern Oregon fruit, and Mothershucker, a Willamette Valley white table delight. In addition, the winery hosts two outside brands: Jackalope Cellars and Landmass Wines.

In some ways, the Portland winemaking community is like that of wine country back in the early years. There are relatively few players and, come crush, a tangible sense of camaraderie. “We love our community in the city,” Berson adds. “Just a great ragtag bunch of wine pirates. The urban wineries kind of have to make do and help each other along this far away from the vineyards and supply stores. We are joining up to fly the flag of local wine and bring it to the thirsty.”

The 750-square-foot tasting room features an enticing mix of lounge-friendly furnishings and a living-room sort of feel. Presently, there are 15 glass pour options available, ranging from sparkling Chenin Blanc to Pinot to Gamay Noir. There are simple and satisfying food options, too, such as tinned fish, popcorn and stuffed vegetables. A modest corkage fee of $10 is tied to any sub-$50 bottle purchase. The wines sport added appeal in that, for the most part, they represent great bargains.

Aesthetically, the space is easy on the eyes, a mix of soothing blues and browns. Wood-framed windows welcome in plenty of natural light from their street-corner location, and barrel stacks throughout remind guests that winemaking is an essential part of the venue.

As for their first harvest in the new spot, Berson suggests it’s going swimmingly. Space is a little tighter and awareness of nearby city neighbors can be a challenge, but, by and large, crush remains much the same. If anything, the biggest change of pace is being handed to them by the nature of the vintage itself: Berson says an intense stretch of heat, trailed by significant precipitation, rendered the fruit a bit more on the delicate side.

“That said, my vine-tenders pulled some really nice fruit off their plants,” he adds. “We sorted thoroughly, and the ferments are happy and smell delicious.” Berson thinks the 2019s will offer a reset of sorts from the vintages of recent history. “But the wines will achieve classic status, I believe,” he says.

Portland Wine Company will offer celebratory case discounts for its first six operating months. The family-friendly operation is open Thursday–Monday.

The space promises to be a boon for Love & Squalor’s growing wine club, “Friends with Benefits,” and the city’s growing wine scene, which now boasts Love & Squalor’s tremendous catalogue of Rieslings and another dedicated family business.





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