Kate Bolling ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Q&A: Kate Bolling

Owner, Oregon Wines on Broadway

After moving to Portland in 1999, Kate Bolling landed a job at Oregon Wines on Broadway in Downtown Portland; in 2011, Bolling purchased the store from winemaker Mark Vlossak. Oregon Wines on Broadway features flights, small plates, bottles to go, wine shipping and a customizable wine club. Find more information at 

How did you get started in the wine industry?

KB: My start in the wine business was literally a fluke. I had just moved to Portland and, at that time, still looked at the newspaper for job positions. Oregon Wines on Broadway was hiring, and I applied. At the time, my wine knowledge was basically: I like this one and/or I don’t like that one. During the interview, I was asked about my palate, and all I could think about was colors. I was going, “Why is she asking me this?” I had my second interview with Ken Pahlow, who was at St. Innocent at the time and working harvest. He basically hadn’t slept in days and basically said, “You seem fine to me.” I’m not even sure why I’m here.

What’s your first “ah-ha” wine memory?

KB: My first “ah-ha” wine memory was eating lobster and drinking Leflaive 1er Cru Puligny Montrachet with a friend whose father had a really nice cellar. I couldn’t believe how good the wine was; I just kept saying, “This is the best wine I’ve ever had in my life.” Her dad said, “Well, it should be.”

What is the latest wine that changed your perception?

KB: I think the Cameron Nebbiolo nails it and really shows that Nebbiolo might be a varietal for the Willamette. Of course, John Paul is longtime friends with Aldo Vacca of Produttori and got a lot of info from his friend on the production and lengthy time in barrel.

I understand you love Champagne. What are your thoughts on Oregon sparkling and its newcomers?

KB: Like many varietals and styles of wine, it is sometimes hard for me to appreciate bubbles from places that have been making them for one year or even several years, when I have access to so many wines from Champagne where the families have been dedicated to producing champagne for generations. Sadly, bubbles are expensive to produce, and I just don’t think Oregon matches the quality of Champagne at the same price. That said, Anna-Lemma, Le Cadeau and Soter all make sparkling that I believe you could put in a blind tasting and fool an expert.

If you could make a singular Oregon wine, what would it be, where would you source the grapes and in what style would you make it? (Bonus points: What would you name it?)

KB: If I were to make a wine in this region, Pinot Noir would be the obvious choice. Abbey Ridge is, in my opinion, one of the best vineyards in the Valley, so I guess I’d choose that site. I’m not very creative when it comes to naming things so probably rely on the reputation of the vineyard and just call it Abbey Ridge Pinot Noir. Both Jay Somers and John Paul have blown my mind with their offerings from this site.

How has the pandemic affected your business?

KB: The pandemic has totally changed my business. We used to be wine bar with bottles to go. Now, we are basically a wine-to-go shop offering our Champagne flight on Fridays with outside tables. We’re not able to offer the extensive tasting that we used to. Honestly with COVID and the protests/destruction, downtown is sadly very quiet. Office buildings are relatively empty and, obviously, so are the hotels. I’m eternally grateful for the local group of regulars who have changed their purchasing and have been ordering wine to pick up or have delivered. It’s the only way my business will survive this.

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