VinoDuo: Travel and Tasting Notes From a Couple of Wine Lovers A Couple of Wine Lovers

The Urban Wineries of Dogpatch

To readers of a certain age, say over 50, “Dogpatch” was the place Li’l Abner and his hillbilly comic strip pals lazed their life away. For VinoDuo, Dogpatch is now the little-known San Francisco neighborhood that boasts artisan coffee, gritty shipyard remnants, funky shops, and fabulous restaurants. Dubbed a “perennial up-and-coming neighborhood” by one San Francisco guide, Dogpatch has seen good times and bad and today is flourishing with the influx of artists, artisans, and the people who trail them.   


Now, VinoDuo likes great restaurants and killer coffee as much as the next yuppie couple. In fact, we had a lovely lunch at Dogpatch Café and devoured the outstanding flatbread-style pizza at PiccinoCaféBut what drove us to visit was Dogpatch WineWorks, a boutique winemaker’s collective and tasting room. Urban winemaking has caught our fancy of late (see Portland Wine Region article) and this no-frills winery—housed in a former warehouse—was smack dab in the middle of a resurgent Dogpatch.



Dogpatch WineWorks hosts several small commercial producers in a “custom crush” arrangement, where artisan winemakers source their own grapes and bring the fruit to WineWorks for production. During our visit to the tasting room, we were fortunate to sample the wine of two of Dogpatch’s premier winemakers: Seamus Wines and Jazz Cellars.


Seamus is a family-owned business, with a twist. Father and son winemakers live in Georgia, but they produce 900 cases of California wine in Dogpatch.  Jazz Cellars was founded in 2005 by two friends who shared a love of good wine and great music. Jazz’s small-batch producers focus on Rhone-style wines, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. In tandem, Seamus and Jazz Cellars presented Lisa and Gary with a literal Vino Duo wine tasting experience.

Dogpatch WineWorks Tasting Notes

We rate all of the following wines a "Buy."  Problem is, good luck finding a bottle to buy. Either get thee to Dogpatch in haste or go online to the wineries' web sites and see if you can purchase and ship online.



PRICING (approximate)

Seamus Olde School Cabernet 2009 (Sonoma)

Toasty oak nose with some cedar and cigar box. This is a big wine with good tannic structure, super concentrated black current fruit. Winemaker Jim Foley is a true craftsman. While drinkable at this point, the wine would benefit from additional cellaring. 

$60 via Seamus web site

Jazz Cellars Las Madres 2007 Syrah

Amazingly fragrant nose and deep black and cherry fruit flavors. Short finish, but delicious.

$35 via Jazz Cellars web site (

Jazz Shake Ridge Ranch Vineyard, Amador County Zinfandel  2009

A juicy Zinfandel featuring hints of raspberry, cherry and blackberry over a silky smooth tannin backbone.

$34 via Jazz Cellars web site

Jazz Petite Syrah Eaglepoint Ranch 2007

Purchased without tasting. Tasting notes at home…. This is a big, inky-dark petite Syrah with classic black fruit and spice flavoring. One of the better Petite Syrahs’s that VinoDuo has tasted. 

$33 via Jazz Cellars web site

Heading to Boston Wine Expo 2014

Neither rain nor snow nor slush will keep VinoDuo away from our home-grown wine fest, Boston Wine Expo 2014.  We'll take good notes and report back with new finds and old favorites.

Portland Wine Region Part II

After a deliriously happy visit to the Southeast Wine Collective, we slowly ambled down the road a bit to ENSO Winery,  self-described "urban winery + tasting lounge. ENSO is a small batch wine producer, the fruits of a single winemaker's labor—Ryan Sharp. The wide-open space is self-consciously hip with rough-hewn woods, industrial-style lighting, chalkboard menu, and a mottled cement floor. A fun setting for a not-so-serious tasting of ENSO wines.


We each ordered a flight of five wines—Lisa the white, Gary the reds. Big picture, we found most of the wine pleasant, one was exceptional, and two were not to our liking.

These are the ENSO wines we most enjoyed:

Resonate White  $14/bottle  Resonate is ENSO's lower-priced label, designed for everyday drinking.A blend of Sauvignon Blanc from Oregon and Muller-Thurgau from Oregon, the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Lisa noted a "bright, honeysuckle nose and a snappy grapefruit on the palate."

Counoise 2011  $30/bottle   Counoise is minimally planted in the Pacific Northwest and is traditionally used as a blending grape. ENSO's offering is 100% Counoise, aged in neutral oak.  Gary found the wine "very earthy, from the nose to the palate, with strawberry notes throughout. And the taste? "Like strawberry rhubarb pie with alcohol and humus." Lisa had to ask, "Is that a good thing or bad review?"  If you are big on "terroir" in your wine, you'll enjoy Counoise

Petite Sirah 2011  $32/bottle  This was the true standout of the ENSO portfolio. Deep and dark berries but smooth as silk. Big taste but not too big. Not too much alcohol, nicely balanced. Gary raved about the wine and thought it would be the ideal companion to a rib eye steak.

ENSO's tasting lounge serves all in-house wines plus a nice selection of other local winemakers, including Vincent, Seven Bridges, and Helioterra. Most wines are well priced at $10 per glass. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in, take a seat at the bar, and soak up Portland's Southeast vibe.  A glass of local wine and a cheese plate will make for a most enjoyable afternoon.

Carbo Loading for the Trip Home
Lest you get the impression that all we did in Portland is drink wine, we end this post with an ode to Voodoo Doughnuts. Yes it's a tourist mecca. Yes, we waited in line at 11pm, serenaded all the while by a first-rate street band. And we'd do it again tomorrow.


Gary, who can fall asleep after a triple espresso gorged on the Diablos Rex, a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting, red sprinkles, a vanilla pentagram, and a chocolate chip middle. Lisa ordered the more refined Lemon Chiffon Crueller, which she devoured in 3 bites. All Voodoo doughnuts are hand made. The flavors are bright and clear, the dough fluffy, the fillings not too sweet. The perfect doughnut and a great way to end a memorable trip to Portland.  We'll be back!

The Portland (not Willamette) Wine Region, Part I

When we told our friends we were heading to Portland, Oregon they naturally rushed to give us tips on where to go in Willamette Valley, the fast-growing, Pinot-driven wine region just outside Portland. But no. We were going to the Portland wine region.  That is, the urban wineries clustered around the Southeast quadrant, where country grapes meet city winemakers. VinoDuo spent four perfect days in the city, exploring neighborhoods and wineries by day and munching donuts, bbq  and sushi by night.

We've explored urban wine regions before, most memorably Woodinville, Washington just outside of Seattle (read our Woodinville post)  No vineyards. No quaint inns. But plenty of small wineries crammed into a light industrial setting.  We loved it.  Willamette Valley would have to wait as we checked out the hipster neighborhoods of up-and-coming Southeast Portland.

But before setting foot in a winery we stumbled on a wine bar in the more civilized Northwest section near our hotel. Remedy Wine Bar was newly opened when we stopped in for a sip and a snack. 


Offering 18 wines by the glass and a pork-laden menu of small plates, Remedy was an interesting introduction to Portland's wine-crazy culture. Just one of the wines was from Oregon, a nod to  tourists on a Pinot Noir hunt. Most of the offerings were French and Italian, with a smattering of New World reds.  Lisa ordered the Emmanuel Couet Coteaux du Giennois 2011 from the Upper Loire Valley. This crisp Sauvignon Blanc was a deep gold color, closer to a Chardonnay than the SB from New Zealand, which is Lisa's go-to white. The wine was dry but juicy, with some citrus aromas and a smooth finish. Minus the limestone and "mowed lawn" notes of a New Zealand SB Lisa quickly embraced the French-style Sauvignon Blanc, happy to flesh out her repertoire of dry white wines. 

Gary ordered the Porello Barbera D'Alba 2011 from Italy's northwestern Piedmont region. One of Gary's favorite varietals, Barbera  is a tangy, cherry-like grape (the 3rd most planted in Italy) that thrives in the chalky, limestone-rich soil of the Alba area. Gary's notes on the Porello use words like "seared cherry licorice nose" and "full fruit with bold tannins." Clearly neither the wine (nor Gary) is a shrinking violet. While enjoyable on a lazy afternoon in the summer of 2011, the Porello will benefit from a couple of years in the cellar.

Southeast Portland
Day 2 and we're ready to explore the urban wine scene. If the Northwest is "old Portland," as in tourist destinations, museums, and chain restaurants, Southeast is "new Portland." Or new old Portland.  The neighborhoods across the river were up, then down, and now gentrified to the nth degree. We think, in fact the word "hipster" was actually invented here, judging from the preponderance of scruffy beards, watch caps, skinny ties et. al. But we don't hold it against Southeast—the area is vibrant, fun, funky and chock-a-block with great restaurants, wineries, and wine bars.

Before moving on to the wine we tasted at the urban wineries, let us pause for a shout-out to the best ice cream and sorbet anywhere: Salt & Straw. Home grown in every sense of the word, S&S sources berries from local farmers and cheese from Portland Creamery to make Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero — like nothing you've ever tasted. Portland's own Stumptown coffee infuses the Coffee & Bourbon ice cream. Just this shy of precious but worth a pilgrimage from anywhere. Or just go online and order a gift pack. Ice cream arrives in 1-2 days, packed in dry ice and ready to be devoured.

Southeast Wine Collective
We picked a good day to check out the Southeast Wine Collective, a wine incubator of sorts with four wineries under one roof. Or make that five wineries; our tastemaster for the day was Corey Schuster, winemaker for Jackalope Wine Cellars, whose first vintage was sitting in barrels waiting to be born. We persuaded Corey to do a  barrel tasting of his Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. More on these to come.


Tasting Notes for the Southeast Wine Collective
*Buy recommendations starred in red