In 1983 Stuart Herold had the dream of opening his own wine bar. In 2002, nineteen years later, that dream became a reality in Wine Down on 28th near the cross streets of NE 28th and Burnside in Portland, OR. Over the last seven years Stu (as I, and most of his regular customers, refer to him) has built a successful business with a very loyal customer base. And at the end of this year, Stu may have to shut the doors to Wine Down for good.
My husband and I first discovered Wine Down just after we moved to Portland, in the winter of 2006, in search of local wine bars that not only have a good menu, but good people as well. Places we could go to any day of the week and know we were going to have a positive experience. We now have a small, yet strong, handful of local places we consider our favorites, each for its own reason, and Wine Down has become one of them.
Wine Down has very comfortable ambiance with dark lighting, spacious indoor seating, patio seating (for the warm summer months), a comfortable fireplace (for those cold winter months), and live music Thurs-Sat. But you will most often find my husband and I seated at the bar during happy hour. A happy hour that keeps us coming back time after time.
The happy hour menu is small but appropriate, offering $4 wines by the glass and $2.50 microbrews. But it is the food that we most look forward to, with the star $5 Laurelhurst Burger (a burger even I, the recovering vegetarian, will happily sink my teeth into), along with the crispy sweet potato fries. Other happy hour favorites include Roasted Garlic & Bleu Cheese with Pita Bread $4 (garlicky deliciousness!), Quinoa Cakes with Pepper & Tomatoes $4, and the juicy yet crispy Crab Cakes with Spring Mix & Citrus Mint Sauce $6. They also have a full dinner menu as well but you'll want to head over and check it out for yourself.
The goal of Wine Down is not to have the most extensive wine list in the city, but instead have a diverse, and always rotating, selection at affordable prices with an average of about 40 wines to choose from (almost all sell under $50/bottle). Along with a comfortably sized wine list to please your average guest, Stu also hails one of the largest Port by the glass lists in the country! If you’re a Port lover and you haven’t checked out Wine Down’s selections shame on you!
One of the highlights of this place is his “winning wall” of wines, as he calls it. Stu has collected over 300 old and rare wines that he has displayed on his wall. When I am there, waiting for my food, I love to just walk around and see any new gems he has collected.
About a month ago I found out that Wine Down was being forced out by its landlord and that Stu was desperately seeking out new venues for his popular establishment. It broke my heart to know that one of the first wine bars we started visiting in Portland could close down, just like that. Stu recently informed me that he found a new venue for Wine Down but needs to raise more money before sealing the deal. One of his fundraising ventures is selling off his wall of wines, all 300 of them, if that’s what it takes. He’s even offering 20% discounts on these wines. Most of these are older wines, not available in retail anymore, which makes them a good deal.
A few of the wines on the wall include:
- 1973 Chateau Mouton Rothschild
- 1996 Chateau Hanteillan Haut Medoc
- 1990 Vini di Rufina Riserva del Signor Grato, Chianti Rufina
- 2004 Clos Salomon Givry 1er Cru Clos Salomon
- 2005 Domaine du Banneret Chateauneuf du Pape
- 2001 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto
- 2001 Freemark Abbey Bosche Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2006 St. Innocent Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir
- 2005 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir (one of my favorite Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, hands down!)
- A variety of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs ranging from 2000-2005’s
- A small collection of 2000 Brunellos
- And many more… (These were just a small few I jotted down the last time I was there)
We have some real gems in Portland for wine bars, and the ones I am drawn to are the ones where the owners converse with their patrons and take pride in how they share their point of view of their wine and food. Some have Wine Spectator award winning wine lists (Vino Paradiso), some have an impressive selection of Chateauneuf du Papes (Hollywood Wine Bar and Espresso), others like Stu, offer good food and wine for everyday prices.
With the exception of a few visits to Wine Down, Stu is always visible, walking around the restaurant, genuinely welcoming his guests and conversing with regulars (and by genuinely I mean he truly appreciates both new and returning customers). Most importantly Stu and his staff make you feel like family when you’re there. It’s a place you can rely on. The kind of place I would be sad to see go.
If you have never been to Wine Down, this month may be your last chance. If you have been there before, and you have time in the next month, visit and support them in hopes they raise the necessary funds to open up their new project. I’m told he hopes to relocate to another favorite neighborhood of mine, NE Alberta Street. I wish the best of luck to Stu and his team at Wine Down on 28th.
Happy Hour (the time you’ll most likely find me there with a glass of bubbles and sweet potato fries)
Sun – Fri 4:30pm-6:30pm, Fri & Sat 10pm – Midnight
Sun – Thur 4:30pm – 10pm
Fri – Sat 4:30pm – Midnight
Sun – Thur 4:30pm -11ish
Fri – Sat 4:30pm – 1ish
So that being said, go out and Support Your Local Wine Bar!
*I was not paid a thing for writing this post nor was I even asked to. I just truly believe in supporting people who deserve it, especially locally owned businesses. I frequent many wine bars and restaurants in Portland and believe me, you’ll see many of them on this blog (eventually). I just felt an urgency in writing about this particular one as Stu is down to his last month at a restaurant he worked so hard to create.
**Photos used with permission from Wine Down's Facebook Fan Page