With more and more luxury hotels dotting the Portland landscape, their influence on the city’s food and wine scene can be seen with the surge of trendy new eating and drinking hotspots that have been opening — take Hey Love in the Jupiter NEXT and Abigail Hall in the Woodlark Hotel, for example. Though Hotel Eastlund is far from a new player, with David Machado’s popular rooftop destination Altabira, the Lloyd District hotel has taken its vision to new heights with the chic, yet down-to-earth, street-level bottle shop and wine bar, Pullman Wine Bar & Merchant.
Inspired by a French bistro that Machado and wine consultant David Holstrom experienced in Paris, the team has created a warm and welcoming space in Pullman, fusing a tasting room experience with modern European touches, while providing an opportunity for both visitors and locals to purchase, taste and enjoy wines and a variety of foods that go with them.
1) In simplest terms, can you describe your wine program?
We have approximately 150 selections available at any one time, but that number will grow as Pullman grows. It’s also a place where people can come to meet winemakers when they are in town and attend tastings, dinners and classes. And we make our double-vaulted, European-style, stone-clad, private-dining wine cave available for small dinner parties and private tastings.
The idea was to create a bottle shop with a small and very carefully chosen selection of wines from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. The wine selections are more along the lines of what someone might find in a restaurant rather than what is normally offered to retail shops and outlets. In addition to Pullman’s main selections, we offer an additional selection of wines with very limited or exclusive availability.
2) What was your vision for Pullman Wine Bar and Merchant?
We want Pullman to be user-friendly and non-intimidating. These are elements that draw quite a bit of lip service in the wine industry. We know people’s palates frequently change over time, so we wanted to give people the opportunity to sample a wide range of styles of wine, all in a beautiful, relaxed, comfortable, and non-judgmental environment.
It’s the nonjudgmental part of the equation that seems to be the most difficult for those of us in the wine business to attain. And while there are clearly objective levels of quality in wine and with producers, we want people to learn to trust their own palates and tastes. All the educational certificates, masters of this or masters of that, wine points and scores, critics and judges ultimately don’t mean a thing when it comes to one’s own taste. We want to be there to help guide people through a broad range of wines and help them recognize and become aware of something that is not intuitively easy to do, to learn exactly what types of wine they do or do not enjoy.
3) How many of your wines are from the Pacific Northwest?
Approximately half of our inventory is from Oregon and Washington, with some highly allocated wines typically reserved for winery club members. We currently offer three curated flights and can add up to 20 other glass pours to our wine system. We offer what is interesting to us and our clients and make these available in two-, four- or six-ounce glass pours. Due to our long standing relationships with select importers, wineries and suppliers, Pullman is able to offer an additional selection of wines with very limited or exclusive availability.
4) What differentiates Pullman in a sea of drinking establishments?
Visitors can taste nearly any wine in the shop in a sophisticated yet extremely comfortable space, with a helpful and knowledgeable staff. With our wine preservation system, we can have over a dozen wines available to taste at a given time. We keep several additional spots on the system open so guests can choose a bottle from the shelves and can taste nearly every wine we have available in the shop.
Ultimately, we want Pullman to be a place that downplays the constant wine biz drumbeat for the newest, the trendiest, the most eclectic, smallest production, biggest scores, biggest selling, youngest this, oldest that… In other words, we want, as much as possible, to avoid all those things that take the joy out of wine, that take the heart and soul out of what is in the bottle. We want wines that have “deliciousness,” that make you want a second glass or a second bottle, or that encourage you to explore wine further.