Let’s face it, when the sun finally comes out to play in the Pacific Northwest, who doesn’t love a good rooftop spot? Lolo Pass, an 87-room hotel/hostel hybrid located on the vibrant eastside of Portland, Oregon, is not only a comfortable place to stay, but is a beautiful place for locals and visitors to eat and drink the best of the Pacific Northwest atop a gorgeous rooftop location.

Named for a hiking trail near Mount Hood, Lolo Pass features great accommodations, a curated art gallery, a café and full-service restaurant in their seasonal rooftop bar. We spoke with Lauren Gonzalez, one the ho(s)tel’s principals who curated the wine list at Lolo Pass, to find out what goes into planning a great wine list.

Lauren Gonzalez

Sip: What was your vision for the wine list at Lolo Pass and how do you select those wines? 

Lauren Gonzalez: I want our guests to be able to experience what the Pacific Northwest wine world has to offer. While they may not all be interested in or able to head out to wine country for a full day of tasting, most of our guests have heard about the great wines from here and want a taste. Similarly to how we believe hotel guests shouldn’t have to sacrifice the quality of their stay for their budget, I believe the same thing about wine. I wanted to put together a wine list that was accessible from a price standpoint, highlighting great producers and a mix of traditional and more unique wines from our region. We have a heavy focus on Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Willamette Valley, but also some producers from the Columbia Gorge, Umpqua Valley, Walla Walla, etc; it’s fun to surprise people with a hostel bar that has a great wine list. I hope that people get to know us as a place to try really great wine at reasonable markups. A lot are from my favorite producers that I’ve gotten to know over the years and want to support and share with everyone who visits. Two in particular are Goodfellow and Arterberry Maresh. We don’t have the traditional markups that most bars and restaurants do because I want everyone to have a chance to taste these wines. So we’re not just looking for “cheap glass pours” or bottles we can mark up three times, we’re looking for good value wines that showcase the best our region has to offer.

Sip: How often do you change the wine list and what wines do you hope to add?

LG: Because most of the wines we serve are from relatively small producers, we change the list pretty frequently as their offerings change with availability. Certain wines are only released in small quantities, so we often have to change things up once we sell out of those wines. Our bottle list has been pretty steady, but we keep adding to it as we discover more and more gems. We don’t have any Walter Scott wines on our list currently, but they are one of my favorite producers. Unfortunately they didn’t make much wine in 2020, so they don’t have a lot available to buy. They’ve really raised the bar for Willamette Valley Chardonnays.

Sip: What is your favorite wine and food pairing on your menu?

LG: I love Kelley Fox’s Nerthus — a skin-contact Pinot Gris, Muscat, Riesling blend — with our watermelon gazpacho. The peach/apricot notes and acidity in the wine pair really nicely with the watermelon’s sweetness.

Sip: What wine on your list has surprised you the most? 

LG: Division Winemaking’s La Frontiere Sauvignon Blanc. We don’t see a lot of Sauvignon Blanc produced in Oregon, and especially not with such good balance and complexity. It holds its own against great wines of the Loire Valley in France.