A few months back I received some wines from a local entrepreneur named Carrie Wynkoop. Carrie founded Cellar 503, a wine tasting room and Wine Cub with a simple but original twist. Carrie’s idea added a new facet to the Wine Club industry. Paul Kalemkiarian, Sr. invented a wine of the month wine club in his Palo Verdes Estates liquor store way back in 1972, long before internet shopping. With the advent of online shopping and the ability to select wines from all over the world, this industry has expanded and grown.
However, there has not been very much innovation regarding what regions and which styles members could imbibe upon while participating in any single club. In the past you were confined to whatever varietals and regions the particular winery produced if it was a winery owned Wine Club or limited world-wide selections from the non-winery owned clubs. Carrie’s idea, Cellar 503 was a totally new twist on the wine club format as we know it, gathering a selection of small-batch eclectic viniferous offerings from all over Oregon.
Oregon has so many great wine regions. Too often, many Oregon wine experiences are limited to only Willamette Valley with our luscious Pinot noirreceiving the lion’s share of notoriety. The exceptional Bordeaux and Rhonevarietals that flourish on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA are not often contemplated when considering wine from Oregon despite being some of the best wine values in the world. One would be remiss, when speaking of Oregon wine, without mentioning the folks who arrived here on the Oregon Trail starting the Oregon wine industry in the 1850’s when they settled down in the Umpqua, Applegate and Rogue Valley AVA’s.
Cellar 503 has developed extensive relationships with winemakers from all of Oregon’s vast wine regions to deliver to her Cellar 503 members; exciting Oregon wine experiences no one else is offering. Embracing the Cellar 503 concept, I thought it was an idea unique enough to share with Oregon Live readers. For the following interview I posed thirteen questions for Carrie Wynkoop to answer about why you too should check out Cellar 503.
Can you tell us a little bit about why Cellar 503 is so unique?
Cellar 503 is unique because there are no clubs out there who are focusing exclusively on Oregon wines from throughout the state. Our focus is on small, boutique wineries (those making less than 10,000 cases a year) as well being as geographically and varietally diverse as we can. In our first two years, we’ve featured 104 wines from 85 wineries in 17 of Oregon’s 18 AVA’s and we’ve shared 37 different varietals from Arneis to Zweigelt!
How did you come up with the idea?
I came up with the idea for Cellar 503 because it was something I was looking for. I love Oregon and I love Oregon wine, but I was tired of being in wine clubs who sent me the same wine year after year. It was always great wine, but I wanted someone to send me wines from small places all over the state so that I could really explore the entire Oregon wine community.
How many wine clubs did you personally belong to before creating Cellar 503?
Gosh, hard to keep track! We had been members of 6 or 8 different wineries here in Oregon. And then when I came up with the idea for Cellar 503 we joined a bunch of the big, national wine clubs to see what the experience was like.
Do you consume any wine that is not Oregonian?
I love all wine! And I love to explore different regions and different varietals. I’m a huge Champagne fan. My husband really loves Spanish Tempranillo’s and we both love Italian wines so we always have a few of those around.
Do you partner with any organic or biodynamic producers?
Yes! Each April, we choose a theme to celebrate Earth Day that focuses on some aspect of environmental responsibility. Our first year we featured wineries that were biodynamic, organic, and LIVE certified. This last year we featured wineries that were dry farmed, and this coming April we’ll be featuring “natural” wines. Our featured wineries have included: Brick House Vineyards, Franchere Wine Company, Illahe Wine, Matello Wines, Keeler Estate, J Christopher, and Dion Vineyards.
When you decide on which small lot, unique varietal, sustainable Oregon wine selections become a shipment offering for the club, does your knowledge and buying power secure members with wines that are not only great values but also exceptional wines?
The wonderful thing about Oregon is the huge variety of wine produced in this state. There are hidden gems throughout the state that are not only affordable, but that are also exceptional. My goal with Cellar 503 is to show people that Oregon wines can be both affordable and approachable and that they come from all areas of the state.
Is it possible to taste the wines prior to joining Cellar 503, if customers come by the tasting room?
Absolutely! Our Sip 503 tasting events are on the third Sunday of each month from 2 to 5 p.m. at our tasting room in SW Portland. They are always open to the public and we invite anyone who wants to check out the club to stop by.
What has been the most expensive shipment you have offered?
All of our shipments are the same price. Our members appreciate knowing exactly what they are going to pay each month. The prices are $45 for two whites, $50 for one white and one red, and $55 for two reds.
Do you make adjustments to your wine shipping schedules due to weather (too cold or too hot) including weather conditions en-route and final destinations?
With all of this crazy winter weather, we have had to make some adjustments to when we send out our shipments. We usually send out between the 10thand 15th of each month, but in January we had to delay a week because of the snow.
How do you handle “making it right” when a club member receives a wine that is either flawed or corrupted?
If a member receives a bottle that they believe was flawed, we will send them a replacement bottle with their next order.
What is the single most enjoyable aspect of Cellar 503 that makes getting up and coming to work worth it for you?
The best part of my job is getting to meet the winemakers and share their stories with our members. These are talented, passionate folks who each have a unique story and our members love to hear them!
On your F.A.Q. page, you list the following statement, “Due to extremely complicated laws regarding shipping alcohol, we can’t ship to every state. But pretty close! And don’t forget – you can always send a gift to someone if we don’t ship to your state.” What does that mean?
Due to the complicated, state-based alcohol laws, we can only ship to those states where it is legal to ship alcohol to. Currently that is 44 states. If people live in a state where it is illegal to ship wine to, we encourage them to think about sending wine to a friend or loved one with a gift membership.
What will be the next wine club innovation that will keep wine enthusiasts coming back?
For Cellar 503, our next exciting project is a festival! We are hosting Pour Oregon, a Cellar 503 Wine Festival, in April as a kick off to Oregon wine month. This event will feature 40 of our winery partners from all over the state and will give attendees a chance to meet with the winemakers and explore the huge variety of wine made in the state.
I was fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of tasting the Cellar 503, September 2016 Back to School: Unusual Varieties selection. I had a bottle of Grenache Blanc. The other white was a blend of Riesling and a rare white grape called Huxelrebe. The reds were a Cabernet Franc and a Petite Verdot. Here are my tasting notes on those four wines for your perusal. Enjoy!
Cabernet Franc wines are such a treat. This grape is grown under one name or another in almost every wine region in the world. It is considered one of the five Nobel grapes of Bordeaux and often blended into wines from that region. Often wine enthusiasts are a good way into their wine journey before they ever try the grape as a stand-alone wine. This wine from Jackalope was soft on the palate with complex dark fruit and spice. Balancing broad shouldered textures and integrated tannins it’s a Cabernet Franc that’s easy to warm up to on a cold night. Chanterelle mushroom risotto or red wine braised lamb shank will pair well with this wine.
Petite Verdot is also one of Bordeaux’s five Nobel grapes. Much like the previous wine too many people have consumed enough wine by the time they taste a single varietal bottling of the Petite Verdot grape they say “Wow, where have you been all my life?” Petite Verdot is one of those libations that will cause you to seek it out for the floral aromatics and peppery spice. When a winemaker blends a little Petite Verdot into Bordeaux blends or a Cabernet Sauvignon it’s like a chef adding seasoning to a dish. On that note highly seasoned dishes that benefit from tannic structure and palate cleansing acidity will work well with this wine so fire up the smoker.
My history with Quady wines goes way back before they pulled up stakes down south and headed to Oregon to start Quady North. Grenache Blanc has a unique flavor profile that is a refreshing change from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. With less citrus, riper pear and peach flavors Quady’s Grenache Blanc is vibrant liquid fun. They have done wonders with this Grenache Blanc it is a versatile wine culinary wise. A dish of hazelnut encrusted salmon with a Dijon sauce is a good match as well as any goat cheese or double creme cheese.
This Starthistle Cuvee is an unusual blend of 57% Riesling and 43% Huxelrebegrapes. Huxelrebe is a rare grape that came into existence when Georg Scheu was crossing the Chasselas grape and Courtillier Musque (Muscat Precoce de Saumur) in 1927. It is primarily grown in Rheinhessen, where it was created, and also here in Oregon there are fewer than 2000 acres of this grape planted world-wide. The Riesling marries well with the Huxelrebe creating a racy wine with just enough residual sugar to keep it interesting.
As you can see, Carrie and Cellar 503 have a lot going for them and her enthusiasm for Oregon wine is contagious. Join Cellar 503, go down to Club 503, taste the wines and think of how impressed your loved ones friends and family would be if you gifted them a Cellar 503 club membership. Nothing says I was thinking of you more than some nice wine!