AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Clay Pigeon Winery Photos

Clay Pigeon Winery Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: June 7, 2014 by Rob Boss
Published: July 1, 2014

(Photos by Jai Soots)

There’s a well-worn, very old adage in the wine industry: The best way to make a small fortune with a winery is to start with a large one. On the other hand, there must be a way to start small and grow. Clay Pigeon Winery has embraced the “urban winery” concept and taken the tasting room/wine bar concept (see Enso) a step further with a lovely little restaurant in southeast Portland. It’s easy to get to, easy to find (pretty exposed, actually), and worth every penny.

Clay Pigeon’s wine is good, but at this stage in the game the production is not high enough to support itself. It took two trips to try the three wines reviewed here but after the first visit, we were fans of Cyril’s, their restaurant. They’ve got wine and food pairing down pat, the cheese selection is as good as the wine list, and their lunch combo is terrific. So there was no arm twisting required to get us to go back for lunch.

Cyril’s is so confident of their pairings that they offer a seductively priced Soup/Salad/Wine combo for only $15—with a full glass. Our waiter and tasting room maven, Jay, offered us the two Clay Pigeon wines to taste, was more than happy to sell us glasses of them, but recommended we stick with the selected paired wines for lunch. We followed his suggestion to find that the first wine was a (Love and Squalor Reisling) that was insanely great with the goat cheese in the salad. This did not detract in the least from the winery’s raison d’etre.

A 60/40 blend of Syrah and Pinot Noir sounded odd when described, but the 2013 Clay Pigeon Rose showed pink grapefruits and strawberries in a quenching, easy drinking style. The winking acidity was food friendly, particularly with the soup.

Next was a 2012 Clay Pigeon Syrah made from Rogue Valley fruit. This gracious and complex wine showed cedar, plum and spice on the nose. Ripe black plums, black cherries and currants rushed in with a splash of fruit on the palate. This one was great with my sandwich.

On the next trip, I enjoyed the Monger’s Mac and Cheese (made with the cheese of the day) and the 2012 Clay Pigeon Pinot Noir. The nose was shy that day, but there was a smoky note that was good with the cheese. The wine showed very intense cherry pie and dark fruit flavors, with a tremendously long finish that ended with a red licorice note.

There’s not much of any of them, and next visit to Cyril’s/Clay Pigeon, there may even be different wines on display. These guys are small. There’s a unique twinge of guilt in writing this review, actually, because this is one of those hidden gems that cities love to keep hidden. But no, we’re letting the cat out of the bag: Cyril’s should be on your list of places to eat in Portland, Oregon. Clay Pigeon has got chops, even if they only make enough wine for their restaurant. But sometimes, that “one time only” is a wine lover’s dream.

Address & Contact Information: 815 SE Oak St Portland, Oregon 97214. Telephone: 503-206-7862, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Tues-Thurs 4:00-9:00, Fri-Sat 4:00-10:00, Sun 4:00-9:00.

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