AWG Correspondent

Rob Boss

Jan-Marc Wine Cellars Photos

Jan-Marc Wine Cellars Review

Regions: Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon

Reviewed: August 2, 2016 by Rob Boss
Published: December 2, 2016

Although Oregon Pinot Noirs tend to be a bit more expensive than Pinot Noirs from other U.S. wine regions, great deals abound in and around the Willamette Valley. When considering economy, though, it’s interesting to add the element of time in with the stated price. Jan-Marc Winery offers a unique value in this regard: it’s possible to have a flight of excellent wine while enjoying a delicious dinner.

Jan-Marc and Barbara Baker are both high-end chefs, each with twenty-five years’ experience in the San Francisco and Portland markets. It’s from this perspective that Jan-Marc makes his wine. Production is tiny—only 1000 cases—but that’s plenty to stock their restaurant, Gargiste, and sell bottles to loyal customers. There’s something about the reclaimed wood on the bar top, the matching shelving, and the stainless steel tanks behind them that says “artistic integrity.” With a lively warmth, the Bakers made us feel instantly at home.

I was pretty sure that that pleasant demeanor was what set Jan-Marc up with the premium fruit that goes into his wine. One after another was “twenty-five year old vines,” “forty year old vines,” “clippings from hundred year old vine Zinfandel…” and on and on, each story better than the last. Granted, his production is small, but if that means he’s only getting a half ton here and there, it’s like taking home leftovers from The French Laundry. Wine is made in the vineyard, and there is no greater proof than offered here.

Our flight began with a lovely 2015 Rosé, made of “fairly equal parts of all the reds—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Syrah.” I was actually glad I tasted it before he told me that, because I might have thought, “That can’t work.” But it does, with bright and yummy strawberry and pink grapefruit flavors. The 2012 Riesling he poured next was fermented dry. Citrusy and tart, it had a peculiar savory note on the nose that I couldn’t put my finger on—but I liked it. It was an intriguing, food-friendly wine.

The next pair of 2013 Merlots were just as fascinating. The Jammer was a delightful cocktail wine, full of jammy fruit flavors. “I never thought I’d make a jammy Merlot,” he continued. “But it comes out of the ground that way.” To prove his point, he explained that both The Jammer and Campfire Merlot came from the same clones at the Kortge Vineyard, but Campfire was planted up the hill. Both wines shared what might be called a “textbook texture” of a velvety Merlot, but there was no further resemblance. The Campfire offered a smoky nose with cherry, chocolate and espresso flavors; more fooder than cocktail.

The star of the show for us was the 2013 Sunnyside Vineyard Pinot Noir. An elegant, compelling wine of remarkable depth and layers, the nose alone was a showstopper with forest floor and delicate fresh fruit. The cherry, raspberry, smoke and black fruit flavors just kept unfolding. There’s no substitute for older, in this case forty years old, vines. There was something resembling an “Old World complexity” in this wine that was just short of mind blowing.

On a whim, we ordered the Clam Dip & Chips, which we enjoyed with the last pour, the 2014 Sunnyside Vineyard Gewurztraminer. The wildly aromatic rosewater and lychee nose gave way to star fruit, nectarine, and peach flavors. Steel-aged with just a touch of residual sugar, it was a perfectly refreshing finish to the flight.

In short, a visit to Jan-Marc Wine Cellars and Garagiste restaurant is a blast. We weren’t there for dinner this time, but it’s high on our list of places to eat in Portland. Easy access from I-5 or light rail puts them about fifteen minutes from downtown, and in a lot of traffic patterns. They’re new and still under the radar right now, but that secret won’t last long. Their growing success will be well deserved.

(Photos by Jai Soots)

Address & Contact Information: 1225 N. Killingsworth Street Portland, Oregon 97217. Telephone: 503-954-3959, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Wed-Fri 3:00-close, Sat-Sun 12:00-9:00.

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