March 05, 2005

Portland Gets a Square Deal on Wine

Portland has a significant new wine shop, something called Square Deal Wine Company. It’s on NW Thurman, just west of NW 23rd in a lately hot little district with the old Food Front and the fairly recent St. Honore Boulangerie.

Dan Beekly is the brains behind Square Deal. The shop features nearly exclusively the selection of French and some Italian, German, even Austrian wines imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants, an east coast outfit new to the west. Most wines sell below $30 with lots of $10 and $15 options, so you can taste through Europe for not a lot of scratch.

The selection is largely unfamiliar, even to the hardcore geek. Yet there are a few recognizable names. Among them, Prince Poniatowski of Vouvray and Francois Chidaine who has taken over the reigns at the old Clos Baudoin. Legends both, young and old. Which is a good sign. Evidently the selection will broaden somewhat with time. But as a friend suggested to me, Square Deal will have to hold tastings or other events to give people exposure to wines with which most people are completely unfamiliar. I think the wines might very well appeal to the foodies here.

Each bottle is carefully labeled with the guarantee that the wine was shipped at 56F. And the shop is cool to ensure the wine doesn’t roast on the shelf before you come in. Those are great things, so often overlooked in the wine trade despite the rhetoric on the importance of keeping wine cool. I just hope the cooling bill doesn’t sink them.

So I asked Beekly to pick out the best $10 red in the shop. He grabbed the 2003 Cave Jaume Cotes du Rhone. The shop carries a few higher priced wines from this same producer, which I had never heard of previously. So I took it home and found it to be delicious, if fairly light and herbaceous for many tasters weaned on thick and rich American wines. This little grenache-based wine has perfume, and its slightly tart flavor balances beautifully with roasted food. And that’s just what a good Cotes du Rhone should do.

So score one for Square Deal. I’ll go back and try some more, when I find some scratch of my own.

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