The first time I met Chris Wishart he spent a good deal of time with a towel wiping wine drips off the bar he had just recently sealed. He chuckled at his fixation and we shared a common understanding that sometimes tiny things consume us completely; things we won’t care about in less than 48 hours. That fleeting obsession, though perhaps not defining of Wishart, neatly tied together the philosophy at ENSO Urban Winery for me: every vintage is distinctive, so let the wines express that moment in time, and capture it as purely as possible.
Wishart and Ryan Sharp, co-owners and winemakers at the newly opened urban winery in Southeast Portland, began working together at Arcane Cellars on the banks of the Willamette River. Commuting from the city is novel for a while. But just a while. So the two made plans to establish their own label, basing production in southeast Portland out of Wishart’s garage. Then, after a year and a half, the two achieved the next step of their dream, relocating to a renovated SE Stark St. store front with an eclectic past.
The location features a large tasting bar and lounge area, and nearly four times the previous production space. With enough room for a fork lift and adequate ceiling space to do punch downs, the duo are excited for coming vintages. All fruit is to be brought directly from the vineyards to the city, and ported through large glass garage doors into the winery. Rolled right past the day’s customers if Wishart and Sharp have their way.
The current ENSO lineup features two white wines: a Pinot Gris, and a négociant-style—meaning the wine is made from previously completed wines sourced from other producers, usually in bulk—blend of Oregon Gewürztraminer and Washington Riesling under their Resonate label. While both labels will take advantage of the variety of fruit available in the market each vintage, the ENSO label focuses on varietal wines while Resonate offers value-priced blends.
Resonate 2010 White No. 2 (62% Oregon Gewürztraminer, 38% Washington Riesling) – Clear, bright, medium intensity gold color. Clean nose with medium intensity aromas of pear, green apple, peach, lime zest, and chalk. Dry on the palate, medium-light body, and medium acidity that continues through the finish; soft flavors of white flowers, peach, citrus zest, and orange. ($12)
ENSO 2010 Pinot Gris – Clear, bright, medium-light green yellow. Clean nose with medium intensity aromas of firm pear, yellow apple, and white peach. Dry on the palate, medium body, and medium-high acidity; vibrant flavors of lime and white blossoms, offering texture and complexity not typical of Pinot Gris. ($18)
Both of these wines, and the rest of the selection at ENSO, support Chris and Ryan’s belief that the final product should reflect the best expression of the vintage. This ideal of expressing each vineyard uniquely mirrors the philosophy of the ensō itself. The Japanese word for circle, each ensō is individual and unique, capturing the precise moment and feeling of the creator. To take this notion a step farther, every release bears a unique silk screened ensō, chosen especially for that wine.
Even the most fleeting of moments—be it a vintage, a glass of wine, or drips soaking into a wooden bar—should be seized and savored.