You don’t need to trek the Bend Ale Trail to know there’s craft beer flowing through this city’s veins, but beer isn’t everyone’s jam.
Maybe you’re a teetotaler on a quest for Bend’s best non-alcoholic beverages (in which case I’ve got a blog post for you).
Or maybe you’re a fan of the cideries, distilleries, kombucha breweries, and wineries that make up our Drinkable Diversions program.
It’s the last bit I want to focus on here, since I’m a bit of a wine geek myself.
Let me first put out the caveat that you should never, ever drink and drive, and that there are plenty of options for finding sober transportation in Bend.
With that said, here are the top spots for oenophiles when you visit Bend.
Central Oregon’s unique high desert climate makes it an odd place to grow wine grapes, but two local vineyards are making it work with impressive results.
Maragas Winery has been crafting award-winning wines in Culver since 1999, and specializes in several European varietals and French/American hybrids. They have special events like an annual grape stomp and wine dinners, and a wine club that’s surprisingly reasonable in price.
Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards is just a short distance away in Terrebonne, and boasts a breathtaking wedding and event venue against the backdrop of the most stunning mountain views you’ll ever see. They grow varietals like Syrah, Merlot, Barbera, and Pinot, along with some unique grapes like Frontenac, Marquett, Leon Millot, LaCrescent, and Lacrosse.
Both vineyards are part of Drinkable Diversions, so make sure you get your stamp if you opt to head out there.
The tasting rooms
Also part of Drinkable Diversions is a pair of winery tasting rooms in Bend’s Old Mill District. Though both are located in a shopping district instead of a vineyard, you swap the smell of grape leaves and the squish of damp earth for easy access, walkability, and sparkly glimpses of the Deschutes River.
Naked Winery is based in Hood River, but has several tasting rooms across Oregon. We’re lucky enough to have one in Bend, which serves as a showroom for their risqué-sounding labels like Penetration Cabernet, Foreplay Chardonnay, and Booty Call Blush. Their Bend tasting room is smack dab in the middle of the Old Mill District, and makes a great place to stop before you head to dinner at one of the spots like Greg’s Grill or Level 2 (both of which boast pretty nice wine selections of their own).
The Va Piano Vineyards tasting room is just a stone’s throw away on the opposite side of the street. Their vineyards are scattered around the Walla Walla valley, but their Bend tasting room is just steps from the Deschutes River with a patio that makes for perfect summer sipping. Their wines are organized into five flights, each reflective of the unique micro-terroirs that make Washington State wines amazing.
Again, don’t forget to grab those Drinkable Diversions stamps!
The wine bars
Ahhh, wine bars. They’re the perfect blend of wine shop and restaurant, and they make a fab place for oenophiles to plan a girls’ night or a wine flight date.
Portello Winecafe is tucked in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood offers a killer wine selection and a mouthwatering array of eats. Try a sampler of several flatbreads and their lemony Caesar salad and you’ll be in heaven. Wines by the glass are reasonable and abundant, especially on Mondays when they’re all $5 a glass.
A slightly more intimate setting is SIP Wine Bar on Galveston Avenue. This spot offers the cozy vibe I crave for date nights, and their menu is a terrific collection of small plates and locally-sourced ingredients. Their outdoor patio is perfect on a warm summer evening, and their flights are fun to split.
The wine shops
While you can scoop up a good bottle of wine at any Bend grocery store, sometimes you want the super-fab selection and knowledgeable staff to answer all your questions about regions, varietals, and what pairs well with that takeout meal you just ordered.
If you’re cruising the downtown Bend circuit, you can hit Good Drop Wine Shoppe and The Wine Shop and Beer Tasting Bar within a couple blocks of each other. Both have wines to sample, and an impressive variety from all over the globe. Split a wine flight and some nibbles at The Wine Shop before making your way down the street to grab a bottle or two at Good Drop. Serious wine collectors will also dig the offerings at RHC Selections a few blocks away, which also does private parties, personal shopping, travel consulting and personalized wine education events.
Since you’re headed to the aforementioned tasting rooms in the Old Mill District anyway, stop by Elixir Wine Group on your way and check out their selection of fine wines from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Baja California.
If you’re hunting for the off-the-beaten-path locals’ secret, check out Bend Wine Cellar. They double as a wine storage venue and a wine retailer, with occasional special events and dinners that make it worth your while to get on their email list.
I might also count French Market here, since they’ve got a huge (and well-curated) selection of wines to grab and go, but I’m going to go ahead and stick them in the next section instead…
The restaurants with superfab wine lists and flights
Nearly every restaurant sells wine in one form or another, but there are definitely some standouts.
When I took a prominent food and wine editor to dinner at Zydeco, and he wouldn’t stop talking about how impressed he was by their wine selection. But it’s not just their wine list that makes my winey little heart soar. They have a policy of waiving the corkage fee for your first bottle if you bring one produced in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a screamin’ deal, and works well with a group if you opt to bring one bottle and purchase one (or more) from Zydeco’s fabulous selection.
The aforementioned French Market offers European-influenced cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients in a cozy, intimate setting. They’ll pour tastes until you find just the right glass, and you can order a bottle to take home if you find one you love. (Pro tip: Start your meal with the fondue. You can thank me later).
If you’re an oenophile who loves variety, try a flight at 900 Wall in downtown Bend (pair it with the spicy deviled eggs and the fried green beans) and Anthony’s Home Port in the Old Mill District (pair it with the ahi nachos and the crab dip).
Bend has no shortage of wine-themed special events, and fortunately, most of them have a charitable component.
Cork & Barrel is a three-day celebration happening every July at Broken Top Club. The event features Sonoma-area wineries and includes winemaker dinners, a tasting event with a killer silent auction, and a chance to mix and mingle with the winemakers. The event benefits the KIDS Center and tickets tends to sell out early. Learn more here.
In February, Oregon WinterFest features a special Wine Walk through the Old Mill District. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend festivities by strolling the Old Mill and sampling wines from a variety of Bend retailers. Learn more here.
If you feel like journeying to Sunriver for the day, their annual Wine, Cheese, and Brew Showcase is a popular spot for wine lovers every August.
Just another reminder: drinking and driving is a no-no. We have taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts, and absolutely no excuse whatsoever for driving under the influence. Seriously.
And for all you cheapskates . . .
Cheapskate wine snobs like me are so familiar with the wine world at Grocery Outlet that there’s an entire blog devoted to uncovering the hidden gems that appear on the shelves at this discount retailer.
For those who don’t know, this is where surplus wines and secondary labels go for a new lease on life. Sometimes you’ll get a dud or two, but savvy shoppers know to pull up their favorite wine app or review site to identify the best deals. I’ve snagged mouthwatering Cabs for $10 when online retailers showed the same bottle for $180, and I’ve bought cases of perfectly tasty weeknight wine for pennies on the dollar (I just scored two cases of mouthwatering Marlborough Sauv Blanc for $57 a case).
Staff at Bend’s Grocery Outlet are impressively wine savvy, and hold tastings every Friday from 4-7 p.m. During their semi-annual 20% wine sales (there’s one happening this week through Sunday!) they often do tastings every night of the week.
Keep your eyes peeled for bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir, since those can be great souvenirs to take home. The ones from the Willamette Valley (particularly the Dundee Hills area) tend to be especially good and often pair nicely with your picnic lunch.