Bend gets plenty of press as a beer town, and even some love for its distillery scene. Vino? Not so much. But local wine lovers know all the best spots to sip, swirl, and savor the good stuff.
While our regular blogger Tawna is out this week, we’ve asked Bend wine expert Sarah Wolcott what she’d do if she had all day to drink wine in Central Oregon. Here’s what she shared.
Take it away, Sarah!
Spoiler alert: there are many different places to drink amazing wine in Bend!
With a brewery on every other block, growler stations for kombucha, home-grown cideries, and licensed and bonded wineries producing wine here in Central Oregon, it’s safe to say Bend has the drinks covered! Wine is my preferred adult beverage of choice and with the bounty of outdoor recreation AND vinous opportunities in our area, it’s easy to combine both!
I took my first ski lesson at Mt. Bachelor when I was 8 years old and look forward to ski season with the same anticipation now as I did then. But there’s an added bonus to the end of the ski day as an adult: wine.
After getting some laps in at the ski hill, it’s so easy to turn left into Tetherow and aprés ski at The Row for one of their rotating wines by-the-glass and an order of chicharrones (because I’ve earned them, right?!). The views are beautiful and the fun aprés ski atmosphere is welcoming and a perfect way to slide into evening.
Another regular wine haunt is the Va Piano Vineyards tasting room in the Old Mill District. I show up in ski gear here frequently, but it’s Bend so no one cares. What I love about Va Piano is the staff’s ability to bridge the gap between the Bend experience and the winery’s home base in Walla Walla, Washington. Owner/winemaker, Justin Wylie, operates the Va Piano tasting room in the Old Mill for a number of different reasons, one of them because he loves Bend and is a skier. Mauri, the tasting room manager, always has a chipper attitude about wine (and everything else) and it always feels good to be at Va Piano. The full-bodied, inky red wines are estate grown from Wylie’s vineyard in Walla Walla and other premium vineyard sites in SE Washington state.
A newer kid on the wine block, Bledsoe Family Wines, also delivers a fantastic customer experience and premium quality wines that, quite literally, make me hum a little bit after each sip. The Chardonnay is fermented in neutral French oak and is just the wine “pop” that I need after a day on the slopes.
Owner, Drew Bledsoe, is a retired NFL quarterback and known locally as a skier, philanthropist, and family man. He and his wife, Maura, opened Bledsoe Family Wines in the fall of 2019 and have been raising their family in Bend for a number of years. You might think that sipping on wine at a retired NFL quarterback’s joint might be intimidating – but you might – just might – bump into Drew at his tasting room on a random winter night and there’s a distinct chance he’ll still be wearing his ski pants, too, after a day at Mt. Bachelor.
900 Wall is a primo restaurant in Downtown Bend with a primo wine list. I have to admit, I haven’t actually gone to 900 Wall after a day of downhill skiing. But I have after cross-country skiing at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park! I am a sucker for the seasonal steak tartare dish by executive chef, Cliff Eslinger. Chief bartender, wine buyer, and part-owner, Marcus Egge keeps the wine list at 900 Wall updated, progressive, and fun. You’ll see many ABC wines, here (Anything But Chardonnay) like Txakolina and Albariño from Spain, Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of France, as well as finds from the Willamette Valley, Washington State, Latin America, and Europe. And if you sit at the bar, ask Marcus about his previous life as a professional snowboarder….
Sarah Wolcott is a wine marketer and PR professional living in Bend. She works with the annual Cork & Barrel wine and food event fundraising series, Central Oregon’s largest wine event, a benefit for KIDS Center, and a number of wineries and wine businesses in the Pacific Northwest. She is an avid skier and loves to travel, fly fish, and ski with her husband, Michael, a fly-fishing guide, who prefers whiskey to wine.