On the Trail

On the Trail in Portland

David Driscoll

I flew up to Portland last Thursday to host a private wine event for some of our budding out-of-state customers, hoping to tickle their fancy with a few new K&L direct imports. I caught a cab directly to the "Old Portland," a wine bar owned by my friend Courtney Taylor, ironically situated in what has become new Portland. All the up and coming hip spots are situated in the Northwest sector with new restaurants, bars, and cafes opening every month. Courtney, who was born and raised in the Oregon city, is nostalgic for the way things used to be (aren't we all?), so he named his bar accordingly. Within those walls he curates and celebrates Portland's quirky past, pouring old school wines at great prices to help lighten the mood.

I arrived to find my friend straightening up the space and getting the bottles ready for our afternoon's festivities. As a long time K&L customer, Courtney has been a big supporter of our Bordeaux program and many of the other great wine deals we're able to import from all over the world. I had shipped up some of our best bang-for-your-buck bottles and we were preparing to host about forty of his drinking buddies—guys who eat, breath, and sleep all things wine. As we ship a lot of wine into Oregon, I was hoping to tap into that group of Portland diehards. Courtney was stoked, too—mainly because he would get to drink everything in the process!

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Courtney is, for those of you who don't know him, quite the draw in Portland. He's the world-famous lead singer of the Dandy Warhols, one of the most beloved rock acts to come out of the Pacific Northwest in the late mid-to-late nineties. You can catch my old D2D interview with him in the archives for a more detailed story on how he caught the wine bug, but let's just say the guy loves his grape juice. It's funny because our roles as friends are totally reversed. In theory, I should be the one fawning over him and his rock star status, but in all honesty I think he's more excited to hang out with me. Courtney loves sipping, swirling, nosing, and tasting good wine and—obviously—that's a beloved activity we share a passion for. I think he greatly appreciates people who appreciate it. He was giddy from the moment I got there and I tried to stay humble as he introduced people to me using an arsenal of various accolades.

After the Dandies hit it big, Courtney took some of that money and invested it into an entire city block, creating a warehouse space that would house the band's studio and recording facilities, an art space, a stage and performance area, and now an old world wine bar. Tastefully decorated with dark wood and classic rock paraphernalia, the mood was perfect for an eclectic and music-oriented wine tasting extravaganza. 

The crowd was dynamite and full of serious personalities, many of whom had some sort of artistic background. The shocker (and high point) for me was getting the chance to meet Paige Powell who—if you're not familiar—worked as Andy Warhol's assistant at Interview for many years. She was also dating a guy named Jean-Michel Basquiat before he passed away tragically. No big deal. Maybe you heard the news this morning, about how one of his paintings just sold for $110 million at auction? I spent almost an hour listening to her tell stories about New York during the eighties and what it was like to work for Andy. She and I have a lot in common in that we like to take pictures and talk to people while drinking wine. In this instance, she's taking a photo of me while I take a photo of her. What an experience!

We drank from about one in the afternoon until about eleven in the evening, telling stories and jokes, eating snacks, exploring Courtney's studio, and drinking the selection of K&L imports. We ended up down the street at Besaw's late night, drinking a bottle of 1989 Lilian Ladouys and eating duck confit with Courtney and I pounding a huge plate of french fries, hoping to soak up all that wine with some fried starch. We did our best to walk it off afterward, but in the end we were both too exhausted.

What a night! What a party! I can't wait to do it again.

-David Driscoll