"This is the coolest wine bar in the world," says Courtney Taylor-Taylor, of his own month-old wine bar, The Old Portland (1433 NW Quimby St., 503-234-0865).
This is a bold statement, even from the notoriously immodest Dandy Warhols frontman, who showed up at his bar the same afternoon we happened by. What about the Four Horsemen, the year-old Brooklyn natural wine bar from LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy? "It's just a bunch of plastic orange shit on the walls," Taylor says.
At the Old Portland, Taylor-Taylor, who has never lacked for aesthetic certainty, has created a living critique of overly sterile modernist design and of cramped New Portland.
Carved out of the corner of the Dandys' massive Slabtown clubhouse called the Odditorium, the bar is filled with pieces from shuttered drinking spots, including tables from the Lotus Cardroom and the much-missed Wildwood. The whole place smells like an antique store. The menu is printed on a regular sheet of paper, in Goudy. That menu promises a cheese plate, but we're told they "have to go out and get some things for it," and cheese is never spoken of again. The bottles are chosen by Taylor-Taylor, which means mostly old French and Italian reds.
On our visit, there were two $12 glasses and 15 bottles, the most modest of which was a $40 Château Lanessan—that's a Bordeaux from 1999, the year I graduated from high school, and it's a wonderful drop. You won't find much Oregon wine, and absolutely no beer. "It's a bad high," Taylor-Taylor says. "Beer makes you larfy—I don't want that. I don't want those people here. I like wine, I like the high you get—a dreamy poet's high."
In a town with too many "concepts" and too few visions, it's refreshing. But will it draw a crowd? "I lie awake at night worrying about it," Taylor-Taylor says. "I told my wife, if this doesn't work out we might have to sell the second house and the cars—we'll be driving Altimas."