Without Thomas Monroe and Kate Norris, Portland's exploding urban wine scene wouldn't look anything like it does now. In 2012, they launched Southeast Wine Collective, an urban winery and wine bar that rents out time on every piece of winemaking equipment you could ever need as long as you aren't looking for a centrifuge. And yet, the biggest story to come out of this off-Division Street warehouse remains that of the founders.
Norris, 35, and Monroe, 38, are making wines far beyond their years. They pursue their Burgundian pinot druthers as well as any of the winemakers profiled in this issue while also experimenting with Loire and Rhone styles.
Norris, whose website refers to her as a "child of the world," has lived everywhere from Bahrain to Switzerland and was born to Malagasy and English parents. Monroe was a St. Louis banker.
Their love of Oregon wine made them pack up a car and drive across the country to start a winery, but they got their start in wine after working in the vineyards of Norris' family friends in France's Haute-Loire region. "I had the fortune to have grown up around wine and winemakers," she says, "spending time in cellars from the age of 5."
It's a lifelong intimacy with wine that shows up in the bottle, with results that fuse France and Oregon with uncommon grace.
Drink this: The sparkling grenache blanc ($30) under Norris' solo project, the Gamine label, is extraordinary, an Oregon wine inspired by her mom's love of Côte-Rôtie that shows delicious versatility. Division's Trois chardonnay ($35) is real-deal grown-up wine, and speaks to the promise of Oregon chardonnay, about which whispers are fast growing into a roar.