Veteran of the Portland wine scene Joel Gunderson opens a new bottle shop and wine bar on Northeast Broadway. Heavenly Creatures is the name, and if its insight into Hungarian wine is any indication, it will be a fun place to hang out.
Gunderson is an operating partner and wine curator for Coopers Hall, an urban winery and taproom in Southeast Portland. He has created so many thoughtful wine lists for restaurants in the Portland area that I have lost count. Gunderson said opening a wine store was another example of his “accidental entrepreneurship”.
Ten years ago, chef Aaron Barnett suggested Gunderson, a struggling poet at the time, become a sommelier to help him open a restaurant.
“The next thing I know is that I’m immersed in the courses and St. Jack’s Restaurant is born. It’s the same with Heavenly Creatures. Dave Schrott, another Coopers Hall partner, saw the wine collection I kept in the cellar and said, “You should open a wine store,” Gunderson said.
Gunderson said: “Coopers Hall had space to play, so I thought, ‘Why not? “”
Heavenly Creatures is located in the front room of the Event space CH North-East located at 2218 NE Broadway. Later this spring, the store will open for regular business hours, likely Wednesday through the weekend.
The store will stock 120-150 wines from different wine regions around the world, including an eclectic mix of hard-to-find Oregon wines. “I don’t want to be attached to any particular region. I want it to be a fluid situation that reflects the many different directions we could take. It will be like the TS Elliot line: “We won’t stop exploring,” Gunderson said.
The Heavenly Creatures Wine Bar looks equally appealing. Inspired by the natural wine bars of Barcelona, Gunderson plans to offer a selection of wines by the glass, including two reds and two whites on tap. Small plates of food will be prepared by a yet-to-be-appointed chef in the space’s commercial kitchen.
Since Gunderson was smiling while discussing the food, I can’t wait for the identity of the mysterious chef to be revealed.
Gunderson wants Heavenly Creatures to be a place where people can relax and not feel disrespected when selecting a wine. He also wants to avoid an atmosphere that feels like you’re attending a wine church.
“When you visit a winemaker in his cellar, energetic conversations are punctuated by the sounds of loud corks. I want Heavenly Creatures to have the nerve to visit a winemaker,” Gunderson said.
Heavenly Creatures will feature a series of pop-ups featuring wine regions and winemakers until they are ready to open with regular opening days and times. For the first pop-up showcasing Hungarian wines, Gunderson welcomes Timothy Davey of Lone Wolf Imports to Heavenly Creatures.
Gunderson and Davey have selected 30 Hungarian wines to buy at Heavenly Creatures on February 25, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, February 26 and 27, from noon to 5 p.m. collection of Hungarian wines in one place this side of Budapest.
Interested in learning the difference between grape varieties like Furmint and Juhfark? Davey directs a series of Hungarian Wine Seminars daily pop-up for $30 and $40. Tickets are available on the Coopers Hall website. The Saturday seminar comparing Hungarian and French wines promises to be very interesting.
Rumor has it that the next Heavenly Creatures wine pop-up on March 4 will be hosted by a local winemaker with a proven track record of making stimulating wines. Gunderson said the best way to keep track of what he’s up to is to keep an eye on the Coopers Hall and celestial creatures Instagram accounts.
With Gunderson’s unofficial wine motto, “joy, accessibility, and exploration,” I can’t wait to see Heavenly Creatures unfold.