Wine aficionados now have a new and unique venue to sip and chat in Astoria.

The Oregon-based Flying Dutchman Winery recently opened a tasting room next door to the Bridgewater Bistro in the Red Building.

Customers can drop by and sample handcrafted wines in small flights, buy a bottle to drink with a meal at the bistro, or purchase bottles to take home.

While the tasting bar and the restaurant adjoin via an informal doorway inside, the two businesses are separate enterprises.

What they also have in common is the longtime association between Flying Dutchman's owner and winemaker, Richard Cutler, and Bridgewater owners Tony and Ann Kischner.

"We've been friends for a number of years," Cutler said of the Kischners, who also own the Shoalwater Restaurant in Seaview. "They've always liked our wines and always wanted to sell our wines."

The small Flying Dutchman Winery is located in Otter Rock, Oregon, about 150 miles down the coast from Astoria. The winery has won numerous wine industry awards since it first opened in 1997.

Cutler said because Flying Dutchman is not a huge winemaking operation, they can put more TLC into the process, and allow wines to develop individually.

"When you do anything in small lots you can pay far more attention to it than when you are doing it in volume," he said. "We do everything entirely by hand, including the bottling."

Cutler said an important factor in the process is the grapes, which come from central and southern Oregon growers. That's why Cutler always puts the grower's name on the label along with the Flying Dutchman name and logo.

The Flying Dutchman Winery Tasting Room is currently the only place you can sample Flying Dutchman wines outside of the winery in Otter Rock.

Tasting Room Manager Roger Phifer is on hand to offer samples and flights of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, white Riesling, and a dessert wine called Raspberry Mist.

So far business at the tasting room has been brisk.

"We've been pleasantly surprised by the reception, and sales have been better than projected," Cutler said. "That means you must have people of refined tastes up there in Astoria."

The Flying Dutchman Winery Tasting Room is located in the Red Building at 20 Basin St. in Astoria, next to the Cannery Pier Hotel. The tasting room is open Tues. through Sat., 11 am to 9 pm. For more information call (503) 325-8110.

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