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The High Bar at Antica Terra is the place to be in Dundee

The Antica Terra winery gives you the green light to drink other people’s wines. They even launched a wine bar to make it easier for you.

High Bar is open inside the Antica Terra winery in Dundee city center every Thursday from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. That’s when Antica Terra founder/winemaker Maggie Harrison steps behind the bar – or barrel in this case – to pour world-class wines. by other winemakers.

High Bar grew out of Harrison’s tradition of offering winery patrons the opportunity to taste its wines side-by-side with wines from other parts of the world. The winery’s Reserve Flight, for example, features flavors from past vintages of Harrison’s wines alongside what Harrison describes as “one-of-a-kind bottles” made by producers around the world.

Harrison and his staff would dutifully dispose of unemptied bottles at the end of a week of Reserve Flight tastings. This took place every Thursday, which, needless to say, became Antica Terra’s favorite day of the week.

Hannah Sullivan, director of Antica Terra, asked an interesting question during one of these Thursday sessions. Why not share the wealth of Thursday?

“Connection matters, and generosity matters, so when Hannah asked us, Champagne Jacques Selosse Brut Rosé in hand, why we hadn’t shared it with everyone, we couldn’t think of any reasonable answer,” said Harrison said.

I visited High Bar on opening night. I knew from the minute I pulled into the Antica Terra parking lot that this new venture had high fun potential.

The unassuming building that once housed a nut-drying facility gives no hint that High Bar exists deep within the cellar. High Bar looks like a place where you have to know someone or a special move to enter.

This speakeasy atmosphere is accentuated by the green light signal of the High Bar. If the green lights at the top of the building are on, you can enter; if not, you wait. This is Harrison’s way of limiting the number of people inside the High Bar at any one time.

Inside, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with candlelight and an eclectic musical selection that ranges from Fela Kuti to Quincy Jones. The crowd is young, and from the conversation snippets I picked up, very interested in talking about the wines listed on High Bar’s giant board.

Their enthusiasm was understandable once I got a taste of the lineup. There were nine great wines from older vintages dating back to 1985. Antica Terra Hospitality Manager Tynan Pierce walked by and asked if I wanted to come off the board with a 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon Spottswoode. I call hospitality.

High Bar wines are available in 1.5 and 4 ounces. If you could even find them in today’s market, the wines could cost you as much as $1,500 a bottle.

Harrison does not brand wines as a traditional wine bar or restaurant. Your cost is based on what she paid for the wine. If Harrison paid big, you pay big. If she paid retail, you pay retail. The traditional 1.5 ounce wine tastings offered on opening night ranged from $13 to $131.

Believe me, this is a bargain considering the price and breadth of the wines. For $38, I had the opportunity to taste the 1985 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva DOCG without having to shell out several hundred dollars for a bottle. For $33 I tasted one of my favorite wines of all time, the late Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2007 by Giuseppe Quintarelli.

My castings were in excellent condition thanks to the use of Antica Terra Coravin argon gas system that helps preserve the wine in the bottle.

The beauty of High Bar is that it breaks down the barriers to premium wines that most of us find inaccessible on a regular basis. Being able to taste and discuss these wines in a relaxed, non-intimidating setting is a welcome splurge.

As Harrison said, “It’s not a bar but an inspiration; an aspiration. A little weekly climb in the air clearing up at the top to see what the view is like from up there. More a climbing party than a party-party, less a place of worship than a living room. Just a moment to be together and bring beauty into our bodies – because it matters. I know it is.

979 SW Alder St, Dundee, anticaterra.com or 503-244-1748

— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at [email protected]. To learn more about its coverage, go to oregonlive.com/wine.