Ambonnay, the Champagne bar in Inner Southeast, is on the market. In an email update, owner David Speer announced that he’s planning on leaving the city and Ambonnay — that means the bar will either live on with different owners, or it will close before the year ends.
Nationally celebrated sommelier Speer is moving to Hood River, where he and his wife recently bought a house. “Don’t freak out, this is months away. You have plenty of time to come in and enjoy champagne,” he writes. “This is a hard decision for me because I love Ambonnay and all of you. I also want to begin the next adventure in my life.”
Speer went over some of the basic details in his email: He’s already discussing selling the bar or just the lease to a few people, which means that Ambonnay may remain open in some other capacity. If it does close, he’s not sure when — he’s hoping he can leave “by August.” He may open a wine bar in Hood River, but for now he’s just focusing on relaxing in the Gorge.
Beyond the simple practicality of leaving his career in Portland, Speer was also starting to feel a little creatively stifled, sticking to sparkling wine at Ambonnay. “I’ve done so much with Champagne and I love it, to be so specialized, but simultaneously I felt the urge for new creative outlets,” he says. “Being super focused on Champagne, I didn’t feel like I could explore other things.”
As for why Speer decided to let people know before everything was set, he said it was personal: “For me, I’ve watched plenty of places open and close, and I think so often that, as a society, we’re trained to not talk about what’s actually happening out of fear of being rejected or for the legal ramifications, and I kind of went, ‘Why am I hiding this?” he says. “It wasn’t allowing me to connect with other people.”
He also wanted to give his regulars ample opportunity to visit, especially if the bar ends up closing. Until he moves, Speer will host a number of tastings, and the bar remains open. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.