Ambonnay is here to stay — though its original owner, David Speer, decided to sell the elegantly industrial Champagne bar and move to Hood River, it is now in the capable hands of Michael Knisley, a Champagne fanatic coming from New Orleans. Despite the change of ownership, Ambonnay fans need not worry about things changing up much, as Knisley likes it very much the way it is. “I know what it’s like to be a regular somewhere and to see it change hands,” says Knisley. “But I want people to have the same experience, as it’s a great little spot.” A few Oregon sparkling wines may join the program, but the Champagne isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the truffle popcorn.
Knisley moved to New Orleans from Chicago about eight year ago, and has been running Bubblyothèque there, a program that consists of pop-up Champagne events and classes at wine shops and bars, as well as a series of wine dinners at Southern restaurant Boucherie. A regular visitor to Portland and Ambonnay (as well as to Champagne), he realized what a great opportunity he had when a friend told him about the sale. After contacting Speer, the two hashed out details and transitioned the bar to Knisley.
Though the bar quietly closed last Friday for the transition, Knisley doesn’t want to take much more time than it takes to apply a fresh coat of paint to reopen. “I don’t want a lot of downtime,” he says. “I love what Ambonnay has and I want to get that champagne back in front of people.” He plans to have that wine ready by Thursday, September 26.