Brooks Wine has been a stalwart of the Willamette Valley wine scene for nearly 25 years. Ever since its opening in 1998, Portlanders have visited the winery in Amity to taste through flights with stunning views. But starting at the end of April, Portlanders will have a place in town to snag a glass of riesling or flight of pinot noir; better yet, they’ll be able to sample those alongside the craft chocolates from beloved local chocolatier Woodblock Chocolate. Bons Amis, which means “good friends” in French, will open in the Woodblock Chocolate factory on Northeast 17th, just off Broadway. This stylish space will operate as a collaborative tasting room for both brands, offering creative chocolate and wine pairings along with a la carte treats and pours.
Bons Amis’s chic, homey dining room once served as a cafe for Woodblock Chocolate. Co-owner Charley Wheelock says the original goal of the Woodblock cafe was to provide a space to chat with visitors about the origins and processes of making chocolate, in much the same way coffee roasters and wine producers do. However, it became more of a casual cafe where diners could snag a coffee drink and chocolates or pastries. While it was a popular cafe, it didn’t get to the exact place that he and his wife and business partner, Jessica Wheelock, had envisioned.
After the pandemic forced the shop to close, the Wheelocks decided to take a step back and figure out a new way to approach the concept. Brooks and Woodblock started working together during the pandemic, offering classes on wine and chocolate pairings online. Brooks featured Woodblock in its monthly series “Beyond Brooks,” when the winery included a package of Woodblock chocolate paired with Brooks wine. When the Wheelocks mentioned possible reopening plans for their former cafe space, Brooks managing director Janie Brooks Heuck suggested they team up, and they quickly formed the concept of Bons Amis — naming it for the closeness of the two producers.
Bons Amis will not be specifically a satellite for Brooks Wines, but rather a way for both groups to discuss the parallels of wine and chocolate making, as well as how the two can go together. “The more I looked into the origins of chocolate, [the more] I saw the similarities between wine and chocolate,” says Wheelock. “We look at a cocoa bean the way a winemaker looks at a grape. We’re stewards of the agriculture, and we try to be guided by the origins.” Visitors can expect deep dives into the origins of both chocolate and wine, the relationship between producers and farmers, and the ways they can pair outside of the traditional box of chocolates with champagne or red wine.
Initially, the space will be open Friday evenings and on weekends with a variety of tastings. One will look at the comparison between single-origin dark chocolates and single vineyard pinot noir. The Salé tasting will pair savory chocolate snacks — like cacao-coated goat cheese, hazelnut gianduja, and a deeply dark 92-percent chocolate — with dry sparkling riesling, while the Sucré tasting will pair more traditional chocolates with a semi-sweet riesling. Bons Amis will also offer a beer pairing, starting with an ale from local brewery Wolves and People made with Woodblock chocolate. This beer will be paired with brined and roasted cacao beans for a unique savory snack.
Diners will also be able to order things a la carte, including wines by the glass and bottle and retail chocolates from Woodblock, as well as their famous chocolate chip cookie. Down the line, the team will likely expand offerings overall.
Bons Amis will open Saturday, April 30 at 1715 NE 17th Avenue. Its hours will be 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays, noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.