Skywater Fine Wines opens on Main Street in Hillsboro

With a ceremonial snip, Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway cut a ribbon this week to declare Skywater Fine Wines “officially open for business.” The new wine boutique offers Hillsboro area wine lovers a place to enjoy wine, snacks and community.

Skywater Fine Wines is the brainchild of Neil Thompson, formerly of Park Avenue Fine Wines in Portland. When Thompson and his partners closed Park Avenue earlier this year, Hans Ramos, Thompson’s husband, suggested moving to Hillsboro. “We loved the friendly people and the small-town feel, and thought Hillsboro would be a nice place to call home,” Thompson said.

It was also an opportunity to co-brand a business name. As Park Avenue closed, Ramos prepared to open his Skywater Tea House in the former Tea’s Me space in Hillsboro.

The word “skywater” was originally coined by Kevin Geller, Thompson’s former partner at Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants in Portland. Geller says that compared to Midwestern showers, Portland just gets a little sky water.

Skywater Fine Wines is located at Fourth and Main in historic downtown Hillsboro, just one block from the Hillsboro Transit Center stop of the MAX Blue Line. The downtown blocks surrounding Skywater are packed with gastropubs, restaurants and the Carts on Main mod.

Nearby dining options mesh perfectly with Skywater’s “adults only” lounge. The space next to the retail wine store is filled with comfortable sofas, chairs, and tables where customers can relax in the lounge with a glass of wine and locally-packaged snacks. People can also bring in food from outside sources as long as they serve it with wines purchased from Skywater. “We want people to feel at home, like it’s their neighborhood living room,” Thompson said.

Huge storefronts in the shopping area provide plenty of natural light and a panoramic view of Main Street activity. The first time I visited Skywater, I sat at one of their outdoor tables to watch local artists fill the street with chalk art. Thompson said, “There’s always something cool going on there.”

In addition to wines from around the world, Skywater also offers a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages and pantry items ranging from hot sauces and Duke mayonnaise to gluten-free Wasa crispbreads and Better Made potato chips. Be warned: the grass-fed beef sticks they sell are particularly addictive.

For those looking to take full advantage of all that Skywater has to offer, Thompson offers three levels of club membership that include discounts, free tastings, priority wine class seating, and personal wine lockers. Annual membership fees range from $600 to $2,400. See Skywater’s website for more details on the services of each membership level.

Since their unofficial opening in June, the local community response to Skywater has been overwhelmingly positive, with foot traffic increasing daily. Justine Jackson, for example, drives from Forest Grove to enjoy Skywater’s extensive Old World selections. “Neil’s picks are always perfect,” Jackson said.

Skywater fills a pretty big void in Hillsboro when Mike Plunkett closed his legendary Renaissance Premium Wines & Cigars store in the summer of 2019.

“I see a lot of former clients of Mike, and they’re really excited to have Skywater here,” Thompson said.

Mayor Callan was equally enthusiastic, telling the crowd at the store’s grand opening that “this unique store will definitely improve our quality of life.”

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Skywater Fine Wines, 384 E. Main St, Hillsboro, skywaterwines.com or (971) 397-1392.

— 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.

Shirley M. Pinder