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Mark Proden works with grapes at the Portland Wine Bar

The Vintner

Mark Proden, The Vintner

Mark Proden sits at a table at an upscale restaurant
“[My most vivid food memory is] rolling up dough for cookies with my mom when I was a kid. It was such an intimate thing; there was such a feeling of connection.”
During his years at UML—where he majored in environmental science while also flying combat search-and-rescue HC-130s out of Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., for the Air Force—Mark Proden ’03 was dating a woman whose family invited him to their home for Sunday dinners. “We would sit down to these really good meals of her mom’s and drink her dad’s homemade wine,” he says. “It’s a nice memory. I think maybe, unconsciously, it planted a seed.”
The seed bore fruit a few years after graduating, when Proden was in Los Angeles finishing up his Air Force tour. He began making day trips to vineyards in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, sampling the wines, learning about the harvests.
In 2008, he enrolled at the Northwest Viticulture Center in Salem, Ore., at the same time apprenticing with local wineries. Within a year, he had developed his own wine from local Oregon grapes, which he made by hand in small batches. By the time another year had passed, he was in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, working as an engineer and developing a second line of wines, this one from local tropical fruits.
In 2012, Proden made the leap from maker to seller, opening the Hawaiian-themed Portland Wine Bar and Winery in southwest Portland. The winery, which features his labels and those of other small makers, is today regularly listed among the downtown’s prime tourist destinations.
And it now has a sister on the coast: The Winery at Manzanita, which opened late last summer along an uninterrupted seven-mile beach 90 minutes west of Portland, likewise specializes in small-batch area wines.—GD