January 14th, 2019

A Wine Country Discovery: Fantastic Coffee

Searching for a really good cup of coffee can be like a treasure hunt. Sure, there are plenty of shops and kiosks throughout McMinnville where you can find a jolt of caffeine but where is that rare drink that makes you stop, stare into your cup and do a taste bud double take?

I frequently find myself walking over to the Granary District only a few blocks from downtown’s Third Street to get some specialty coffee. Really, it’s called specialty coffee – a distinctive batch of green beans from a single region in the world that are carefully roasted to bring out its best flavors.

The Granary District, a former warehouse area that once was the city’s hub for storing, processing and shipping crops decades ago, is now home to several wineries, Grain Station Brew Works and Flag & Wire Coffee Co.

Every time I walk into Flag & Wire, I look for the small signs in front of two bean grinders announcing that day’s specialty coffees. The beans may originate from Ethiopia or Cameroon, Rwanda or Burundi, Peru or Guatemala. These are the beans Flag & Wire roastmaster/co-owner Nick Walton roasts for both wholesale and retail sales.

For Nick, coffee is a passion. He’s been working in the business since the 1990s, and with co-owner/wife Kim open their first coffee shop in 2012. Nick delights in finding that precise moment when his roasting brings out just the right flavors. He only works with arabica beans – the world’s best – and talks about them much like someone tasting wine with terms like fruity, buttery, velvety, and chocolatey.

The reward, he says, is seeing a customer discover a new experience each time they stop in.

“We have a higher than average proportion of people who come in and ask for a specific coffee. Or, who are coming in and looking for something interesting,” Nick says.

“We try to serve the spectrum (of coffee varieties) but I have my personal favorites. I like bright, fruity Ethiopians, Burundians, east African coffees, lots of Colombians. I love fruit and I love winey characteristics. Those are things that I am looking for in my coffee.”

Barista Juan Briseno with Flag & Wire Coffee Photo: Dan Shryock

He confesses Flag & Wire’s location, officially at 755 NE Alpine Ave., doesn’t attract passersby looking for “a quick cup of joe.” Still, it’s commonplace to find customers lingering over drinks while working on a laptop, chatting with friends or simply reading a book.

“We look at coffee two ways. People are either drinking coffee or tasting coffee,” Nick says. “Sometimes I just want hot and brown. That’s a drinking coffee.”

Then there are days made for tasting. That’s when you order something special. Nick and Kim schedule their single-origin coffees based on the time of day and sometimes even the weather. And, when you order a latte or other espresso-based drink, you can count on it being made with specialty espresso.

“We are thinking about what works well for the Americano drinker or the mocha drinker,” Nick says. “There’s always something interesting. I’m proud of that.”


Dan Shryock is always, always looking for the next great cup of coffee. He also writes for travel, cycling and coffee trade publications.