Towering high on the hills above the Spokane Valley, Arbor Crest is a picturesque spot for any event and a picture of transformation of quality and direction. The state’s 29th winery began with brothers Harold and Dave Mielke’s departure from the family business of orchards, strawberries and cherry pie filling to growing grapes on the Wahluke slope. With an initial production of 7000 cases in the first year, Arbor Crest’s past is defined by sweet white wines.
Moving into their second generation (and nearly 30 years in the Washington wine business) Harold’s daughter, Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels and her husband Jim took over the winery in 1999. With Kristina as the wine maker and Jim the viticulturist and general manager, the van Loben Sels have transformed the brand and winery into a quality Bordeaux style production house with a focus on quality red wines. The flagship Sauvignon Blanc is still on the menu and at $10 retail is a showcase of flavor and value. The sweet wines have been replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, and the stunning Dionysus blend.
Built in 1924, the Cliff House manor was purchased by the winery in 1985 and has been transformed into a premier event facility and a top destination for picnics, concerts, special events and weddings (including popping the question). The unobstructed East to West views of the Spokane Valley have inspired many a romantic story. Over 30,000 visitors stop by Arbor Crest annually for signature events like the weekly Summer Concert Series (Sunday’s from June through September), Art and Glass Festival (third week in August), and the newly announced Soiree on the Edge with the Spokane Symphony (June 26, 2010). Go to their web site and click events for all the current dates and times.
While the focus of any great winery is the wine, Arbor Crest is entering a new phase of development and growth. On December 23, 2009 Spokane awoke to the horrible news of a fire at the Cliff House Mansion. A faulty electrical strip and secluded location led to significant damage to the interior of the historic mansion. While visitors to Arbor Crest this summer may be shocked by the boarded windows, work has already begun to restore the building. Jim and Kristina are committed to keeping the building a close to time period and history as possible. In addition to rebuilding Cliff House, the van Loben Sels would like to build a new tasting room and events facility overlooking the city. The new space would allow for year round events on the beautiful grounds.
As for the wine, Washington wine expert Paul Gregutt says, “The current crop of red wines is the best overall in the winery’s history.” I can vouch for the Cab Franc, whose silky elegance is matched with a powerful dry spice, the Sauvignon Blanc, rated my top value Sauv Blanc (under $15), and the Dionysus a full Bordeaux blend (with all five varietals) that shows why Washington is the perfect climate to grow wine.
Arbor Crest Cliff House tasting room is open daily from noon – 5pm and don’t forget about their satellite tasting room at River Park Square. Stop by for a sip and shopping, open daily: 11 – 7 Mon-Thurs, 11-9 Fri-Sat, 11-5 Sun.
2007 Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Columbia Valley, WA (Bacchus Vineyards), never oaked, 2540 cases, 13%abv
- The Swirl: Super clear with a mild golden delicious apple tone
- The Sniff: Cut open a pineapple, squeeze some lemon and spray a small spritz of vanilla room spray and you have the nose of this wine.
- The Sip: Strong acidity on the upper palate with a smooth citrus and lemon peel flavor across the tongue. There is no tartness and the alcohol is not hot. Not overly huge in structure but has great flavor for the price.
- The Score: $11 retail but only $7 at Cost Plus World Market, I score this a 4 (out of 5) for value and flavor