The history of the Spokane grape vine dates back to 1980 with the opening of the now defunct Worden Winery. Jack Worden saw the potential of Washington wine and hired Mike Conway, who was working for Parducci Wine Cellars in California, to make wine. Worden’s initial efforts laid the foundation for the flourishing wine scene we now have in Spokane.
Conway went on to found Latah Creek Wine Cellars in 1982, now Spokane’s oldest winery. When Latah Creek opened, there were less than 20 wineries in the whole state. Now, there are 20 wineries producing wine just in Spokane.
Growth of the Spokane wine scene has been slow and deliberate over the last 30 years. Focus has been on quality and not quantity. Shortly after Latah Creek opened, Spokane welcomed Arbor Crest Winery in 1982 and Mountain Dome, a premium sparkling wine maker, in 1984. The slow maturation of quality continued in the 90’s with the addition of Caterina, Grande Ronde, Knipprath, and Townshend. At the end of two decades, 6 wineries dotted the wine landscape.
During the next 20 years, the flow of wine grew at a faster clip with the addition of award winning wineries like Barrister, Lone Canary, and Robert Karl along with a cluster of boutique wineries Barili, Bridge Press, eMVy, Liberty Lake, Nodland, Trezzi, Vintage Hill, and Whitestone Winery.
Spokane’s newest winery is Overbluff Cellars at 620 S. Washington (opened Spring 2010). “It’s more about passion than anything. When the fun is gone, I’m through,” says Jerry. The first Overbluff Cellars release consists of 290 cases including three 2007 Cabernet from various vineyards and one 2009 Viognier. John and Jerry’s philosophy to wine making brings a Napa influence to Walla Walla fruit. In a recent interview in The Spokesman Review, John Caudill shares his passion for Spokane, “There is no other place we want to live other than Spokane! Combine that with opportunity to make great wine with access to some of the best fruit available on the planet, what could be better?”
In addition to Spokane producers, growth has come from the addition of satellite tasting rooms from other wineries in Washington. Josh Wade, of Nectar Tasting Room says, “Spokane residents have an incredible passion for wine. It is exciting to see the growth and the addition of so many quality wineries across the city.” Nectar Tasting Room is at 120 N. Stevens and is the home of 5 Washington wineries. Visitors can enjoy over 40 wines by the glass or bottle from Anelare (Kennewick), Hard Row to Hoe (Lake Chelan), Northwest Cellars (Kirkland), Skylite Cellars (Walla Walla), and Terra Blanca (Benton City). “We are a winery, just like any of the others in Spokane, we just have five you can visit all at once.”
“Some of the most exciting growth going on in our industry right now is in Spokane,” says Ryan Pennington of the Washington Wine Commission. “Any time we can bring Washington wine to the major population centers of the state, our entire industry benefits. What’s happening in Woodinville is a prime example of the great potential for Spokane’s wine scene – wineries from all over the state have discovered the great benefits of ‘bringing the mountain to Muhammad’, as it were, showcasing their wares in their customers’ backyards. And, as a result, consumers can sample a cross section of wines from across the state without traveling hundreds of miles to the wineries themselves.”
Another example of bringing the “Mountain to Muhammad,” as Ryan says is the most recent opening of Walla Walla’s Cougar Crest Winery at South 8 Post Ave in downtown. Cougar Crest opened a space in Woodinville and now in Spokane. “This new location, in the heart of Spokane, will bring our winery into the daily lives of the people who have shown us their whole-hearted support for the last 10 years,” said owner and winemaker Deborah Hansen. Cougar Crest was established in 2001 by owners Deborah and David Hansen. With over 50 acres of Walla Walla fruit from their estate vineyards, Cougar Crest has received high praise including 93 point scores for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
While Spokane may never be home to over 100 wineries like Walla Walla and Woodinville, we can be sure that growth will continue as Spokane residents continue to increase their palate for quality wine.
Stay current on all Spokane winery events at http://spokanewineries.net