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  • First Friday

The Growth of Spokane Wine

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.

Latah Creek, Spokane’s oldest winery

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.

Overbluff Cellars, Spokane’s Newest Winery

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?”

Cougar Crest Tasting Room at N 8 Post

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 

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Spokane’s Market Place Wine Bar

Everyone needs to have a place where he or she belongs, with a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere and a clear sense of family.  It’s this enormous feeling of community, and great wine, that transformed Marketplace Wine Bar from an ambitious dream to a thriving reality in a very short time.  A seemingly little advertising approach was greatly surpassed with the bout of encouraging reactions from satisfied customers and positive word of mouth.

Nestled slightly east of downtown Spokane on the corner of 2nd and Browne, the tasting room is located inside the new Spokane Public Market.  According to Valerie and Melody, part owners of EMVY Cellars and Bridge Press Cellars, respectively, the location seemed to fit perfectly as the spot to exclusively pour their wines.  With a budding downtown scene and the ever-growing desire from consumers to support local, the appeal seemed irresistible. Maintaining a very friendly relationship with the other venders and utilizing as many products sold in the marketplace as possible, the entire building itself helps enforce the goal of fulfilling a community venture, more than a business opportunity.  The fundamental set-up is very convenient carrying on the tradition of a one-stop shop.  Anyone can buy their meat, purchase fresh vegetables, and taste some wine to buy on the way home for dinner.  For those who want to settle in, Marketplace Wine Bar openly welcomes outside food to be consumed in the space while serving their own hummus platters and high-quality cheese trays for a perfect marriage of wine and light foods.

EMVY gets its name from the pronunciation of the first letters of the owner’s names, Mark and Valerie Wilkerson, as “M” and “V”.  The owners of Bridge Press, Brian and Melody Padrta, met at the age of fifteen while caddying for players at a Bridge tournament in the now-dilapidated Ridpath Hotel, hence their name and label.  Both owners jokingly attribute their collective passion for winemaking as a “hobby gone wild”.  Casually meeting as motivated consumers tasting at The Wine Cellar, by 2005, the two labels teamed up with Grande Ronde and Mountain Dome to start their dreams of producing fine wines.  The two couples quickly gained experience with the help of mentors and knowledgeable friends within the local wine industry such as David Westfall, John Mueller, and Michael Manz to name a few.  As Valerie from EMVY states, “once we got going, it was all about drink and spit” until they got it right.

Sourcing a majority of their grapes from the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills Vineyards within the Walla Walla Valley AVA, the wineries work together in the same production facility, but blend their own wines and take different approaches using varied aging lengths, blending percentages, yeasts, etc.  Both wineries use 100% French Oak.  Bridge Press Cellars’ premier wine, their Cabernet Sauvignon, is a blend of 85% Seven Hills Cab, 12% Pepper Bridge Merlot, and 3% Seven Hills Malbec.  They also carry a Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Rose, and 600 Red Blend for being the 600th winery in the state.  EMVY uses 58% Seven Hills Cab, 38% Seven Hills Merlot, and 6% Pepper Bridge Merlot grapes for their Bordeaux style blend aptly named “Devotion” considering Mark and Val met at the age of four.  You can also check out their other varietals, Veba Blanc, Veba Rouge, and Viognier.  All wines are available on site.

All in all, with a mantra of “make the wines you like to drink” and an attitude to create a neighborhood within the constraints of a city, Marketplace Wine Bar is a grand addition to Spokane and seems to be marking its spot as a unique, permanent downtown destination.

32 W. Second Ave

509.474.1070

Thursday 12-6pm

Friday and Saturday 12-9pm

About The Author

Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape and travels the country with @weshotthemoon. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker. Follow Ben on Twitter @benhilzinger