Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: A Tradition of Taste (Mermaid Edition)

Today I became a Mermaid! How GREAT is that?
Here is my article that appears in the May/June 2013 issue of Mermaids of the Lake.
Yes, you need to check it out at
There loads of good stuff to discover in each issue, so DIVE right in! 

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: A Tradition of Taste

By Laurie L Ross
Editor of Sip of Spokane

Arbor Crest Cliff House

Laurie Ross, aka Sip, edits the blog Sip of Spokane. Her mission is to promote wine in Eastern Washington with a delicious focus in and around Spokane. She shares one of her favorite wine venues with us here:
The Grapevine: At Arbor Crest wine making is a family tradition. Born into a family that had farmed in Washington State for over a century, brothers Harold and David Mielke discovered in the late 70's that their land had enormous potential to grow grapes for producing fine wines. Given the explosive growth of the Washington wine industry, we can confidently proclaim they were onto something. A dream became a reality in 1982 when they, along with Harold's wife Marcia, established Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. Arbor Crest was the 29th winery established in Washington State. Today, there are well over 700 wineries in Washington State, making Arbor Crest Wine Cellars a Washington wine industry pioneer.

The Gate House
Tasteful Surroundings: Two years later in 1984, the Mielke family purchased the Riblet Estate and relocated the winery to the estate's Cliff House, perched high atop cliffs overlooking the Spokane River, which flows 450 feet below. Needless to say, this unique setting provides outstanding views. The Cliff House, a National Historic Landmark, built in the Florentine-style in 1924 is a picturesque winery complete with awe-inspiring views. Arbor Crest boasts one of the most spectacular settings of any winery in Washington State and is worth visiting for this reason alone. This 75-acre estate with breathtaking gardens has landmarks, including a gazebo, croquet court, and famed life-size checkerboard. The current tasting room blends in well, though it was built in 2003. An unfortunate 2009 fire damaged the historic Cliff House, but the owners assured the heartbroken public it could be restored to its original splendor. December 2010 marked the completion of this careful restoration. This is a destination winery with the tasting room and gift shop open daily from 12-5pm. The setting provides a perfect place for a picnic and the venue is available to rent for memorable weddings and events. 

Summer concert series

Summer Soundtrack: The summer concert series is an ideal way to enjoy Arbor Crest. This season there are 45 different ways to experience Arbor Crest with live music for every taste such as; Grammy-winning jazz singer/pianist, Diane Schuur, bluegrass Celtic rock band Clumsy Lovers and our treasured Spokane Symphony to highlight a few. These headliner acts are sprinkled throughout a line up of select rock, country, and swing bands. Attend Wednesdays "Peak of the Week" shows, Thursdays "Performers on the Patio" which features musicians and artists just outside the tasting room, or wrap up the weekend in style with the wildly popular Sunday "Concerts on the Cliff." There’s a variety of food available for purchase on premise or you can bring your own picnic. Wine is available by the glass or bottle. On Sundays there is a token $5 cover charge and all public events are exclusively 21 & up.

Arbor Crest Tasting Room
The Wine: Try the line up in the tasting room, as the Arbor Crest staff is well versed in the nuances of their wines. There is a small 5-acre vineyard at the site that adds to the romance. Its fruit is used to produce an estate-bottled sparkling wine; otherwise the wines, like most Spokane wineries are made from grapes grown from select regions outside of Spokane, but still within Eastern Washington.
A popular Arbor Crest wine is Dionysus, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Wines are traditionally named after the grapes, but a blend gives the winemaker the opportunity to name it at will. The limited release red-blend Dionysus is named after the god of wine, the inspirer of ritual madness and ecstasy. It’s defiantly a wine not to miss but be sure to also try the Syrah and Malbec. Also highly recommended is the luscious Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice pairing for a summer picnic.

Arbor Crest's winemaker, Kristina Mielke-van Löbel Sels, is a second-generation winemaker. Daughter of Harold and Marcia, she is a graduate of the University of California Davis in Fermentation Science. Mielke-van Löbel Sels spent seven years as the associate winemaker of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County in California, before she and her husband Jim; a viticulturist joined the Arbor Crest Wine Cellars staff. Using grapes grown in the Columbia Valley, Red Mountain, and Wahluke Slope, Arbor Crest produces a wide variety of wines that are available at wine shops, grocery stores, and select restaurants, as well as at the winery. 
As Arbor Crest approaches its 30th Anniversary, the return of an old family label creates a new chapter in their legacy. Back in 1969, Jim’s family released the original (and long-dormant) van Löben Sels label in California. Today, Jim, Kristina, and their three children are re-introducing the wines of van Löbel Sels Cellars. The new label is receiving rave reviews and beginning to make a name with both the 2010 Chardonnay - Conner Lee Vineyard, and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - Stillwater Creek Vineyard receiving 92 points from Robert Parker. 
Accolades:  Arbor Crest has received numerous accolades and awards, including being named by Wine Spectator as one of the "Top 50 Producers Every Wine Lover Should Know" and a "Best Place to Kiss in Spokane" by Visit Spokane.
 Sip Tips:
  • Arbor Crest participates in Spokane Wine Association events, such as the Mother's Day Spring Barrel Tasting Weekend, as well as the November Holiday Winery Tour.
  • Private tours of the Cliff House can be pre-arranged other times during the year and include wine tasting and a gourmet lunch.
  • Wine tasting is available daily from 9am-5pm.
  • Arbor Crest also has a downtown Spokane tasting room on the 3rd floor in Riverpark Square.
  • In August, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars also hosts a Classic Car Show and Art and Glass Fest. Check website for current events and concert schedule.
Laurie L Ross is a consistently published freelance writer who usually writes about the important things in life: fine wine, creative cuisine, spectacular spas, regional art, and unique boutiques. Ms. Ross has a popular wine blog entitled Sip of Spokane, a lively Facebook page Sip of Spokane, as well as an active Twitter page sipofspokane. Weekdays she can be found as the Director of Marketing at a local Ad Agency in the Spokane Valley. 
Photo Credits: Logo photo courtesy of Arbor Crest. Additional photos are from author’s collection and writer profile picture is from Photos by Tess.


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