Spotlight On: Cave B Estate Winery



By Kori ~ April 12th, 2010.

Cave B Estate Winery is a destination winery resort located on 900 foot cliffs above the Columbia River in Quincy, Washington. Founded in 2001 by Vincent and Carol Bryan, Cave B Estate Winery sits in the heart of the Bryan’s SageCliffe Resort which also includes The Cave B Inn at SageCliffe, The Spa at SageCliffe, Tendrils Vineyard Restaurant, a cliff-side swimming pool, and event and meeting facilities. While Cave B is a little off the beaten path, it is actually centrally located, just over two hours from both Seattle and Spokane. The setting is peaceful and visually stunning, an excellent place to visit for an afternoon or a long weekend.

The SageCliffe story began in 1980 when the Bryan family bought the land. At the time, it was home to alfalfa, sagebrush, and a few cattle. They began planting their first vineyard on the property that first summer. When the vineyards began producing adequately, they sold the grapes to wineries around Washington State but always looked forward to making their own wine. Their first winery was known as Champs de Brionne. Not long after the winery opened, the Bryans discovered an area on their property which offered amazing natural acoustics. Today, that area is the world-renowned Gorge Amphitheater. As the reputation of the amphitheater grew, they decided to close the winery and focus on the amphitheater and vineyards.

Years later in 2001, with the amphitheater’s reputation firmly established and the vineyards more mature, the Bryans decided to open another winery, this time a smaller, premium estate winery named Cave B Estate Winery. All of the grapes used in Cave B wines come from their 100+ acre estate vineyards. The climate in their vineyards is not as hot as Wahluke Slope and not as cool as Lake Chelan but rather somewhere in the middle. This allows them to ripen reds nicely but also retain good acidity. As a result, many varieties seem to do well on their site, and they currently grow seventeen different varieties. Cave B uses about 35 percent of their crop and they sell the rest of the grapes to other wineries. Currently, Cave B produces a total of about 5,000 cases per year under two labels, their primary Cave B label and their more widely available SageCliffe label.

Winemaker Alfredo “Freddy” Arredondo joined Cave B in 2006 as assistant winemaker and became head winemaker in November 2007. He is a very personable guy with a clear passion for both wine and food. In fact, his roots are in the food world. He attended culinary school in Scottsdale, Arizona, and later also studied at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Costigliole, Italy. Through his culinary studies, he became interested in wine and in 2003 decided to switch his focus to winemaking. He graduated with a degree in Enology and Viticulture from the Institute for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla, Washington. During school, he worked as a cellar master at Cougar Crest Winery. After graduation in 2005, he went to work for Cave B.

“Before changing careers, I was a chef. I’ve been working on my palate my whole life. I make wines that are meant to be drunk with food.” –Winemaker Freddy Arredondo

Recently, Dad (John) and I had the pleasure to meet Freddy and taste through some of the Cave B wines with him when he was in Seattle. The 2008 vintage was the first vintage that Freddy produced completely on his own. During that tasting, we had the opportunity to taste three of “his” reds that were recently bottled and will not be released until June, a Malbec, a Cabernet Franc, and a Tempranillo. We were very impressed, particularly with the Malbec. Both the Malbec and the Cabernet Franc are the first varietal bottlings of those wines from Cave B. Given that recently bottled wines tend to be muted on both the nose and palate, we were very impressed with the character that these wines already showed. I will be anxious to try these wines again once they’ve been in the bottle six to eight months. We have had Cave B wines in the past and had found them to be somewhat inconsistent. It is obvious that Freddy has Cave B headed down the right path as these current and upcoming releases are quite impressive and really show Freddy’s potential as a winemaker as he showcases Cave B’s vineyard site.

“My philosophy in winemaking in general is to really pull back on oak, really have a restrained, light touch with oak. I really view the oak as giving the wine texture and body more so than giving it toasted wood. I, personally, especially with food, don’t really like wines that smell and taste like toasted wood. I want the fruit to be front and center, not the oak.” –Winemaker Freddy Arredondo

The only bad news in all of this is that most of Cave B’s wines are not widely distributed. About 80 percent of all their wine sales take place on the premises through their tasting room, restaurant, and wine club.

The wines rated below include a number of Cave B’s current and upcoming releases, one we tasted in a blind samples tasting and the others when we tasted with Freddy in Seattle. These eight wines are excellent representatives of the Cave B portfolio. With four 4-star wines, two 3.5-star wines, and two 3-star wines, I encourage you to pick up any of these if you happen to see them on the shelf at your local wine shop. And if you find yourself near The Gorge Amphitheater or looking for a special vacation destination, I encourage you to stop by or make a reservation at Cave B. As if the current amenities aren’t enough to entice you, they also are developing The Golf Club at SageCliffe and a limited number of single-family residences. And down the road, they plan to build a Hilltop Village which will include art galleries, performance spaces, more culinary offerings, retail shops, and condominiums.

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Malbec (Columbia Valley, Washington): Bottled in early March. Cave B’s first varietal Malbec. Beautiful blood red with purple hues. Massive red fruit on the nose. Luscious red fruits, spice, and a hint of black pepper on the palate. Medium-bodied with very crisp acidity and drying tannins. Well-balanced now but should really open up with more time in the bottle.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, probably low $30’s (to be released in June)

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, straw yellow with green tinges. Petrol, mineral, dill, and citrus aromas on the nose; pears, peaches, and green apples on the palate. Off-dry and light-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced and complex with a long finish. Residual Sugar: 2%
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $18

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Cabernet Franc (Columbia Valley, Washington): Bottled in early March. Cave B’s first varietal Cab Franc. Gorgeous nose for just being bottled. Spice, clove, vegetal, and dark fruit aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Well-balanced, good complexity, has great potential.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, probably high $20’s (to be released in June)

2006 Cave B Estate Winery Cuvee du Soleil (Columbia Valley, Washington): 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot. Cave B’s signature Bordeaux-style blend. Great nose with smoke, chocolate, and spice aromas. Black fruits and smoked meat come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and high, drying tannins. Good fruit up front and good weight on the mid-palate. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $40

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Tempranillo (Columbia Valley, Washington): 80% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Franc. Bottled in early March. Aromas of earth, floral, and spice; flavors of smoke, dark fruits, and leather. Medium to full-bodied, lively acidity, medium drying tannins, and a long finish. Should come together with more time in the bottle.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, probably high $20’s (to be released in June)

2009 SageCliffe 100 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley, Washington): Small amount of Viognier blended in as well. Light-bodied and very aromatic. Floral notes, pear, and apple come through on both the nose and palate. Crisp, yet smooth, with a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $18.50

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Semillon Ice Wine (Columbia Valley, Washington): Golden yellow. Nose is a bit tight at first but then honey and dried apricot aromas and flavors show through. Not overly sweet on the palate despite the high residual sugar. Good balance. Residual Sugar: 12.5%
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $35 [375ml]

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Semillon (Columbia Valley, Washington): Some oak and a hint of butter on the nose. Light to medium-bodied. Smooth and creamy with lively acidity and a long, slightly hot, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $20


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Red Wine, Riesling, Semillon, Spotlight On, Tempranillo, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Chris | April 12th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Great review. I am planning on featuring this (a link) on our blog for our residents to see. Thank you :)

  2. Kori | April 12th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Chris,
    Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for the link. Cheers!

  3. Frank | April 13th, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    I am curious why you are suddenly writing about wineries that are spotlighted by the Washington Wine Commission.
    Are you doing this solely to be “recognized” and reprinted on their website?
    Why did you omit a review of their rose wine? It’s not that good, is it?
    You also fail to mention that their wines ARE widely distributed, via Costco.
    You have ulterior motives for writing about wines and people are on to this.

  4. Kori | April 13th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Frank,
    As I mentioned in the post, we are writing about these wines because we tasted them recently and liked them. We received the Riesling as a sample and the others were tasted when we met the winemaker in Seattle for a press interview/tasting. Our motivation for writing about them has nothing to do with the Washington Wine Commission. These samples and tastings were handled in the exact same way as we always handle samples and tastings. And the reason why we did not review the Rose wine is very simple…we did not taste it. And you are incorrect in asserting that all of their wines are widely distributed through Costco. It is my understanding that only their SageCliffe wines are sold in some Costco stores. Out of the eight wines reviewed, only one was a SageCliffe. So seven out of the eight wines are not widely distributed. I’m sorry to hear that you feel we have ulterior motives, but the plain and simple answer is that we do not. We taste and review lots of wines and are very transparent about our processes. If you are not familiar with those processes, please visit our Trade Samples (http://winepeeps.com/trade-samples/) and How We Taste (http://winepeeps.com/how-we-taste/) pages.

  5. Cork & Foil Wine Blot | April 18th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Not sure who Frank is, but that seems like a little bit of a harsh onslaught, I enjoyed your reviews, and given that your marks for the wines vary wildly with your bang for bucks ranging from 5/5 to a less than impressive 1/5 I think its a tad harsh to suggest you have an alterior motive, nice reviews, ignore him!

  6. Kori | April 20th, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Cork & Foil,
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate your support. Cheers!