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Spokane, Washington: Wine from the Inland Empire

October 31st, 2008-- by Kori Voorhees

“It is not to be wondered that Spokane Falls booms, nor that it bids fair, and is bound to be the chief metropolis not only of eastern Washington, but of that vast extent of territory, now being rapidly peopled, known and suggestively spoken of as the ‘Inland Empire,’ an immense region of unlimited resources and possibilities that will in later years give subsistence and support to millions of human beings.” –An early reference to the Inland Empire was printed in the first edition of the Spokane Falls Review, a predecessor of today’s Spokesman-Review, on May 19, 1883

20081031_arborcrest.jpgWashington State currently boasts over 540 wineries and is the second largest premium wine producing state in the U.S. While most of the attention when it comes to Washington wine nationwide is bestowed on Walla Walla, there are numerous other areas that are making great strides in the state. Spokane, the state’s second largest city behind Seattle, is one of those areas. Just like in 1883 when it was declared a region of unlimited resources and possibilities, today Spokane is poised to become a thriving wine region. It is located in Eastern Washington approximately 20 miles from the Washington-Idaho border. The Spokane River runs through the heart of downtown. Spokane’s summers are warm and sunny while its winters are moderately cold.

Currently, there are about 14 wineries in the greater Spokane area. Since it is not a grape-growing region, Spokane wineries source their grapes from vineyards in Eastern Washington or Southern Idaho. Several wineries that I encourage you to visit are Latah Creek Winery, Arbor Crest, Townshend, Lone Canary, Barrister, and Mountain Dome.

20081031_latahcreek.jpgLatah Creek Winery, owned by Mike and Ellena Conway, has been in business 26 years and produces about 15,000 cases per year. In addition to a friendly staff and good wines, Latah Creek features a well-stocked gift shop.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars was founded in 1982, and today produces about 20,000 cases per year. While it is locally owned by the Mielke family, the tasting room has more of a corporate feel. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit for its good wines and beautiful setting with a scenic overlook of Spokane and the surrounding area.

Townshend Cellar was founded in 1998 by owner/winemaker Don Townshend, an engineer by background and trade. He got hooked on the wine business after doing an engineering job for Preston Premium Wines. Today he makes about twenty different wines and produces about 9,000 cases per year. Townshend is located north of town but is worth the drive.

20081031_lonecanary.jpgLone Canary Winery, a relatively new producer, was founded in 2003 by Mike Scott, winemaker/partner. Today they produce about 5,000 cases per year. Lone Canary is located in an industrial park. They produce good wines and have a very friendly and welcoming staff.

Barrister Winery was founded in 2001 by two attorney/winemakers, Greg Lipsker and Michael White. Barrister is located in a 100 year-old brick building in the historic Davenport Arts District downtown. Strictly red wine producers, they currently produce about 2,500 cases per year.

Mountain Dome Winery, located on 84 acres just outside of town, was founded in 1984 by Michael and Patricia Manz. Exclusively a sparkling wine producer, Mountain Dome currently produces about 4,000 cases per year with plans to increase to 6,000 cases in a few years. Mountain Dome is the largest family owned sparkling house in the Northwest. Michael Manz passed away last year and now his son Erik serves as head winemaker.

If you live near Spokane or are thinking of planning a trip there in the next month, be sure to check out their Holiday Wine Festival. Always the weekend before Thanksgiving, this year’s festival runs November 21-23, 11am-5pm.

If You Go:

If you are flying, Spokane has a major airport and many connections can be made through Seattle. If you are driving, Spokane is located 275 miles east of Seattle, just 20 miles from the Washington-Idaho border.

Lodging: For historic, stately accommodations, stay at The Davenport Hotel. Otherwise, there are a number of other options in Spokane to consider as well. Or for luxury resort accommodations, stay at the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (30 miles from Spokane) which boasts a golf course with a floating green.

Wineries and tasting rooms to visit:
Latah Creek Winery, 13030 East Indiana Ave, Spokane, WA 99216, 509-926-0164, open daily 9am-5pm, No tasting fee. For directions, click here.
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, 4705 North Fruithill Rd, Spokane, WA 99217, 509-927-9463, open daily 12-5pm, No tasting fee (reserve tastings available for a fee).
Townshend Cellar, 16112 North Greenbluff Rd, Colbert, WA 99005, 509-238-1400, open Fri-Sun: 12-6pm and by appointment, No tasting fee. For directions, click here.
Lone Canary Winery, 109 South Scott St, Spokane, WA 99202, 509-534-9062, open Thurs-Sun: 12-5pm, No tasting fee (reserve tastings available for a fee). For directions, click here.
Barrister Winery, 1213 West Railroad Ave, Spokane, WA 99201, 509-465-3591, open Fri: 12-6pm and Sat: 12-5pm, No tasting fee. For directions, click here.
Mountain Dome Winery, 16315 East Temple Rd, Spokane, WA 99217, 509-928-2788, open Tues-Sat by appointment, No tasting fee.

Other things to do in the area: Spokane has an extensive park system. One notable park, Riverfront Park along the Spokane River, was the site of the 1974 World’s Fair. There are many other things to do including shopping, arts, golf, and winter sports.

Tags: Kori Voorhees · Washington

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