Arbor Crest Wine Cellars at the Cliff House – Historic Venue Hosts a Destination Winery
A “Wines of Washington Series” Premium Wine Wanderings Newsletter
The History of Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and the Cliff House
The Arbor Crest Cliff House is perched on a 450 foot bluff above the Spokane River valley. This dramatic historic landmark was established in Spokane in 1924 by inventor Royal Newton Riblet. An inventor and mechanical innovator, Riblet not only developed a variety of patented devices, including a square-wheel tractor, pattern sprinkler system, and mechanical parking garage; he was also the chief engineer and designer of his beautiful home and estate. At the time of its construction in the early 1920s, it was among the most “wired” homes in the nation.
In the early 1980s, Harold and Marcia Mielke began a venture that would transform the inventor’s estate into one of the region’s premier destination wineries. Arbor Crest Wine Cellars became the state’s 29th winery (a number that has since grown to over 980) while its idyllic Riblet Estate was designated as a national historic landmark in 1979. By 1999, the family business was being expanded to include the next generation as the Mielke’s daughter, Kristina Mielke van Löben Sels, who departed her position as associate winemaker at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards in Sonoma County, California, took over as head winemaker for Arbor Crest. Together with her husband, Jim van Löben Sels, Arbor Crest’s viticulturist, Kristina now celebrates over 20 years of handcrafting elegant, award-winning varietals for Arbor Crest. Wine Spectator named Arbor Crest one of the “50 Great Producers Every Wine Love Should Know.”
I interviewed Kristina this summer and tasted her portfolio of wines while listening to one of their classic summer concerts in the background.
Arbor Crest Live Music and Events
This summer, 2021, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars is welcoming back visitors and fans. The Cliff House Estate has become one of the Inland Northwest's premier destinations for exceptional wine experiences, private gatherings, business events, art festivals, year-round music and outdoor concerts, anniversary celebrations, and weddings. They welcome close to 65,000 visitors to the Estate annually from all over the world. This particular beautiful summer evening we enjoyed the music of the “Spare Parts” band while tasting a portfolio of Arbor Crest wines. If you are planning a trip to the Spokane area, be sure your schedule includes a live music concert and wine tasting at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. The Arbor Crest warm hospitality, striking cliff-views, and memorable wines remain a highlight of the “Wines of Washington” tour summer 2021.
Kristina van Löben Sels remarks, “In normal years we host about 25 Weddings with 2020 being a huge exception. Our full-time event coordinator manages weddings, corporate events, and outdoor concerts. As a family we are also heavily involved in supporting several philanthropic endeavors including events benefitting Inland Northwest Blood Center, Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, and Spokane Public Radio, among others.”
Arbor Crest Wine Portfolio
My Arbor Crest portfolio tasting included a wide variety of red, rosé, and white wines with grapes sourced primarily from the AVA (American Viticultural Areas) of Columbia Valley. Kristina van Loben Sels makes several categories of wine including some special premium wines labeled as Avansino Grand Reserve and Van Loben Sels Cellars. Personally, I brought home the Cliff House White wine blend and the Van Loben Sels Cellars Merlot.
My recommended “Best of Tasting” Wines from Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
Cliff House White, 2020 - a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc blend, $17.
This classic white table wine was created to honor the iconic manion on the historic estate. It’s an excellent blend of aromas of stone and tropical fruit with a lively acidity to add structure and balance.
Van Loben Sels Cellars Merlot, 2017 - $40.
This premium, handcrafted Merlot was one of my favorites of the Washington State trip. The velvety wine had an intense dark ruby color with a bouquet of blueberries, violets, fennel, and smoke.
Arbor Crest Cabernet Franc, 2018 - $32.
All the best aromas you expect from a pure Cabernet Franc- spicy herb and oak, with bright jammy fruit – red currant and black raspberry. This wine was barrel-aged in French oak for 20 months.
One of Arbor Crest Cellars’ most acclaimed wines. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot is aged in French oak for 24 months and features aromas of cedar, black raspberry, nutmet, and black cherry.
Wine Wanderings Editorial Calendar
The Wines of Washington Series:
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: Concerts, Weddings, and Fine Wines – July 13, 2016
Wine Tasting in Spokane: Latah Creek Wine Cellars July 2021
Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard – July 2021
Gary Farrell Winery Shines in the Russian River Valley
Wine Castles of Sonoma County
Smashing Summer Cocktails – Gin Basil Smash
Napa Valley: Adventures Post-Pandemic
Healdsburg and the Wines of Sonoma
An interview with Bo Barrett, Chateau Montelena, the winery Post- BottleShock movie
An Interview with Dominic Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley
America’s Exceptional Wine Country Adventures
The True Cost of a Cocktail