One of the Tri-City area’s oldest wineries and a longtime Columbia Gorge winery are moving into a new Kennewick tasting room building at the end of March, the Port of Kennewick has announced.
Gordon Estates, established along the Snake River in Franklin County in 1983, and Cave B, which crushed its first vintage in 2000, signed leases with the port in mid-February to join the port’s Columbia Gardens Winery & Artisan Village in the second phase of the project along Columbia Drive in Kennewick.
The opening of the wineries at 313 Columbia Gardens Way marks the completion of Phase 2 of the project, a collaboration between the port, the City of Kennewick, Benton County and the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund’s advisory committee. A formal opening ceremony, planned for March 27, has been postponed due to concerns over the Corona virus.
Both wineries planted their first vines in 1980. Jeff Gordon, wife Vicki and his brother Bill chose their farm for their vineyard east of Pasco adjacent to the Snake, then opened their first tasting room in the farm’s driveway in 1983, said their daughter, Katie Nelson.
That same year, Carrie Bryan Arredondo’s parents, Vincent and Carol, started planting vineyards along Columbia River bluffs six miles north of Interstate 90 and south of Quincy.
Eventually, the Gordons built their operation to the current production of 20,000-22,000 cases of wine annually, crafting a broad array of wines. They currently offer unoaked and reserve-tier Chardonnay aged in oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Petit Sirah and Gewürztraminer as either late harvest or ice wine, she said.
“When the (Columbia Gardens) opportunity came up, we jumped at it,” Nelson said. The Gordons had been watching for a new place to sell their wines after operating a series of ventures to sell their wines over the decades. For 16 years, Gordon had a tasting room on Burden Boulevard in Pasco near Road 68, but at the time, the area had not yet started to boom.
Over the years, they also had a tasting room in Woodinville and a restaurant in Pasco’s Broadmoor development at Road 100, but decided that wasn’t their core business. The family vineyards produce more grapes than their winery needs, and they’ve long sold part of their grapes to other wineries.
Victor de la Luz, their current winemaker, joined Gordon in 2017, although Nelson said they also have used top industry consultants, including Charlie Hoppes’ Wine Boss team.
“We’re not afraid to ask for expertise and opinion,” Nelson said.
De la Luz is a product of Walla Walla Community College’s winemaking and viticulture program, and joins two of his fellow program graduates, Freddy Arredondo of Cave B and Victor Palencia of Monarcha Winery.
Two years ago, Bartholomew and Monarcha wineries moved into port-owned buildings nearby during the first phase of the project to redevelop a key part of Kennewick’s historic downtown riverfront.
Arredondo has been head winemaker at Cave B since 2007, but he didn’t start out to be a winemaker. He was headed to Italy to attend the Italian Culinary Institute in Piemonte when he met Carrie with other culinary students in New York City and about to fly to Italy.
They liked one another almost instantly, Carrie said. Two years later, they married, but, Freddy recalls, “We became phenomenal friends while we were going to school.”
Not long after returning to the U.S., he went to work at Cave B, then attended Walla Walla Community College’s wine program. In 2007, when the previous winemaker left Cave B, Freddy took over the job.
In the years since, they have built a reputation for producing distinctive white wines of almost every style, from sparkling wines to late harvest and ice wines. They produce about 6,000 cases of wine under that label annually.
“We grow 17 varieties of whites and reds,” Carrie said. This last fall, Cave B wines won five Platinum awards in Wine Press Northwest’s 20th Annual competition, their for 2018 Cuvée Blanc, a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Semillon, for 2016 Merlot, 2018 Chenin Blanc, 2016 Malbec and 2018 Roussanne, all from the winery’s estate vineyards in the Ancient Lakes AVA.
“You can grow great reds along the cliffs,” Freddy noted, even though the Ancient Lakes AVA is best known for its crisp white wines with “almost unique” floral notes, crisp acidity and minerality. They plant their reds in pockets close to the river where summer heat lingers into the night from the west-facing basalt cliffs.
He’s convinced that the right conditions can produce great reds in the Ancient Lakes, and “we’re 50/50” reds to whites, he noted.
They make Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Roussanne, Viognier, Barbera, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. And besides straight varietals, they produce rosés and Bordeaux-style red and white blends. They also have tasting rooms in Quincy and in Woodinville.
The two new wineries add to the Columbia Drive project’s momentum, said Tim Arntzen, CEO of the Port of Kennewick. He expects the mix of four wineries, their regular entertainment offerings and events, the food truck plaza, the adjacent shade structure and other amenities that are part of the project will attract people back to Kennewick’s historic downtown.
The aim this summer is to establish the neighborhood as a place where “there’s enough going on to where people can head down there and count on having something to do.”
“My vision is … I can head down there and get a bite to eat, have a glass of wine,” he said.
The port is negotiating with two other food truck operators to add their offerings to Swampy’s Barbecue, so far the mainstay at the food truck plaza.
So far, the port has developed only a small part of lands acquired over a decade as it slowly purchased about 16 acres between the cable bridge and Clover Island Drive, which connects the Port-owned and redeveloped island just north of the new project.
The port also has been in contact with a restaurant group that would be a new addition to the Tri-City food scene, Arntzen said. If that effort succeeds, it would complement the nearby restaurants, Casa Chapala and the Ice Harbor brewpub and Cedars Pier 1 on Clover Island.
“We’re growing (there) little by little, just like small business builds little by little,” he said. The port has six more parcels for sale in the wine village area and is just starting to update its new master plan for Clover Island.
A key factor in the plan will be to include the redevelopment of the northwest corner, former site of the port offices. The port will be working with the Corps of Engineers and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, with initial work to include armoring the shoreline there from erosion and adding native vegetation as they did on the island’s west side.
Also in the works is a plan to build Columbia Basin College’s culinary school on a port property formerly occupied by the Cable Greens miniature golf course.
KEN ROBERTSON, the retired editor of the Tri-City Herald, has been sipping Northwest wines and writing about them since 1976.
This story was originally published March 26, 2020 6:14 PM.