The Small Winery With The Big View

SPOKANE – Washington State’s wine industry has taken off in recent years, and one of the most unique wineries sits on a cliff overlooking much of Spokane County.

Before 2000 there were 113 wineries in Washington. As of this year there are 500 wineries in the state including one family-owned winery in Spokane Valley with an amazing view.

Jim van Loben Sels and his wife Kristina run the
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
, a family business they took over from Kristina’s parents Harold and Marcia Mielke several years back.

Jim and Kristina  serve as the winery’s general managers and in the last few years the small winery on the cliff has been garnering local, regional and national attention for its ’05 Carbernet Franc, ’05 Cabernet Sauvignon and its ’05 Sauvignon Blanc among its many wines.

“I think the unique thing about Spokane is that people don’t really see us on the radar screen as the epicenter of the vineyards but uniquely to Spokane we have 14 wineries,” Jim van Loben Sels said.

It’s hard not to imagine Arbor Crest not being on the radar screen, especially with that cliff and more importantly that Cliff House. Built in 1924 by local inventor Royal Newton Riblet, the three-story house on the cliff includes a rose garden, arched gatekeeper’s house and a life-sized checkerboard among other things.

In 1985 Arbor Crest purchased the house, which had fallen into disrepair over the years, and turned it into the cornerstone of their facility, which is used during the days for wine tastings and is also a popular location for weddings and receptions with its breathtaking view across the Spokane Valley.

“You can see all the way down 350 feet to the Spokane River,” Jim van Loben Sels said.

The view and the atmosphere at Arbor Crest is one reason why Kerri Walters and her friends have made coming to Arbor Crest an annual event.

“For three years in a row now we’ve been doing this tradition, meeting up here,” Walters said. “It’s a day off and it’s a fun place to come up, it’s very relaxing.”

As the second generation managers of the family business, Jim and Kristina plan on keeping Arbor Crest in the family and on the wine industry’s radar for years to come.

“We’ve been around 25 years and we’re planning on the second and third generation wine makers coming through,” Jim said.

Arbor Crest is open for wine tasting from noon until 5 p.m. daily and if you’re thinking about getting married Jim says they have one more date open this summer.