Tasting Notes: Cave B Winery

Freddy Arredondo

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Freddy Arredondo’s culinary background informs Cave B Winery’s approach to winemaking.

Chef’s choice
Most winemakers aren’t lucky enough to have a vineyard right outside their wineries. Generally, they buy their grapes from vineyards near and far—sometimes staying involved in decisions on when to water and when to harvest but often deferring to the discretion of the vineyard manager, which can leave the winemaker with less control over the fruit and, ultimately, the wine.

At Cave B Estate on the Columbia River in Grant County, a 110-acre vineyard wraps around the Cave B Winery and the Inn at SageCliffe, which is adjacent to the Gorge Amphitheatre. Winemaker Freddy Arredondo walks the vineyards daily, tasting the grapes and measuring their acidity, pH and Brix levels.

Like a chef in his garden, Arredondo believes that knowing his grapes and tasting his wines every day while they are in the tanks and barrels help him understand how they’re progressing and the perfect moment to bottle them.

Arredondo started out as a chef, and became friends with his future wife, Carrie Bryan, at a cooking school in Italy. When they returned to Washington, they found their common love of food and wine brought them closer. Bryan’s parents owned a little inn they’d built on the banks of the Columbia called SageCliffe. It featured a winery that the couple visited frequently. One day as they were leaving the site, Arredondo realized he wanted to make a major shift in his life, from cooking food to making wine. “Many of the skills and ways of thinking are the same,” he says. “It seemed like a natural transition.”

Arredondo attended Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program, and eventually took over operations at Cave B in 2007. His attentive nature and focused personality have brought the wines new acclaim, and he hopes the sustainable practices in the vineyard and the attention to detail will show the distinctive terroir of the Ancient Lakes area of north-central Washington. He and other winemakers in the region see it as singular enough—with layers of volcanic basalt below a shallow layer of loess, or volcanic dust, blown in from around the world—to file for new American Viticultural Area status. Add miles and miles of sagebrush, and the area is unlike any wine-growing region in the state. Arredondo says the land adds unique minerality and herbal character to his wines. Although the area has only about a dozen wineries, including Kyra Vineyards and Jones of Washington winery, there is growing interest, and within a year or so, Arredondo hopes to be able to put the Ancient Lakes appellation on the bottle and showcase the region’s exceptional gifts.

Originally published in June 2010