Sunday, October 31, 2021

Quincy - The Gorge, the Grapes, and the Gem

It was a quick weekend getaway to hide from the Seattle rain. We packed our dogs and our vacation excitement, and headed for the rain shadow east of the Cascades. The two-and-a-half hours' drive ended in a little town called Quincy, with a population of just over 7,000 people. First, let me introduce you to the natural beauty of this area, and then we delve into the vine and the wine.

The Gorge

Quincy's claim to fame is the spectacular Gorge Amphitheater, an outdoor music venue that has hosted hundreds of concerts and music festivals, such as the Lilith Fair, Lollapalooza, and Sasquatch! The impressive line of musicians and bands that played there included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam, and most notably, the Dave Matthews Band. There is even a documentary, Enormous: The Gorge Story, that chronicled the beginning of this geologic wonder.

We arrived in Quincy a week after the last concert of the season, intentionally to avoid the crowds during the pandemic. Hiking the Ancient Lakes Trail, I caught a glimpse of the Columbia River weaving through the basalt columns. The sheer beauty of the area was breathtaking. I can only imagine the concert experience with the natural acoustics and against the vast backdrop of the gorge.

Columbia River weaving through the gorge
The Grapes

We rented a condo on the beautiful grounds of Cave B Estate Winery surrounded by vineyards. Cave B owners, neurosurgeon Vince Bryan and his wife, Carol, were also the first to plant grapes in the area back in 1980. They named their winery Champs de Brionne, which translated to Fields of Bryans. Incidentally, the Bryans were also the original owners of the Gorge Amphitheater, which they used to host concerts during winery events.

Condos on Cave B surrounded by vineyards

Since then, Quincy and its surrounding areas have cultivated over 3,000 acres of vineyards, growing 20 different grape varieties. In 2012, the region received the Ancient Lakes AVA designation for being on higher elevation and more northerly than other Washington appellations. The huge swing in day-to-night temperatures and the basalt-limestone soils impart crisp acidity and high minerality, making it ideal for growing white wine grapes, of which Riesling is king. Some of the highly-scored Washington Rieslings, such as Chateau Ste Michelle's Eroica and Charles Smith's Kung Fu Girl, source their fruit from here.

Vineyard with a view

The Gem

We were enjoying a bagel sandwich and coffee at Sage Coffee House and Bistro (FYI, a great place for a quick lunch) when a sign caught my eye. It was nondescript: CHRIS DANIEL Tasting Room, Highway 283, OPEN FRI-SAT noon to 5pm. There was no telling what one would be tasting or where on the highway the tasting room was. It definitely had the feel of a local secret. I started googling Chris Daniel and, to my delight, uncovered a gem. 

Nondescript sign for Chris Daniel Tasting Room

The winery is named after the young winemaker, whose resume reads like my wine travels. Chris has had stints at Lapostolle and Viu Manent in Colchagua Valley, Domaine Lejeune in Pommard, and Bell and Girard in Napa. His father, Michael, has over 20 years of consulting experience for vineyards. Together, they combine high quality grapes with skilled winemaking to produce gorgeous well-structured wines at an incredible value! (Their whites and rosé run around $20 a bottle, and their reds are around $30-35 a bottle.) Here's the catch: It is hard to find their wines outside of Quincy and Wenatchee. 

Proud parents, Dianne and Michael Stewart

Note: Chris Daniel Tasting Room is closed from November to mid April. Please check the winery website for the latest Tasting Room information.

My Verdict: Quincy definitely offered more than I had expected from this little getaway - the geological splendor, the serene quiet vineyards, and the accidental discovery of a new winery. Whether you are planning to head out that way for the next Dave Matthews Band concert or just hoping to stay out of the rain, be sure to swing by Chris Daniel. You won't be sorry!