The Gorge Amphitheatre grew up where the grass would not. Read all about it.
IF KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS could grow well in central Washington, the story of Cave B Estate Winery might be dramatically different.
Back in the late 1970s, Vince and Carol Bryan bought several hundred acres of land near the seemingly desolate and dusty Grant County town of George. Their vision was to plant grapevines during the nascent days of the Washington wine industry and build their winery on the edge of dramatic basalt cliffs overlooking the Columbia River.
The vines went into the soil in 1980, and the first wines of Champs de Brionne were made in 1982. By the following year, the Bryans had built their tasting room and were preparing a grand opening.
Three Cave B selections
Cave B Estate Winery 2013 semillon ice wine, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $38: This is a rare and beautiful dessert wine with aromas and flavors of nutmeg, clove and baked apple topped with vanilla ice cream.
Cave B Estate Winery 2011 XXVI merlot, Columbia Valley, $43: Classic aromas of sage, dusty black currant and raspberry give way to fascinating flavors of black cherry, plum and tarragon. This is made in an elegant and austere style.
Cave B Estate Winery 2011 syrah, Columbia Valley, $30: This mouthwatering red is big and complex, thanks to notes of plum, smoke, boysenberry and horehound. It’s beautifully balanced between rich weight and moderate tannins.
But little was going right. The Kentucky bluegrass they planted never germinated because — they found out later — it needed way more water than the dry conditions would allow.
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So they punted. That meant spending 72 hours straight creating an atmosphere that would be enjoyable for the expected 1,200 guests. The Bryans built terraced seating for the natural amphitheater on their property, and a band from Wenatchee performed for the visitors.
“People came, the band played, the wine wasn’t very good, and people still had a good time,” he said.
Unwittingly, the Bryans created a concert amphitheater that through the next decade they built into a 24,000-seat venue. In 1993, they sold the entire operation — minus the surrounding vineyards — and today it is the world-famous Gorge Amphitheatre. The winery that spawned it, Champs de Brionne, was shuttered. Bryan, a Seattle neurosurgeon, went on to invent the artificial disc for the human spine.
They continued to sell their grapes to other wineries, and in 2000, the Bryans approached winemaker Brian Carter about making a little wine for them under the name Cave B. Soon, they were busy building a beautiful winery next to the Gorge Amphitheatre, followed by a restaurant and lodging. For the past several years, Freddy Arredondo has been crafting gorgeous wines to match the amazing setting.
From downtown Seattle to Cave B and its stunning views and facility it’s just 150 miles, all interstate driving. It’s a remarkable destination that’s close to home and provides an experience you won’t soon forget.