Cave B: Making Memories in Washington

It is not yet a trend in the United States, but it’s becoming more common to see wineries “married” with inns, providing wine-loving guests with a complete “escape” on a single piece of property.

In the state of Washington, there’s a wine estate that’s setting the standard for total guest “immersion”—combining wine, food, a place to stay and even music. It’s the perfect romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary or any special occasion, and this is its story…

In 1980, Seattle-based neurosurgeon Vincent Bryan II, along with his wife Carol, purchased a several-hundred acre parcel of land high on the cliffs above the Columbia River. The closest town was Quincy, and the nearest paved road was interstate 90, six miles away.

The Bryans had been on a year-long quest to find land in Washington that was similar in latitude to the great winegrowing regions of France, and which had tremendous variety in both soil and microclimates. They were looking for land that had nearly perfect conditions for growing grapes.

When they purchased the property, they immediately realized they’d received much more than they’d bargained for. To have such amazing conditions growing premium winegrapes—coupled with a location so stunning in its sweeping, panoramic gorge cliffs, valleys and views—was extraordinary.

But the goal was the vineyards, and the Bryans set to work planting. Then came the winery: Champs de Brionne. The ultimate goal: to have a premiere estate winery, and soils and microclimates provided the promise of potentially great wines.

But how to motivate Washingtonians to visit the winery and taste the wines? This question was in the back of the Bryans’ minds as they accompanied some friends on a hike into the gorge.

Near the top of the cliff leading down into the “little gorge,” there was a strangely wonderful natural bowl in the cliff side. Carol and friends walked down the bowl to the bottom, and Vince remained at the top. Soon, Vince realized he could hear every word they were speaking—more than 1,000 feet below.

This was the first indication of the amazing natural acoustics provided by the “bowl” on the cliff, and an idea was born: music!

There was nothing fancy about the setting for this natural venue’s first concert: a small wooden stage, and a few hastily-laid sod terraces. The sole intent of the “amphitheater” was to provide a wonderful musical experience that would draw visitors to Champs de Brionne Winery.

As summer approached, pamphlets were written up and dittoed into damp, inky-smelling piles. The Bryan children handed out these “Champs de Brionne Summer Music Theater” pamphlets at the end of the dusty, unpaved road leading past the winery. To everyone’s amazement, they passed out 1,000.

Guests came, tried Champs de Brionne wines, sat on the grassy terraces and enjoyed themselves tremendously. Quickly, the amphitheater grew to include a much larger stage and an increasingly exciting lineup of performers.

The Champs de Brionne Summer Music Theater gained momentum. The special land seemed to elevate everything and everyone around it, and with that understanding came the decision to close the winery and concentrate on making the estate vineyards larger, more mature and better matched to their surroundings. Then, and only then, would a new, smaller, boutique winery be built.

After only a few years, the Champs de Brionne Summer Music Theater had become The Gorge Amphitheater—better known to locals simply as “The Gorge.” It had grown to encompass a world-class stage, multiple grass-terraced levels, and as many as 20,000 concertgoers per show. Artists like Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan took the stage.

With every concert at the Amphitheater, one thing became increasingly clear: Something special happened to people who attended concerts there. There was a palpable sense of peace and community. There was something in human nature that responded to tremendous natural vistas. And when musicians picked up their instruments and began to play and sing, all of it had a profound effect.

Music pulsed and soared at The Gorge over the years while the vineyards grew and the vines thickened and the grapes came into their own. It was time to build that second, smaller, premium winery. In 2000, the doors of Cave B Estate Winery were opened.

All around the winery other construction began, as more of the vision of Carol and Vince Bryan became reality. Cave B Inn rose to the northwest of the winery. Tendrils Restaurant was built, a chef’s garden was planted and a boutique spa was created.

The doors of Cave B Inn & Spa opened in 2005. This place, once considered to be in the middle of nowhere, had become, as the Bryans liked to say, “in the middle of everywhere.”

Cave B is an example of how nature and humans can enhance one another—like wine and music, or wine and food. The Bryans continue to extend their Cave B vision, taking their cues from the land. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Cave B Inn & Spa
344 Silica Rd. NW, Quincy, WA 98848
Reservations: 888-785-CAVE
Inn Front Desk: 509-785-CAVE
Spa: 509-785-2036
Tendrils: 509-785-2283


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Have you ever stayed overnight at a winery inn? What was it like? Would you do it again? Share your experiences in the Comments box below.

TOMORROW: Wrapping that special Valentine’s Day wine gift in style.

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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