Heavenly Heights

Cathedral Ridge winery celebrates 20 year anniversary

The Hood River Cathedral Ridge tasting room.##Photo provided by Cathedral Ridge Winery
Sample wine outside on Cathedral Ridge’s spacious patio.##Photo provided by Cathedral Ridge Winery
Bottles of Cathedral Ridge wines.##Photo provided by Cathedral Ridge Winery
The Dundee Cathedral Ridge tasting room.##Photo provided by Cathedral Ridge Winery

By Brooke Strickland

Next time you gaze at majestic Mount Hood, look more closely. You’ll notice a unique ridge running off the summit to the Northwest. This is Cathedral Ridge, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most rugged and breathtaking places for hikers to traverse. When owner and cellarmaster Robb Bell purchased the winery (it was formerly known as Flerchinger Vineyards), he renamed it something more fitting.

This year, Cathedral Ridge Winery celebrates 20 years in business, its reputation almost as iconic as its namesake. The winery is known for its award-winning big, bold reds, signature blends and delicious whites grown in the Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley regions. Its original location sits on a hill in Hood River with sweeping views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams. Its second site, in Dundee, opened in 2011. Fourth-generation winemaker Michael Sebastiani, cellar master, Robb Bell, with assistant winemaker and operations manager, Tyler McCafferty, handcraft each wine in limited quantities.

“We’ve seen substantial growth over the last two decades,” said John Bell, winery president. “We produced roughly 1,000 cases in 2003, and now 10,000 a year. We’ve served over 300,000 guests and our wine club has grown to over 1,500 wonderful and engaged members.”

While visiting Cathedral Ridge Winery, guests can choose from over 30 wines, including 16 reserve wines. Part of the fun is letting visitors curate their own tasting experience. They can craft their own flight or rely on a selection chosen by the tasting host. “We have something for everyone and every occasion,” John said.

The winery also contains a unique library program featuring wines aged at least a decade. “We cellar the last five to 10 cases of each varietal/vintage for over 10 years before opening it,” said Robb. “We offer one of these wines daily. If it doesn’t meet our high standards, it won’t qualify as a library wine, and we pour it all out.”

Local Vineyard Partners

Cathedral Ridge Winery works with 16 area vineyards, including: McKinley Springs, Elephant Mountain, Dampier, Firethorn and Sugarloaf.

“All our vineyard partners are industry leaders growing the best fruit consistently,” Robb explained. “Although most are small in scale– they have distinct terroir, produce premium quality grapes and utilize the diversity of our regional micro-climates. This allows us to craft low-intervention, high-quality varietals and innovative blends. These vineyards share their best fruit, each year helping us meet our evolving needs. We pick, crush, and begin fermentation within four to six hours. We’ll refuse fruit that shows up late because it won’t make great wines– we won’t even try.”

The Inspiration

In addition to being motivated by legendary vineyard partners, the Bell family and team find energy in the stunning Pacific Northwest region with its dramatic climate shifts.

While traveling east, the combination of fir, spruce, pines, and scrub oak give way to tall grass, with different microclimates throughout.

“This unique growing region allows us to embrace an amazing range of different varietals, including grapes from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhine and Rhône,” Robb said. “Along with varied microclimates, it has a unique and constantly changing terroir. Prehistoric lava flows, repeated cataclysmic floods and glaciers have carved the Columbia River Gorge into the breathtaking scenery you see today.”

These elements produce fruit different from anything else in the world and with that, Cathedral Ridge Winery crafts their distinctive, elegant and often award-winning wines.

Named 2007 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest, Cathedral Ridge Winery has received a multitude of local, national and international accolades. The most notable include a “Best in Class” designation for the 2018 Syrah by Savor Northwest in 2022 and a 2021 Great Northwest Wine Platinum Awards double platinum medal for the 2017 Cabernet Reserve. Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2020 Necessity White (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris) with both an “Editor’s Choice” and 91 rating. Additional honors include 9 platinum, 19 double gold, 75 gold medals, 147 silver and 67 bronze.

Anniversary Celebrations

To commemorate 20 years, Cathedral Ridge Winery is offering special events and curated gift collections. An exclusive wine club members’ anniversary celebration took place earlier in autumn. This month, the winemaking team is hosting two special, holiday parties at the winery’s Dundee and Hood River locations. On a regular basis, the winery offers in-room specials on wines, curated collections and case purchases. Now they feature a tasting flight option with five different library wines (2013 or older), a full tour of the winery, charcuterie platter and two logo glasses during an intimate 90-minute tasting experience. The Dundee location offers a similar private tasting experience for members and guests.

Cathedral Ridge also plans to release several new wines, including: 2019 Barbera Reserve, 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2021 Merlot, 2020 Bordeaux Red, 2020 Dampier Pinot Noir Reserve, 2021 Mourvèdre, and 2018 Last Best Wife Reserve.

Looking ahead, Robb notes they will continue improving their vineyard quality and access to the best fruit, while fine-tuning their wine processes, creating products that are robust and memorable.

Robb said, “With help from our wine club members, we’ve developed a style and taste. We’ve spent the last 20 years seeking out the finest vineyard partners and procuring the very best fruit from this amazing region. It’s simple– great fruit makes superb wine. We let Mother Nature do her thing and then present her exceptional work in a bottle.”

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