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A&E >  Food

Overbluff Cellars joins Spokane winery scene

The Spokane Winery Association is welcoming sweet 16 this year.

Overbluff Cellars joins the growing number of Spokane wineries for the first time at this year’s spring barrel tasting. The winery, owned by John and Lynnelle Caudill, will offer four new releases: three cabernet sauvignons and a viognier.

John Caudill is a self-taught winemaker who grew up near the vines of Lodi, Calif.

“Our house was right next to a Mondavi vineyard, so I always just kept an interest,” he said.

A chance meeting in Spokane would later turn him into a winemaker.

Caudill’s wife, Lynnelle, is the general manager of the Davenport Hotel and Tower. The hotel’s restaurants were clearing out some wine to make way for new vintages and sold the wines to regular customer Gerald Gibson.

John Caudill helped Lynnelle deliver the wines to Gibson and a friendship was born. The men were tasting wines later in Napa, Calif. when they first decided to try making wines together.

Gibson, 85, grew up in San Francisco and has long been a fan of Napa Valley wines. Also self-taught, he has made wines for 13 years.

Together, Caudill and Gibson started with four barrels. The wine was good enough to convince them to “go pro,” Caudill says.

In 2007, the winemakers produced seven barrels of cabernet sauvignon. In 2008, they expanded to 17 barrels, adding syrah and semillion to their portfolio. Last year, Overbluff Cellars produced 30 barrels of wine.

They’re making Washington wines with a Napa Valley influence.

“Our goal is just to build the best wine we possibly can out of Walla Walla,” John Caudill says. “We’re focusing on Walla Walla fruit. We believe that is the best in the state.”

He hopes customers will taste the Napa Valley influence in their first release of cabernet sauvignon.

“We’re trying to compete with the big Napa cabs as opposed to the Washington state cabs,” he says. “We love the Washington fruit, we just want our wines to be a little bit bigger.”

Caudill and Gibson are unveiling their first releases at the Spokane Winery Association’s Spring Barrel Tasting starting Friday.

The wines will be poured at the Hotel Lusso. Enter the hotel at 7 N. Post St. (the former entrance to Cavallino Lounge.) They’ll pour Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wines being released include: 2007 LaTour Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($24); 2007 Duality Cabernet Sauvignon ($31), made with fruit from LaTour and Windrow vineyards in Walla Walla; 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($34); and a 2009 Viognier ($17).

Overbluff Cellars’ wines are also available at Vino! A Wine Shop, 222 S. Washington St.; Churchill’s Steakhouse, 165 S. Post St.; and Vin Rouge Bistro, 3029 E. 29th Ave.

Caudill is working full-time for Overbluff Cellars. He was formerly the body shop manager at Camp Chevrolet.

The Caudills are refurbishing the former Cobblestone Bakery location, 620 S. Washington St., which will be the winery’s tasting room. Tucked behind a historic Victorian-style house, the building is covered with grapevines.

“It’s like it was meant to be,” Caudill says.

Customers will be able to enjoy a small garden adjacent to the tasting room.

The Caudills are planning a grand-opening celebration at the tasting room on May 29. More details about the event will be released soon. The information is also available on the Overbluff Cellars website, www.overbluff

Caudill says he’s excited about joining the growing number of local wineries. He hopes it means Spokane is well on its way to becoming a destination for wine lovers.

“I think the more the merrier,” he says. “It’s just a cohesive group and the more wineries you have, the more people want to come.

“For people who enjoy wine, they want to try a wide variety. Who is going to drive 200 miles to try two wineries? If you have 20 it’s going to make this a destination spot. It’s healthy for all of us.”

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