RIDGEFIELD — When you arrive, you are greeted by stunning rock work at the grand entrance that carries through the substantial portico into a 2,400-square-foot great room accented with massive wood beams and anchored on one end by a rock-wall fireplace and rock-arched doorways on either side.
Each pass-through leads into a sizeable tasting room with a lowered beam system designed to mimic a vineyard trellis and add a cozy scale to the space. A curved bar sets the stage for wine tasting and a window runs the full length of the opposite wall.
From there, visitors can look into the 2,100 square-foot production area during crush season and bottling as well as barrel-aging when estate grapes are mature enough to source from.
This is Windy Hills Winery, the newest addition to the growing Southwest Washington wine scene.
“I wanted that ‘wow’ factor,” owner Dave Kelly said. “I wanted people to drive up and say ‘wow.’ I wanted them to walk in and say ‘wow.'”
Though the vines are still maturing, the winery is expected to open this weekend if it gains the final approval from Clark County this week.
The facility, 1346 S. 38th Court, Ridgefield, will provide 5,300 square feet of interior space to roam. And that does not take into account the commercial kitchen, bathroom facilities, a 3,200-square-foot concrete patio for outdoor receptions, a groom’s room and a 400-square-foot bride’s room.
And it’s clear that the facility has a woman’s touch with a dedicated bathroom, a salon-style shampoo bowl, an ample and well-lit make-up counter and plenty of room for seating, visiting and changing.
The design is all Kelly’s daughter’s doing. Ashley Miller, mom to twin boys and Hospitality Business Management major from Washington State University, will handle all on-site events from weddings to reunions, anniversaries, office parties, Christmas parties and company meetings.
Along with Karen, his wife of 34 years, the Kellys are banking on the growth in Ridgefield to support a steady stream of guests. According to Dave Kelly, no fewer than 1,000 homes are slated to be built over the next couple of years on the land surrounding them. He sees their 25-acre site as an oasis in the midst of the population boom. So much so that the Kellys sold their homes in Arizona and Lake Mayfield to double down on what was once a tree farm.
“This was a Christmas tree farm but, originally, it was a cattle farm — Windy Hills Polled Herefords,” Dave said. “With the tree farm, you worked six weeks during Thanksgiving and Christmas so you never had a family Thanksgiving and Christmas because you were working through it. I thought ‘It’s always a happy time during Christmas. What’s the next best happy time? Wine.’ People always have a great time around wine.”
Changing a tree farm over to a winery is no easy task. Approximately 10,000 stumps were pulled out by an excavator and replaced with an equal amount of vines. Now five acres are covered with pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. A couple more seasons are needed before fruit can be harvested and an estate bottling can be considered.
Until then, guests will be able to enjoy wines crafted from grapes sourced predominantly from White Dog Vineyard in La Center and two vineyard sites in the Willamette Valley.
Visitors can taste viognier, pinot noir rosé, tempranillo rosé, malbec, syrah, a red blend named Trinity and a couple of different pinot no tempranillo irs.
Dave’s winemaker is his long-time neighbor, Bob Mayfield. Mayfield has been making wine since 2001, so when the Kellys began talking about a winery, they had him on their short list of candidates. Mayfield stepped up to the plate, and Dave is excited about the partnership.
“I think this will give Bob an opportunity to really shine and show his wears,” Dave said.
Mayfield is responsible for about half the current releases and Cougar Crest Winery lent a hand to complete the portfolio.
“Our friends at Cougar Crest, Dave and Debbie Hansen, made the viognier, syrah, malbec and Trinity. They’re fellow WSU grads. I wanted somebody that grew their own grapes, made good wine and went to WSU,” Dave chuckled.
Opening weekend will include two different wine flight options and, to showcase Windy Hills Winery as an event center, event planning representatives will be on hand including florists, caterers, rental equipment operators, possibly even a chocolatier.
With deep roots in the community, the Kellys are “betting big” that not only Southwest Washington but Ridgefield will come into its own as a competitive grape-growing and winemaking area.
Dave Kelly said, “What we have created, what other winemakers are doing, it raises the tide and all boats rise. I think we’re in the infancy. I think I’m kind of catching the wave early. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here for the wine industry.”