Washington was once mostly wheat, rolling hills of waving grain that seemed to extend forever. Now it is dotted with the green of vineyards.
The property that is now Caprio Cellars was once covered in wheat. In 2003 Dennis Murphy bought this former wheat field and began his dream of starting a vineyard. This vineyard is named for his grandmother Eleanor and the winery is named Caprio, her last name and the name of generations of his Italian family.
His grandmother grew grapes for wine in her yard. She was the first to immigrate to the United States. Her nickname was Grandmother Grapes.
“My ancestors viewed wine as simply an essential part of daily life. Sanitella, my great grandmother, knew each family in her small Italian neighborhood by their homemade wine. For her, a person’s very character was built on the quality of their craft.”
Dennis Murphy from the Caprio Cellars website
The Estate Vineyards of Caprio Cellars
Eleanor was the first vineyard. A mere 3 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted in 2006 that has since expanded to 7.5 acres. Since then, they have added the 22-acre Octave vineyard, where they grow more Cab and Merlot as well as Cabernet Franc and Malbec. They planted this hillside vineyard in 2007.
Sanitella is their newest vineyard. It is located in the SeVein vineyard complex on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA.
Dennis spent 16 years building homes in the Northwest as the CEO of Hayden Homes and got hooked on the wine. Now he is the owner and winemaker for Caprio. He makes about 2,000 cases each year of Bordeaux varieties.
In addition, he recently acquired an ownership interest in both Pepper Bridge Winery and Amavi Cellars. He took over the Goff family portion of the ownership of the wineries and joins partners Norm McKibben, Eric McKibben, and Jean-Francois Pellet in this venture.
Caprio Cellars 2017 Eleanor Walla Walla Valley
We received a bottle of their 2017 Eleanor as a media sample. In 2017 the spring was wet and cool and the whole season was cooler. This gave the fruit structured acidity. The Octave vineyard flourished this vintage, so it dominates the amount of fruit in the blend.
It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Malbec, and 10% Cabernet Franc. This blend was 65% from their Octave Vineyard and 35% from the Eleanor Vineyard.
While the vineyards are just 10 miles apart they are dramatically different.
The soils in the Eleanor Vineyard are clay and loam on a vineyard with full sun exposure which gives generous fruit to the wine.
The Octave Vineyard is in fractured basalt at 1,300 feet on a north-facing vineyard. Here you get structure and power.
Blending the wines from these two different sites gives balance and complexity to this wine.
The Eleanor aged 18 months in 35% New French Oak.
Released October of 2019 – 439 cases produced – 14.3% abv – $48 SRP
Pairing the Eleanor
Yes, this is a Cab blend, and normally you would think red meat or steak. We decided to think outside the box and go with Grilled Octopus and roasted potatoes.
Michael had found some octopus at Trader Joe’s which was precooked and frozen, so all we needed to do was defrost and grill it quickly. We seasoned with salt pepper and paprika.
The roasted potatoes were a bit of a cheat also. These fresh potatoes come ready to pop in the microwave then you add butter or olive oil when they come out and toss them with seasonings.
Both of these dishes were divine with the wine! While I did my tasting notes, Michael was slowly and carefully tasting and pairing and was enamored by the way both dishes worked so well, picking up on the herb and spice notes in the wine.
What I got in the glass
The 2017 Caprio Cellars Eleanor was deep ruby and hit my nose with red currant, dusty cherry, and dried herbs. There were spicy notes of nutmeg as well as wet leaves and tobacco. In my mouth, there were fresh cranberries, dusty mocha, and dried berries as well as some spice.
Visiting Caprio Cellars
You can visit their state-of-the-art tasting room just south of Walla Walla. The stunning tasting room is all about hospitality. The tasting room with its 360° views of the Walla Walla Valley is open Wednesday to Sunday with bookings available on their website.
You are likely to meet Emily Kiefer, their Customer Experience Director pictured below.
The Kitchen at Caprio Cellars is open with a seasonal menu and perfect small pairings to accompany your tasting. They source locally and organically for fresh ingredients.
We are looking forward to being able to visit Caprio Cellars later this summer. If you find yourself in Walla Walla and you want to take in those 360° views and the stunning hospitality of their tasting room, head to their site https://www.capriocellars.com/ to book a tasting.
1603 Whiteley Rd, Walla Walla WA 99362
More on Walla Walla By Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Cabernet Franc-Merlot – a limited rare gem from L’Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla
- The Scenic Route Part 6 – Visiting Rioja in Washington and dinner at a gas station in Walla Walla
- The Valley Grove Vineyard and the future of Armstrong Family Winery
- A little Sleight of Hand with dinner at Doubleback
- Dinner with a view – Cadaretta
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.