GoSpokaneMagazine


Arbor Crest

a family owned winery

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars was founded by the Mielke family in 1982 and has been family owned and operated ever sense. In 1984 they acquired the historic Cliff House Estate. Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels, a second generation Mielke has been the winemaker and Arbor Crest sense 1999.

Arbor Crest was the 29th winery in Washington State and has been producing consistent award winning wines for many years. Today Washington has about 900 wineries and is second only to California in wine production in the United States.

The Winery

I have been to quite a few wineries and as a rule, estate wineries tend to be quite scenic. I realize that Arbor Crest is not an estate winery, because they outsource their grapes but of all the wineries I have been to, Arbor Crest is the most spectacular to look at. The views of Spokane Valley, Downtown Spokane and the surrounding hills are amazing.

The Cliff House Estate is something that must be experienced. It is beautiful, unique and filled with a rich colorful history. The crown jewel of the estate is the Florentine style mansion perched on a basalt cliff 450 feet above the Spokane River.

The property has many unique features such as this round rock structure called the vista house. It is accessed by a rock bridge that crosses a deep ravine formed by the basalt. Other features include a life size checker board and a 6,000 gallon swimming pool carved into the basalt rock.

The estate is open to the public for wine tasting or you can just walk around and enjoy the meticulously maintained grounds and beautiful vista views. You may tour the Cliff House or even rent it for a wedding or other event. The Winery hosts concerts, craft fairs, and other events throughout the summer.

When Arbor Crest Winery bought the property back in 1984 it was very run down and required a lot of work. 15 years later the Cliff House was fully restored and in great shape.


In the early morning hours on December 23rd 2009 a fire gutted the mansion.

Move your mouse over the picture to see the Cliff House after the fire.

The History

The Cliff House Mansion was built in 1924 by Royal Newton Riblet who later dubbed it the Eagle's Nest. At the time Riblet was vice president of the Riblet Tramway Company owned by his brother. In 1927 Riblet built a passenger tram up to his property from the valley below. The 5 passenger tram that originated on the south side of the river provided access to the estate from 1927 until 1945.

Royal Riblet (1871-1960) was an eccentric inventor who secured more than 20 original patents throughout his life. Much of Royal Riblet's life was filled with tragedy. He married his true love and they had 3 children together, but she died very young leaving him with the children and a broken heart. That same year he lost his father and he had his mother to take care of. Riblet would be married a total of 7 times before he would find a wife to spend the remainder of his life with.

Royal Riblet worked for his brother Byron Riblet who founded the Riblet Tramway Company which specializing in mining tramways. Royal learned quickly and eventually became the vice president of Riblet Tramway Company. The brothers had a falling out in 1933 due to some alleged misappropriation of money. They never spoke again. It wasn't until a few years later in 1938 that Riblet Tramway Company built their first chairlift on Mt Hood, Oregon. Later Riblet Tramway became the largest chair lift manufacturer in the world installing over 400 chairlifts at ski resorts throughout North America and the world.

After the Riblet brothers parted ways Royal Riblet started his own tramway company. This was in the midst of the great depression and the economy was not able to support a new company of that type. The new company never successfully completed even one project. Riblet had a number of inventions throughout his lifetime. They never realized the success that he had hopped.

He also had several failed law suites. Riblet unsuccessfully sued the cement plant that was on the other side of the river 6 times over the dust pollution that fell onto his property as a result of their product. He lost all suites partially due to the fact that the cement plant was there at least 10 years before Riblet built his home.

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