Sunday, May 12, 2013
A visit to Reininger Winery, Walla Walla
The winery, located west of Walla Walla on Old Highway 12, was started in 1997 by Chuck Reininger, a former mountain-climbing guide from Puget Sound, and his wife Tracy. Reininger was familiar with Walla Walla and its wineries, as he used to help with the crush at Waterbrook, another Walla Walla winery. Plus Tracy Tucker was from Walla Walla, so a few years later it was natural that her brothers and their wives, Jay and Cyndi Tucker, and Kelly and Anne Tucker joined the operation. Terry and Ronnie Tucker have since joined the operation.
Reininger’s First Winery Located at Historic Airport
Like many fledgling Walla Walla wineries, Reininger’s first winery was located in the industrial complex at the Walla Walla Regional Airport. The airport served as an Army Air Corps training airfield during World War II. The buildings that housed the Army air base are still in use today by restaurants, aviation businesses and more than 20 wineries.
An old Army entertainment center served as the winery’s first home from 1997 to 2003 when it moved to its present location which involved renovating two old potato sheds into a winery, complete with tasting room.
Reininger Winery Adds Second Label
In 2004, Reininger added another label, Helix. While Reininger label wines are made from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley, Helix uses grapes grown in vineyards located in the larger Columbia Valley. The name of this label also links back to Tucker family history, since their grandparents had a farm in Helix, Oregon, which is near Pendleton.
Just as the parent label does, Helix’s line up of wines is heavy on reds, such as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Reininger and Helix bottlings are limited to a few hundred cases of each wine. Bottlings range from 303 cases of the 2009 Helix Rose to 805 cases of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Reininger Wines Win Numerous Awards
Chuck Reininger says on his website his goal is to create premium red wines, and the awards his wines have won prove he’s achieved his goal. The 2007 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley was a gold medal winner at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition which lays claim to being the largest competition of American wines. The 2011 competition involved more than 5,000 wines created by wineries in 23 states. Syrah under both labels have won accolades from Wine Spectator magazine.
More evidence of the popularity of Reininger and Helix wines is shown through the winery’s wine club: it’s full up, but wine aficionados can ask to be wait-listed for an opening. A note on the winery’s website explains, “We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer assure new members consistent access to our most popular wines unless we limit and control the size of our wine club.”
Reininger Winery Located in Rural Walla Walla
Reininger is located at 5858 West Old Highway 12 just west of Walla Walla. The tasting room is open daily.