Monday, March 14, 2011

Royal Riblet

OK. This is admittedly weird. I direct you here to discuss wines and today we will deliberately go in another direction because while researching Arbor Crest Vineyards for this week's tasting I found something much more interesting...Royal Riblet! Sounds like an entree, right? Read on.

Royal Riblet (not kidding) was an inventor credited with inventing a tramway which was instumental in public works projects in the northwest. He was born in Iowa in 1871, moved to South Dakota in 1890, and then to Spokane, Washington at the turn of the century. Riblet was a tinkerer with things mechanical, opening a bicycle repair shop in South Dakota and becoming a long distance cyclist in the 1890's. Imagine the technology and terrain!

Riblet's move to the Pacific Northwest was prompted by his older brother, Byron, who was a civil engineer educated at the University of Minnesota and employed at the time by the Northern Pacific Railroad. Byron Riblet patented many improvements to tramway technology but didn't actually invent the thing, itself. He did, however, start the Riblet Tramway Company in Spokane, hiring two of his brothers to manage different departments. Royal had the blacksmith shop for fabricating parts until 1933 when he was fired for diverting company money to his own personal use!

So why is Royal Riblet relevant to a discussion of Arbor Crest wines? Well, the focal point of Arbor Crest is a historical landmark called Cliff House contructed in 1924 on the edge of a cliff 450 feet above the Spokane River. It is a three story Florentine Mansion with extravagant tiling surrounded by patios, gardens and pools. It was originally called Eagle's Nest by its owner, one Royal Riblet who may have built it with moneys purloined from the Riblet Tramway Company!

The Mielke family, fruit growers for a century in the area, renamed it Cliff House when they purchased it in 1985, three years into their Arbor Crest winemaking venture. In December of last year, sad to say the house was gutted by a fire caused by a defective power strip. The nearest fire hydrant was more than a mile away. The structral integrity of the building was left intact, however, and the family is intent upon historically reconstructing the interior.

Come to the tasting Saturday March 19th 3-5pm and receive a free half pound of Pecorino Romano cheese by saying the secret password, "Royal Riblet".


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