By Andrew Holt
Meet Chuck Reininger, passionate winemaker and passionate outdoorsman. Born and raised in Bellevue, Wash., Reininger calls the Walla Walla Valley home mainly due to his love of the outdoors, the region’s spectacular geography and rich history. The former mountain climbing guide says all of this passion is reflected in his wine. Hence, nearly every vintage of Reininger Winery has been made solely from Walla Walla Valley fruit.
“I am proud of the Valley. I am proud of the Northwest,” says Reininger. His adoration for the area is seen not only in his wine, but also in the winery’s tasting room. Basalt columns from a local farm, created by the great flood thousands of years ago, serve as the wine pouring counter top. A grapevine weave serves as the bar’s exquisite façade, and local barrel staves form its columns. The spacious tasting room is highlighted by wooden plank flooring, salvaged from the old potato sheds that now house the winery and tasting room.
Elements of the Walla Walla Valley and the Pacific Northwest are apparent everywhere at Reininger.
When Chuck Reininger is not plying his trade as a winemaker or chatting with tasting room guests, you’ll find him skiing down the steep face of a snow laden mountain, backpacking up a challenging trail, or out on his bike gliding through the Valley’s rolling hills of wheat and vineyards. His steely frame, tanned face and agile movements all reflect a man who has spent his life actively immersed in Mother Nature and recreational sports.
“My father instilled in us a love for the outdoors,” Reininger reflects. He says as early as age three, he remembers the family piling into the station wagon and going on long summer trips comprised almost completely of camping, hiking, swimming and learning about the country’s geography and history. In the winter, his father – a member of the ski patrol — taught the children to descend slopes at an early age.
By age seven, Chuck Reininger was a bona fide downhill skier, rock climber, mountain climber and all-around outdoorsman. As a young man, he became a mountain climbing guide, leading groups up Mount Rainier and various peaks in Alaska and Argentina, in addition to completing his own “expedition climbs.”
Equally important to Reininger is immersing himself in the rich history of the region. His wife, Tracy, is a fifth generation Walla Wallan on both sides of the family whose ancestors arrived on the Oregon Trail. “I have a passion for history, too, so it was really easy to adapt to her family heritage vicariously. I am very proud to be a Walla Wallan, and the Valley has become the center of my heart and soul.”
Reininger Winery produced its first vintage in 1997 focusing on quality red wines. The winery has, now, broadened its offering to include a variety of whites. The tasting room is located off of Highway 12 just west of Walla Walla.