Fresh Air

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars kicks off its expanded summer concert series

Here you can drink to the sounds of summer. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Here you can drink to the sounds of summer.

You'll want a blanket for this. You need a soft place for your sliced meat and cheese and grapes and cardboard-tasting crackers. You'll sit down here on your covered patch of grass with your limbs stretched out in front of you and the sun beaming down, kissing your skin. You'll listen to the pleasant acoustic music for a minute and then pour the wine.

Sip. Breathe. Repeat.

The first week of Arbor Crest Wine Cellars' newly expanded summer concert series is done. But there are many more to come through September, with free shows on Thursdays, most Fridays and then paid concerts on Sundays. Up the windy road you'll drive, to the picturesque grounds perched 450 feet above the Spokane Valley, with its life-size checkerboard and rose bushes and historic mansion.

Donna Dalzell has come to Arbor Crest almost as long as they've been open on this hill. She often brings out-of-town friends, or all of her five sisters, but this Friday it's her husband, who prefers beer to wine and who still makes her laugh, after all this time. She'll come back here again soon, she says, because it's too beautiful to stay away.

Musicians have entertained at Arbor Crest on and off for 25 years, but only frequently since 2007. Assistant manager Ashley Blubaugh, who books many of the acts, admits it's a perfect way to keep the doors open. They even added a fireside series for the first time this winter.

Outside the tasting room patio, Coeur d'Alene-based singer-songwriter Ron Greene bakes slowly in the sun up on his rock-lined stage. His breezy original tunes are meant for springtime. They feel like Hawaii. One husband rests his head on his wife's lap and closes his eyes. Greene's covers also impress the crowd. One older gentleman pulls a woman to her feet. In the lush green, they spin and sway along to Elvis.

People keep snapping pictures of the scene, but a camera phone can never sufficiently document the fragrant flowers or the cool wind. The cameras miss the tiny fly that has tried to commit suicide in my plastic cup of Sangiovese.

"You guys are sounding good," Greene lies to the crowd, as he leads everyone through a rendition of "Hotel California."

"Welcome to the Hotel California / Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place) / Such a lovely face," we sing.

"This is a lovely place," Greene calls out, as cheering and polite clapping fade into the horizon. ♦