When it comes to quality wine, Kristi Calcagno believes those with a true appreciation put their money where their mouth is.
She bases this on the responses she gets at the new Calcagno Cellars in downtown Troutdale, where a bottle of her family's Bordeaux-style red wines goes for $60.
"Once people try our wine, they're just like …" Calcagno says, raising her arms and bulging her eyes to mimic a state of euphoria. "People come in saying, 'You expect me to buy a $60 bottle of wine?' I had one of them leave with seven cases."
While not every visitor to the new business at 336 E. Historic Columbia River Highway has the passion or pocketbook for such indulgences, anyone who enjoys wine in a relaxing, aesthetically pleasing setting will find much to like — as well as afford — about Calcagno Cellars. Its Washington and Napa Valley, Calif., vino also can be enjoyed by the glass, and with a $12 tasting sampler, both of which can be accompanied by a cheese plate.
Following an extensive renovation of the former River Trails Rafting building across from the old Troutdale City Hall — built in 1926 as the Larrson Garage — Kristi and her husband, Frank, quietly opened the winery in March. The building marks the Calcagnos' brick-and-mortar realization of their three-year-old web-based winemaking and distributing venture.
Kristi, a real estate broker, and Frank, a Gresham-based pediatrician, are starting with a bar-equipped tasting room for their wines in the front half of the vaulted-ceilinged structure. Next year, they plan to move full production to the unfinished warehouse portion in back.
After scouring the Portland area for the right location and feel, the couple settled on downtown Troutdale.
"We're thrilled with the location and thrilled with the way the building worked out," Kristi says, praising Nathan Good Architects and Dovetail Construction for realizing their vision. "It's warm and inviting, but rustic."
The Calcagnos learned to love fine wine while living near Napa Valley, which accounts for their ties to the fruit and grape-crushing opportunities there. Despite the non-local origins, Kristi works closely with California winemaker, Rolando Herrera, for what Kristi calls "ultra-premium" wine.
"Together we work on blending, fine tuning on the nuances of wine," she says. "We try to be hands-off of the product itself and let nature take its course."
For those whose tastes and budgets run a bit more common than Bordeaux-style reds, Calagno offers the 2012 River Trails Sparkling Riesling, which pays tribute to the former outdoors outfitter business that previously occupied the vintage building.
"Once we expand on our brands, you'll see more moderately priced wines," Kristi says.
Otherwise, the Calcagnos look forward to bringing in Executive Chef Daniel McKenna to enhance group and private events, and to a busy summer season as tourists and local visitors gravitate toward the Columbia River Gorge.
For Frank Calcagno, the first phase of the winery was well worth the time it took to bring it to fruition.
"The outcome is fantastic," he says, while taking a break from window washing on a recent afternoon. "The process has been very long, but I don't know how we could be happier with what we have.
"This really fits the bill."
Raise a glass
What: Calcagno Cellars, a new wine tasting room and eventual production site
Where: 336 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, downtown Troutdale
Hours: 3-7 p.m., Thursday-Friday; 1-7 p.m. Saturday