Valo Wines establishes tasting room in Bingen
Story By Laurel Brown
For wine-lovers in the Gorge, there is a new space to explore in Bingen called Valo Wines. Opened in late July of this year, Valo has a beautiful space offering wine tastings, bottles, and wine club memberships. Owner Michael Ruhland is excited to be come a name in the Gorge with his young yet award-winning wines.
Originally from Memphis, Tenn., Ruhland spent most of his years in Montana and explored Washington and Oregon in his free time, his affinity for the Columbia River Gorge always growing. With the help of Winemaker Matías Kúsulas, Valo Wines has been making a big name for itself in a short amount of time.
“We have extremely high quality wines,” Ruhland said. “When Matías makes his wines, he really creates and develops the individual characteristics in each one, framing the fruits and flavors very intentionally.”
Kúsulas is from Santiago, Chile, and spent seven years in the Chilean military, earning the rank of lieutenant in the Naval Academy before returning to school. Now, he is head viticulturist of Lawrence Vineyards and winemaker for both Valo Wines and Desert Wind.
Lawrence Vineyards is one of the farms that Valo sources their grapes from; another is Conner Lee Vineyards, both located in Washington in a region called Royal Slopes in the Columbia Valley. Valo Wines uses grapes from
Royal Slopes and processes that fruit in Prosser, Wash. The farms they choose all use sustainable techniques, which lends to Valo’s handmade expertise.
Ruhland met Kúsulas in 2016 in New Zealand before working a harvest season in Washington together, all the while discussing their ideas and experimenting with wines. They began production for Valo Wines in 2018 and later established their tasting room in Vancouver, Wash., in late 2020.
With a background in restaurants and dinning, including being the chef at the Yellowstone Club in Bozeman, Mont., Ruhland was interested in breaking into the world of wine and wine dinners. He wanted to combine his chef knowledge with a less kitchen-centered business model, and instead focus more on wine.
Ruhland was happy to finally open a space in the Gorge to help continue gathering a solid following with his premium-style wines.
“We really lucked out with the new space. We want to be a spot for people to be comfortable, where they can sit and sip and enjoy,” he said.
Meaning “light” in Finnish, Valo focuses on organic growth and expands when it makes sense, such as the new spot in Bingen. Ruhland mentioned one day finding land to build on, possibly with production space and a vineyard, but for now he is focused on the success of the new tasting room.
Ruhland hopes to achieve a kitchen build-out down the road to offer more food options and wine dinners.
Currently, simpler items like charcuterie and smoked salmon dip are available atValo, and pick-up-parties for club members with food and wine are also on Ruhland’s wish-list.
For such a new business, Valo Wines is collecting the accolades of an established winery “We set out to make the best wines we can, but we also want people to enjoy what we’re making,” Ruhland said.
They want to offer people a variety of excellent wines, including their Massalto line.
Valo’s Massalto wines are their artistic series: Edgy wines crafted to push the norm. Each bottle sports a beautifully designed label by the Australian artist Loui Jover, and large prints of the art on these labels decorate the walls of the new Valo tasting room in Bingen.
Despite bottling their first in 2020, the awards and recognition already seem nonstop. Jeb Dunnuck, renowned wine reviewer, awarded them three 94-point ratings June of this year, describing several varieties as “loaded with charm and character,” “terrific”, “layered,” “balanced” and “elegant.”
Among other praise, Valo Cellars was named a wine producer that is “under the radar” by The Robert Parker Wine Advocate Journal just last year. Ruhland said they have earned other 90-point ratings over the last few years, ranging from 91 to 97-point awards.
With limited distribution outside of Southwest Washington, Valo is looking to bring their wines to other spots in the Gorge soon, like local wine bars and breweries, but details are still in the works. For the moment, Ruhland said they want to be a top local tasting spot and popular winery option among the Gorge community.
The Valo tasting room in Bingen is usually open Thursday through Monday from noon to 7 p.m., though hours are subject to change, so guests are encouraged to call or check online. The space is a storefront
located at 114 W. Steuben St., Bingen. You can find them on Instagram @valo_wa, or on Facebook, which has pictures of their chic Vancouver tasting room.