Last updated on February 3, 2024
When it came to creating his winery, Caprio Cellars‘, Dennis Murphy traveled down a different path to make the wine tasting experience unique and exceptional. It starts as you drive up to the winery and see the architectural design of the building’s façade situated so that there is a magnificent view of the Walla Walla Valley. Here, you are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine explicitly created for the occasion.
Dennis’ concept for the winery and his philanthropy is built around family. Even his day-to-day career as a builder has an emphasis on familial relationships. Building the home is a foundation for the family unit. His winery does the same. You enter a winery that feels like a home. Typically, when you walk into a home and enter a living room, you find the room is centered around a fireplace. That is the same ambiance you encounter as you enter Caprio Cellars. I felt like I was walking into someone’s home, and Dennis Murphy, whether present at the winery or not, was your host.
Again, the home environment seeps through to your entire experience because the uniqueness of this winery is a food and wine experience. The wine pairs with three small courses during the tasting, bringing the experience to another level. Within the winery, you have your choice of environments for your tasting. One either opts for the bistro area, the furnished family room, or the large patio with fireside seating overlooking the Walla Walla Valley.
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Dennis moved to Walla Walla from Spokane in 1999. He purchased the Caprio Cellars property in 2003 and planted his first vineyard in 2005. By 2008, the first vintage of Caprio Cellars was released.
Caprio Cellars utilizes sustainable farming practices. The winery uses Live Certified and Salmon Safe management practices. In the winery, the goal is to let the fruit of Walla Walla speak for itself, thereby using only a moderate amount of oak. The focus is on Bordeaux blends, including Caprio Cellars’ two signature blends, Eleanor and Sanitella.
The Family and Vineyards
Dennis grew up in an Italian family where everything was centered around food and wine. His great-grandmother, Sanitella Caprio, and his grandmother, Eleanor, played a role in Dennis’ life. Sanitella knew everyone in her community by the wine they created. She and her husband were arborists of grapes in Italy before immigrating to the United States from Capri. They were the reason the Caprio family came to America. They brought their Italian traditions of drinking wine and eating with family.
Dennis named his newest vineyard after his great-grandmother. This vineyard, Sanitella, purchased in 2015, is located on the Oregon side of Walla Walla, where soils consist of fractured basalt. Dennis planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Eleanor also has a vineyard named after her. The three-acre vineyard located adjacent to the winery produces Caprio’s Eleanor wine. The vineyard was planted in 2006 with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Caprio Cellars’ third vineyard, Octave, comprises twenty-two acres of sloped vineyards planted in 2007 in the Walla Walla Valley. This vineyard represents a joint venture partnership between several wineries in the area. The vineyard consists of sixteen acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, two acres of Merlot, two acres of Cabernet Franc, and one acre of Malbec.
Caprio Cellars and Philanthropy
For Dennis Murphy, giving back to the community comes in several forms. He donates 5% of all wine proceeds to two charities, First Story and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Both are close to Dennis’ heart. First Story involves his building company, which assists in constructing homes for families in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho who might otherwise not have a home. They have built about 95 homes thus far.
As a board member and a volunteer of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dennis feels it is essential to mentor and build relationships with our youth.
Caprio Cellars Wine Tasting Experience
From start to finish, the experience at Caprio Cellars is about the customer’s journey. Hospitality is foremost in the tasting room. The tastings are complimentary while paired with the seasonally inspired dishes created by the in-house chef, Ian Williams. The idea is besides bringing you the wines of Walla Walla; you get to sample the locally sourced organic and sustainable ingredients that grow in the area.
The Caprio Cellars Wine Tasting Experience is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by reservation only. The tasting is 90 minutes, and each tasting is personalized.
Caprio Cellars Wine Tasting Experience The Food And Wine
2020 Estate Rosé: This wine comprises 100% Cabernet Franc from the Sanitella Vineyard. This Rosé delivers a fresh demeanor, exuding flavors of watermelon.
A Burrata of Stone Fruit Salad, Fennel, Frisee, and Shallot Confit complemented the Rosé.
Eleanor 2018 and 2016: I was fortunate to sample both the 2018 and the 2016 Eleanor, as this wine is the flagship wine of Caprio Cellars. The 2018 combined 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Malbec, and 7% Cabernet Franc. Most of the fruit came from the Octave Vineyard, while 27% came from the Eleanor Vineyard. The wine aged 18 months in French oak, 33% new oak.
The 2016 Eleanor combined 52% Cabernet Sauvignon with 36% Merlot, 7% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Franc. In this case, the wine aged 18 months in 30% new French oak. In this year, 30% of the grapes came from the Octave Vineyard and 70% from the Eleanor Vineyard.
Both wines delivered flavors of black currant accented with silky tannins.
These wines paired with a Bruschetta made with A.R. Teal’s tomatoes. Grilled baguette, Caselvetrano Olives, and Walla Walla sweet onions and capers.
2018 Sanitella: Sanitella is the reserve estate red wine from Caprio Cellars. Depending on the year, it combines approximately 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 22% Malbec, and 6% Cabernet Franc from the Octave and Eleanor Vineyards. Like Eleanor, the wine ages 18 months in French oak but with a more significant portion of the wine seeing new oak. The wine exhibited a balanced, richer, full-bodied character with flavors of blackberry.
This wine paired with Keftedes, a Greek pork & lamb meatball, lemon Yogurt, picked Walla Walla Sweetes, and Feta.
The Walla Walla Wine Tasting Experience
A visit to Caprio Cellars for their unique wine tasting experience highlights any visit to Walla Walla.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted visit to the winery. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.