TRI-CITIES AREA JOURNAL OF BUSINESS – JEFFREY MORROW
300-acre destination resort to feature suites, villas, high-end restaurant
Justin Wylie gets excited talking about Eritage resort, a dream that’s been over 10 years in the making.
“I’ve got goose bumps right now just talking about it,” said Wylie, owner and winemaker of Va Piano Vineyards in the Walla Walla area.
The $3 million Eritage resort, which is under construction, is about a 10-minute drive north of Walla Walla at 1282 Bergevin Springs Road.
It was originally scheduled to open in fall 2017, but minor changes in construction and production have pushed the opening back to the spring.
The resort will consist of 10 suites, a four-acre man-made lake and a high-end restaurant, all amid vineyards growing in the rolling hills. All told, the property is 300 acres.
People will be able to bike and walk the vineyards.
Chad Mackay, president of Fire & Vine Hospitality
Wylie is part of a team working to get the project completed.
He partnered with Chad Mackay, president of Fire & Vine Hospitality; Scott Knox of Vista Ventures, who is leading the development management; and Business Growth Capital of Long Beach, Calif., which is helping finance the project.
In addition, Jason Wilson, a James Beard-award winning chef, is creating a menu for the restaurant.
The dream began in 2007 when Wylie saw the potential of the land and bought it for the project.
“North of Walla Walla is kind of an area everyone is looking at,” he said. “The future is the north side of town. That land in north Walla Walla is less frost prone. There is cold air drainage there.”
It’s better for growing different kinds of grapes, but it offers more, Wyle said.
“There is a whole different view of Walla Walla from there,” he said. “The guests will come out.”
With the economic crisis of 2008 delaying the project, it really didn’t pick back up until 2014.
And the recent construction delays were caused by what Wylie characterized as small things.
“We’ve had a couple of things we’ve had to deal with,” he said. “It’s not a simple building to design. All the drawings weren’t complete when we started.”
But the project is progressing.
“There is still work to be done in the mechanical pool house area,” Wylie said. “We’ve started some landscaping. They’re making progress, and it’s looking beautiful.”
Mackay expects construction to be complete in mid- to late January.
“Then we’ll start moving in,” said Mackay, who is also president and the chief operating officer of El Gaucho Hospitality in the Seattle area. “We’re looking at a soft opening in March or April. We’ll have friends come in and do a shakeout run.”
The first phase includes the main building featuring the 10 suites and the restaurant, Mackay said.
A second phase, consisting of 10 lakefront villas around the man-made irrigation lake, will start soon after the first phase is complete.
It’s been a love-hate relationship for Wylie to see this project finished. But he’s also excited.
“As we progress, it’s going to be rewarding for me as people enjoy the property,” he said.
Mackay has plenty of ideas of what people can do during the stay or visit to Walla Walla’s first destination resort.
“There will be a patio where people want to relax,” said Mackay, who expects locals to visit to hang out for drinks or enjoy dinner. “A swimming pool is being built. There is an irrigation lake with six million gallons of water that encompasses four acres of land. Paddle boarders can go out on the lake.”
A guest may want to take a tour through the vineyards or go on an organized Walla Walla wine tasting tour.
“We have over 300 acres on the property,” Mackay said. “People will be able to bike and walk the vineyards. On summer evenings, we’ll create some rituals at night to bring people back together. Perhaps by bonfire or storytelling.”
Guests can wake up in suites that include an in-room fireplace, open their door, step outside on either a patio or deck to an expansive view of the Blue Mountains, the rolling hills, the man-made lake and the vineyards.
Mackay said there will be “a couple of surprises we’ll share over time. For Walla Walla, we’re just adding one more component to this area.”
That includes the restaurant.
Wilson is a star in the restaurant world. His Miller’s Guild, The Lakehouse, and Civility & Unrest restaurants on the West Side are popular with foodies.
Wilson plans on using local regional produce, meats, and game and dairy for the menu.
“Justin and Jason really wanted to develop a community connection,” Mackay said. “Jason has already been buying from local vendors for his other restaurants. So he really knows the community. It’ll be an approachable menu.”
It’ll be another way to promote the Walla Walla region to visitors passionate about fine dining.
Neither Wylie nor Mackay are ready to talk about project costs or prices to stay at the resort.
“I don’t have a number on the total cost of the project,” Wylie said. “It’s still a work in progress because things are changing.”
And Mackay won’t say what a night’s stay will cost.
“You look at the general market there,” Mackay said. “Our rooms will likely be priced slightly above the top hotels in Walla Walla. We’ll look at the market.”
Walla Walla tourism officials are intrigued about the resort.
“It adds a type of accommodation that is not being currently met around here,” said Brian Duvall, president and CEO of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It should be a totally unique experience. It’s with an experienced group of people who know the industry really well.”
Mackay thinks it will help promote the region.
“Eritage is really about place,” he said.
For Wylie, who wants to see his dream completed, he would like it to be an inspiration to others.
“I hope this can be the catalyst for other projects around here,” he said.
Posted by: Jeffrey Morrow
Picture: Courtesy Eritage Resort