Chris and Melody Johnston’s Middle Ridge Winery, headquartered in Idyllwild, is in the process of a “soft opening” of its first Idyllwild tasting room.
Winemaker Chris develops wines in his Idyllwild laboratory but sets up wine production in Temecula. Although there is a Middle Ridge tasting room in Old Town Temecula at Crush and Brew on Front Street, the Idyllwild tasting room in the former Pony Express store across from the Rustic Theatre will become the Middle Ridge flagship.
The Johnstons are in the process of designing and outfitting the North Circle location and plan to work in cooperation with the Art Alliance of Idyllwild to host an ongoing gallery and event venue. Their first collaboration with the Alliance, “Art Uncorked” on July 18 and 19, will be set up in the “construction zone” of the tasting room. A longer article about the event and the Middle Ridge/AAI collaboration will run in next week’s edition.
The Idyllwild location fulfills the Johnstons’ desire to inextricably link Middle Ridge to Idyllwild and provide a comfortable gathering place to bring people together through the enjoyment of handcrafted, artisan wine. Their tagline, “Where the conversation is as important as the wine,” expressed their shared commitment to have conversations with all who come in contact with their winery and wines. “Wineries have a social draw with a social product,” said Johnston. Both Chris and Melody are ardent Idyllwild promoters and see the new tasting room as a way to attract more visitors to the Hill. “I’ve always had this nagging interest that folks [who have visited in the past] wanted a reason to come back,” said Chris. “People want an experience,” said Melody. “It’s about their fond remembrances of this small-town vibe.”
Chris explained that as a type 2 winery and tasting room, they can only sell and provide tasting flights of their own wines. Also, without a working kitchen, food service by the Johnstons is not permitted, although it could potentially be catered in for events.
The new facility also has an upstairs conference room allowing the Johnstons to conduct instructional seminars, part of their mission in wine-making education.
“We’d like our tasting room to become a place for people to visit before and after dinner,” said Melody. “And as a type 2 facility, children are permitted.”
For more about Middle Ridge Winery, visit www.middleridge.com.