The “Wine Bug”
Prior to making high-quality wines in the Walla Walla Valley, Chuck Reininger could be found high atop mountains as a senior climbing guide for a Tacoma based company. When Chuck met and married Tracy Tucker, a Walla Walla native, he hung up his ice axe and moved to the valley to begin a new chapter in his life. Prior to moving to Walla Walla, Chuck helped long-time friends with crush at Waterbrook winery. He began experimenting with home winemaking in 1993 and officially caught the “wine bug.” His weekend hobby quickly turned into a dream to produce super-premium wines of his own: “I became obsessed with starting my own winery,” he admits. In 1997, Chuck and Tracy Reininger launched their dream – owning a premiere winery in the Walla Walla Valley.
Blending Old with New
From 1997 through 2004, REININGER Winery was located in a small but functional facility located at the historic Walla Walla Regional Airport. The “shack-teau,” as Chuck and Tracy fondly nicknamed it, was originally designated as a WWII Army Air Corp runway “crash house” and “base theater” where old time crooners and classic films entertained troops.
In 2003, REININGER Winery purchased seven acres of land, located six miles west of Walla Walla, adjacent to Highway 12, and began renovating two pre-existing potato sheds into a remodeled 15,000 square foot winery, complete with production facility, administrative offices, and a spacious new tasting room. “We worked closely with architect Jon Campbell to create a modern production facility incorporating rustic design elements,” said Chuck Reininger. “This resulted in a unique atmosphere for events and entertaining.”
In that same year, Chuck and Tracy partnered with Tracy’s brothers, Jay and Cyndi Tucker, and Kelly and Ann Tucker, as well as her parents, Terry and Ronnie Tucker. Today, Kelly Tucker serves as general manager and oversees sales and marketing. Jay Tucker functions as tasting room director, plant manager, and grower relations contact. Terry and Ronnie Tucker, who’ve been actively involved in both vineyard and winery projects since the 1980’s, bring an abundance of guidance and support to the organization.
In December 2004, REININGER Winery announced the debut of a new label – “Helix.” Helix sources fruit from the larger Columbia Valley, allowing for increased production and expanded distribution, while REININGER wines maintain limited production, focusing on fruit from the Walla Walla Valley. Ultimately, the family believes that “Helix allows us to expand our reach to a new group of wine enthusiasts.”
Helix wines also have a distinctive new label, featuring an image of a snail. Helix, the genus name for the Burgundian snail, is the creme de la creme of “escargot.” As the back label explains, the Tucker family has been wheat farming in and around Walla Walla since the late 1800’s. Kelly, Jay, and Tracy’s grandparents met, married, and owned a farm near Helix – a rural farming community near Pendleton, Oregon. With their granddad’s approval, they sold the Helix farm in order to build a new winery and create a second label. The Reiningers and Tuckers believe that “by naming it ‘Helix,’ we are honoring our grandparents and the agricultural heritage of our family.”
Dedication to Excellence
REININGER Winery’s dedication to bringing out the best in Walla Walla fruit has been well-rewarded. In addition, REININGER Winery has been integral in establishing the Walla Walla Valley’s reputation as a top wine producing region. Both REININGER and Helix by REININGER reflect an ongoing commitment to retain the highest quality, care, and consistency in winemaking.