There’s no place quite like the Gorge Amphitheater in George, and not just because of the way it looks. This music venue has a pretty unique history.
In 1980, a neurosurgeon from Seattle named Vincent Bryan II and his wife Carol bought several hundred acres of land on the cliffs above the Columbia River. Their goal was to make wine, and they were hoping to find land in Washington that was similar to the wine-growing regions of France.
As Vince and Carol explored their new land, they immediately noticed its extraordinary beauty. They got to work planting their vineyards, and by 1982 the first wines of the Champs de Brionne winery were made. Vince and Carol built tasting rooms, hoping for a grand opening. But back then the Washington wine scene wasn’t as big as it is today - plus, their location was considered to be in the middle of nowhere. They wondered how they’d attract visitors.
One day Vince and Carol took a walk through the gorge with some friends they were hosting. Near the top of the cliff leading down into the gorge, there was a natural bowl in the cliffside. Vince stayed at the top of the bowl, but Carol and their friends walked to the bottom. Vince realized he could hear every word they were saying even though they were 1,000 feet below him. They quickly realized that the natural acoustics would make the gorge a perfect place to play music.
Before the grand opening, the Bryans spent 72 straight hours working on their winery to make it appealing to the 1,200 guests they expected. They built terraced seating in the natural amphitheater on their property, and a band from Wenatchee performed for their visitors. Everyone had a great time.
The Bryans spent the next decade building up the amphitheater to a 24,000 seat venue. They sold it in 1993, and it became the Gorge Amphitheater we know and love. Champs de Brionne closed but reopened in 2000 as Cave B, which is now a destination with overnight accommodations and a restaurant.
The Gorge has drawn some big name performers over the years, and it’s been the host of many popular music festivals like Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, Paradiso, Watershed, Sasquatch and Vans Warped Tour. Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America” video was filmed there in 2001, and the Dave Matthews Band plays there every Labor Day weekend.
Camping is available onsite, and many guests choose to extend the party and camp at the Gorge after their show due to its "middle of nowhere" location.
The Gorge Amphitheater is definitely a unique and beautiful venue. That’s why it’s on the list of Washington’s
must-visit summer destinations.