Old Wine Country in Yakima/Red Mountain

Spend a weekend here sampling a variety of delicious Washington wines.
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It’s the oldest and largest wine-growing region in the state—producing more than a third of the state’s wine—but Yakima Valley isn’t always at the top of the wine-getaway list. That’s because this area, so long on wine excellence, can be a little short on luxe accommodations and upscale eateries; it’s a farm town, after all. Not to worry; with a little strategic planning, you can set up in a lushly appointed base camp and hit the Prosser, Tri-Cities and Red Mountain wine regions in stellar style, soaking up the area’s terrific odds on sunshine (more than 300 days a year!) and abundance of microclimates and varietals while exploring some of the state’s oldest—and most revered—wineries.

Standout Wineries
Begin among the lush, rolling hills and vineyards of Red Mountain, one of the smallest AVAs in the country, known for producing bold reds, and home to some of the most celebrated vineyards and wineries in Washington. Start with a visit to Hedges Family Estate (53511 N Sunset Road, Benton City; 509.588.3155; hedgesfamilyestate.com). The gracious winery—modeled after a chateau in France—is surrounded by its own biodynamically grown vines. Just up the road is Goedhart Family (50739 N Sunset Road, Benton City; 509.554.6093; goedhartfamily.com), the new venture of Hedges’ daughter and assistant winemaker, Sarah (Hedges) Goedhart and her husband, Brent. The lovely tasting room—with a laid-back Mediterranean vibe, wood-fired oven and whitewashed walls—makes you feel like you’re at the best backyard party ever. Wrap up with a lingering stop at Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard (34715 N DeMoss Road, Benton City; 509.588.6082; terrablanca.com), a 55,000-square-foot villa situated with a staggering view of vineyards, terraces and the Horse Heaven Hills beyond. Just 30 minutes away, Richland’s Tulip Lane is home to three fine wineries: Tagaris Winery (844 Tulip Lane, Richland; 509.628.0020; tagariswines.com) boasts a resort-caliber back patio; next-door neighbor Barnard Griffin Winery (878 Tulip Lane, Richland; 509.627.0266; barnardgriffin.com) is putting the finishing touches on a brand-new tasting room and wine bar—complete with Deborah Barnard’s new fused-glass studio (classes available). Just beyond is J. Bookwalter Winery and J. Bistro (894 Tulip Lane, Richland; 509.627.5000; bookwalterwines.com), a favorite hangout of locals for playing bocce ball, eating flatbread on numerous lovely patios and taking in live music.

Where to Eat
If hunger strikes and you are anywhere near Tagaris’ Mediterranean restaurant, Taverna Tagaris, commandeer a table on the patio for sensational flatbreads, tapas and a generous happy-hour menu. On Red Mountain, enjoy cheese and charcuterie at Terra Blanca’s Cafe Orsa (closed on Sunday) or take the 20-minute drive to Prosser to Desert Wind Winery’s eatery, Mojave, where new chef Kristin Johnson leans on local sources for her Southwest-influenced fare, and a lovely terrace perched above the Yakima River offers sweeping sunset vistas and live music.

Where to Stay
Prosser’s luxe resort, Desert Wind Winery (2258 Wine Country Road, Prosser; 509.786.7277; desertwindwinery.com) makes a perfect home base for exploring wineries in Prosser, Richland and Red Mountain, all within about an hour’s drive. The upscale, Southwest-themed inn offers four gorgeous suites, and interesting packages that include a “girls’ slumber party,” a romance package and culinary retreats. Or request a riverfront room at Courtyard Richland Columbia Point (480 Columbia Point Drive, Richland; 509.942.9400; marriott.com); with balconies overlooking a marina and the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, which runs for 23 miles along the Columbia River.

SIDE TRIP
Naches Heights

Until a few months ago, Washington’s newest AVA, Naches Heights, was home to exactly one tasting room, The Tasting Room Yakima (250 Ehler Road, Yakima; tastingroomyakima.com), where you can sample wines from Wilridge Winery. That number just doubled, thanks to the April opening of Naches Heights Vineyard’s new tasting room less than a mile away (2410 Naches Heights Road, Yakima; 855.648.9463; nachesheights.com). The rest of the grounds—at press time, due to be finished this month—will feature at least five luxury “glamping” tents, with a nearby bathhouse, fire pit and pagoda for live music, all on 2 acres of manicured lawn, complete with pond and waterfall.

SIDE TRIP
Historic Yakima

A side trip to historic downtown Yakima will net you a tasting room, a delicious lunch and a terrific boutique. Start at Gilbert Cellars’ sleek tasting room (5 N Front St., Yakima; 509.249.9049; gilbertcellars.com), then enjoy panini, gyros and elaborate salads two doors down at the lovely bistro Cafe Melange (7 N Front St., Yakima; 509.453.0571). Do a little post-meal shopping across the street at Garden Dance (10 N Front St., Yakima; 509.452.0611; garden-dance.com), where you’ll find local jewelry and art, and crave-worthy fashion (hello, Prairie Underground!). Next, drive to nearby Wapato to soak up the view—and celebrated sparkling wines—at Treveri Cellars’ brand-new tasting room (71 Gangl Road, Wapato; 509.248.0200; trevericellars.com), which overlooks a lovely rolling lawn and valley beyond. These bubbles have been served at State Department holiday receptions in Washington, D.C., and, more recently, at the grand opening of Seattle’s Chihuly Glass and Garden. Stay the night at the Rosedell Bed & Breakfast (1811 W Yakima Ave.; 509.961.2964; rosedellbb.com), a 1909 neoclassic mansion not far from downtown; ask for the large, comfortably masculine Parker Room.

MUST-TRY YAKIMA/RED MOUNTAIN WINES

Hedges 2009 Estate Red Mountain, $25

Goedhart 2010 Syrah, $30

Terra Blanca 2008 Onyx Bordeaux, $52

Tagaris 2010 Chardonnay, $20

Barnard Griffin 2011 Rosé of Sangiovese, $12

Bookwalter 2009 Protagonist, $55

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

Dig Deep Into Wine at the Northwest Wine Encounter

An intimate affair for wine lovers who get their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude
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A flight of wine awaiting tasting at one of the educational panels

If you love good wine—really good wine—you’ll want to put Northwest Wine Encounter on your radar.

Haven’t heard of it before? That’s not surprising. The inaugural event, which I attended last spring, was an intimate affair with space for just a few dozen wine lovers who got their geek on over things like the impact of soil, weather, terroir and altitude on winemaking, learning about these during educational panels led by some of the region’s finest winemakers. And, of course, it helped to taste through flights of really fine wine as the winemakers offered insights and perspective.

The return engagement, on the weekend of April 28-30 (from $485/person including lodging, events and gala dinner), will follow a similar format and will once again be held at Semiahmoo Resort, a lovely spot overlooking Semiahmoo Bay, with the U.S./Canadian border and Peace Arch in view across the water. This year, there will be room for around 100 wine lovers (sign up for Northwest Wine Encounter here).


Winemakers and guests enjoying Friday night’s bonfire at Semiahmoo 

This quintessential Northwest location was chosen to complement the local wines that are the focus of the weekend. At Semiahmoo, Mount Baker frames the view in one direction, the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound in another. At one time in its history, Semiahmoo was also the site of a salmon cannery. Hard to get more Northwest than that.

The 2017 winemaker lineup includes a few superstars from Oregon and Washington: Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, Walla Walla’s oldest winery; David Merfeld of Northstar Winery, Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars; Tony Rynders of Panther Creek and wine grower Mike Sauer of Red Willow Vineyards. New this year is the addition of a British Columbia winemaker, Walter Gehriner of Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery.

 

At last year’s events, the panel discussions were interesting, but the Friday night kick-off event was almost worth the price of admission alone. It had the air of an informal party where everyone was enjoying each other’s company. All the winemakers were in attendance, pouring and chatting about what they love most: making wine. The party eventually spilled out onto the beach where a bonfire warmed the crowd. Marshmallows optional, wine required.