DAY 7: ROLL ON COLUMBIA
Cross over the Columbia onto State Route 14, which will be your path for the day as you head east toward Portland along the northern banks of the river, and along the southern edge of Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The first stop today comes quickly (hook a right on State Route 221 North): It’s the massive production facility of Columbia Crest Winery (Paterson, Columbia Crest Drive; 509.875.4227; columbiacrest.com), the engine room of Washington wine. Yes, the wines are ubiquitous, and you’ll understand why after seeing the sheer scale of the facility. Call ahead to arrange a special tour (you’ll need proper footwear, such as sneakers) to witness the largest barrel room you’ll ever see; the backyard tank farm, which looks to be straight out of an X-Files episode, each tank containing 300,000–400,000 gallons of juice; and the enormous crush pad, where 3,000 acres worth of estate fruit is processed during harvest. All of that is back of house. The winery does a great job making the front of the house feel cozier. Designed to mimic a French country estate, the entrance courtyard feels like a European town square. The tasting room offers tapas and deli plates, wines by the glass and rolling lawns for a picnic.
Most of the hourlong drive west to Maryhill Winery (Goldendale, 9774 Lewis and Clark Highway [State Route 14]; 509.773.1976; maryhillwinery.com) is right up against the Columbia, all whitecaps and windmills, and then there’s the sudden appearance of Mount Hood. With the roaring river and the looming volcano, the atmosphere is prehistoric (except, that is, for the presence of other cars, multiple dams and fishermen in powerboats). The scene at Maryhill—perched on a bluff high above the Columbia—is something to behold, especially on an event weekend, when the tasting room bustles with happy wine drinkers. There’s also an amphitheater for live music performances; the seats overlook the estate vineyards and the river below. In addition, there is a bocce court, a gift shop and a terrace off the main winery, also with river views, where folks seem to linger for hours, eating food catered by The Glass Onion (Goldendale, 604 S Columbus Ave.; 509.773.4928; theglassonionrestaurant.com). It’s hard to blame them for lingering. This is a little wine lover’s paradise at the eastern edge of the Columbia River Gorge.
The anchor of this unique wine region is Underwood Mountain, an extinct volcano whose southern slopes contain Celilo Vineyard, one of the most famous sites in Washington for white wines. Underwood Mountain is also the location of AniChe Cellars (Underwood, 71 Little Buck Creek Road; 360.624.6531; anichecellars.com). To bookend the day with visits to Columbia Crest and AniChe is to understand the full scope of Washington winemaking. Housed in a rustic-chic, red-doored barn, AniChe is a boutique winery that opened in 2009, and it is situated as beautifully as any winery in Washington, with views down over the Gorge and the Hood River Bridge, making you think you’re in the Mosel Valley in Germany. The winery is a family affair, with Rachael Horn making the wine, her husband, Todd Mera, serving as cellar rat, and their kids and in-laws involved in varying degrees. The family members generally pour five wines, and each one is served with a small bite, an indication of the family’s philosophy towards food-friendly winemaking. Best to do your tasting outside at one of the picnic tables, taking it slow, and enjoying the earnest vibes and spectacular views.
Snag a riverside room at COLUMBIA CLIFF VILLAS (Hood River, Oregon, 3880 Westcliffe Dr.; 866.912.8366; columbiacliffvillas.com), where you can watch the sun go down over the Columbia one last time and start planning next week’s cleanse.
Best Bottles to Bring Home
Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine // Maryhill Zinfandel // AniChe Cellars Seven Gables Red Wine
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