DAY 4: CLASSICISM, MODERNITY AND ITALIAN MONEY
You’re spending the entire day on Red Mountain, one of Washington’s smallest and most prestigious wine-growing areas. Traditionally, this has been an area long on vineyards and short on tourism infrastructure (read: you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere), but that is slowly changing. Best to start your day with a Red Mountain classic: Hedges Family Estate (Benton City, 53511 N Sunset Road; 509.588.3155; hedgesfamilyestate.com). The tasting room is in a luxe chateau that wouldn’t look out of place in Bordeaux, and the grounds and gardens are immaculate, with a courtyard of catalpa trees and a sweeping view down across the estate vines and the rest of the mountain. Get the right tour guide and you might see the underground cellar, the Old World kitchen and the salon, where Champagne is served (Anne-Marie Hedges, née Liégeois, is a native Champenoise). With a petanque court and a wood-fired pizza oven, this is an easy place to while away the hours.
You can walk the half-mile down the hill to Charlie Hoppes’ Fidelitas (Benton City, 51810 N Sunset Road; 509.588.3469; fidelitaswines.com), which is noteworthy for being one of the first spots on Red Mountain to offer regular hours for tasting. The building is the polar opposite of Hedges’—a clean, modern, metal-and-glass cube set next to the estate vineyards, many of which will just be bearing usable fruit in 2015. Hoppes has built a sterling reputation not only for his Fidelitas wines, but as a skilled consultant on a number of different projects. He is a noted baby whisperer as well, and parents should strongly consider handing their cranky infants off to Hoppes, ensuring a peaceful tasting of the Fidelitas lineup.
The sleek, modern Fidelitas tasting room on Red Mountain
The closest lunch spot to Red Mountain is the Arby’s in Richland. OK, that’s a (slight) exaggeration, but the point remains: If you’re going to spend the day on Red Mountain, either pack a lunch or make sure one of your visits is to Col Solare (Benton City, 50207 Antinori Road; 509.588.6806; colsolare.com), which, in addition to being beautifully situated toward the top of Red Mountain, also offers small plates for purchase in its tasting room. The winery, which is a collaboration between the Antinori winemaking family in Italy and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates here in Washington, looks as you’d expect it to look when old Italian money is involved: understated and classy. Designed by noted Seattle architecture firm Boxwood, it dazzles with its 300-foot-long, 25-foot-high stone wall, and tall campanile, whose bell is rung at the beginning and end of each harvest. Col Solare aims to produce one outstanding Cabernet-based wine in each vintage, and it pours multiple vintages in the tasting room, a terrific way to understand the impact that a particular harvest year can have on a wine. The winery offers a 45-minute tour that includes vineyards and production facilities on Sundays (and some other times by separate arrangement), well worth the time if your schedule allows ($20, includes a tasting of the current vintage).
Best Bottles to Bring Home
Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain Blend // Fidelitas Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon // Col Solare Red Wine
Where to Stay:
By the time you get to the bottom of Red Mountain, you’re only an hour from Walla Walla, where you’ll be spending the next two days. It’s also where you should head for dinner and lodging tonight. Brasserie Four (Walla Walla, 4 E Main St.; 509.529.2011; brasseriefour.com) delivers honest renditions of French classics, with bouillabaisse and steak frites as highlights of the menu.
While there are numerous excellent options in the vacation rental market, for shorter visits, the venerable Marcus Whitman Hotel (Walla Walla, 6 W Rose St.; 509.525.2200; marcuswhitmanhotel.com) remains a sturdy choice. You might also consider trying to book a room at the bucolic Inn at Abeja (Walla Walla, 2014 Mill Creek Road; 509.522.1234; abeja.net), which comes with a serious fringe benefit.
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