Beneath a brilliant blue sky, an emerald valley of farms, vineyards and orchards rolls out to the horizon of amber hills. At a glance, it could be Napa, Burgundy or Chianti — but it’s not. Only a few hours from Bellingham, this gem is the unassuming Yakima Valley wine country. Without the crowds or mark-ups of more famous wine regions, nor the expense of an airplane ticket, the Yakima Valley quietly boasts 300 days of sunshine, more than 150 vineyards and grows more than half of the state’s wine grapes from its fertile volcanic soil. From Yakima to Richland there are seven distinct American Viticultural Areas, giving immense diversity to the wine produced there and a landscape of possibility for visitors.
What to do
Start at the Tuscan-styled Yakima Valley Visitors’ Information Center for maps and winery details to narrow your many wine tasting options. A good bet is to divide and conquer. Save hours in the car and focus on one area per day: Yakima, Rattlesnake Hills, Prosser, Red Mountain or Richland. Visityakima.com maps out suggested day routes of 5–10 destinations.
The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail accesses 15 wineries and a $10 passport gives discounts and free tastings. The town of Prosser centralizes several tasting rooms at Vintner’s Village and the Prosser Wine and Food Park. The brand new
Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center educates about Washington agriculture with exhibits, a tasting bar and cooking demonstrations.
Treveri Cellars, whose bubbles have garnered 90+ point scores, is a must-stop for the sparkling wine enthusiast. In the Red Mountain area visit Terra Blanca for its enormous villa and sweeping views and Hedges Family Estate to feel like you’ve been swept off to Bordeaux in its French chateau. Wilridge Winery gives tastings from
4 boutique wineries in its 1900s era farmhouse and visitors can explore the 85-acre property on Cowiche Canyon. And in historic downtown Yakima, Gilbert Cellars has an impressive tapas menu, live music and stays open late on weekends.
Spring Barrel Tasting is Apr. 25–27 with 40 participating wineries. Visitors can learn about the winemaking process, enjoy nibbles and the premier pass for $30 grants access to VIP offerings and a 90+ point tasting on Friday night.
Yakima Valley also grows 78% of the nation’s hops. Beer buffs can visit the Toppenish American Hop Museum and taste local micro-brews at the taprooms of craft breweries Bale Breaker and Horse Heaven Hills. The March BrewPub Trail,
a guided tour of breweries from Yakima to Prosser, will be Mar. 15–17.
Where to dine
On the wine trail, Terra Blanca’s Cafe Orsa serves wood-fired flat bread and bistro fare on weekends. Mojave Restaurant serves an upscale southwest menu at Desert Wind Winery. Or pack a lunch from Deep Sea Deli’s specialty groceries — many wineries have picnic areas and serve wine by the glass. Back in Yakima, 5 North is an urban foodie’s refuge with a robust bar menu and locally sourced, casual cuisine.
Where to stay
In Yakima, Rosedell Bed and Breakfast is an elegant option in a Neo-Classical mansion, and the simple grace of converted farmhouse White House B&B is accompanied by their public cafe’s breakfast for guests. On the working farm Cherry Wood Bed Breakfast and Barn, experience truly remarkable accommodations, sleeping outdoors in a teepee replete with queen-sized bed. Cherry Wood also offers the most picturesque way to see wine country with guided horseback and hay wagon winery tours. For a splurge, Desert Wind Winery overlooking the Yakima River houses
four luxurious guest rooms within its adobe walls.
Wine Clubs to Join
Most flexible: Gilbert Cellars’ wine club offers two tiers of discounts on either 12 or 24 bottles to be selected by the member at any time within the year. Red Lover’s: Owen Roe’s Hogshead Clubs are geared toward connoisseurs, sending their most limited production red wines. Most Educational: Steppe Cellars complements wine club shipments
with recipe pairings, varietal backgrounds, vertical tastings, and winemaking notes.
Yakima Valley wine country harbors endless possibility. The list of notable wineries to visit is impossible
to cull, allowing visitors to discover their own hidden gems. It’s easy to romanticize far-away places whose beauty has deservedly made them well-trodden tourist destinations, but our local treasures are also worthy and waiting to be discovered, just a day trip away.