In the heart of Washington wine country you’ll find the Yakima Valley, an area bustling with wineries, from very small, to large, all within a short drive. Every year, the last weekend of April celebrates 35 or so of these wineries during Yakima’s Spring Barrel Weekend.
For $30 pre-sale, or $35 the weekend of the event, you can purchase a “passport” which entitles you to free or discounted wine tasting at participating wineries (mostly free). During Spring Barrel, wineries offer their already available wine tasting menu as well as samples of their new vintages, often straight from the barrel. To accompany your wine tasting, many also offer snacks, entertainment, tours, classes, lunches, dinners and other fun activities. It is impossible to see and do everything, but there is definitely something for everyone!
My two-day itinerary consisted of mainly wine and food!
Day One (Zillah and Prosser):
Agate Field – A small operation in a house that was converted into a tasting room and winery.
Cultura Wine – A boutique winery with great people and some really amazing wines! Highly recommended!
Gamache has a wonderful rose and beautiful back patio, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
Milbrandt offers two flight options paired with exquisite bites. Not part of the passport weekend, instead they held a special sale from 9-11am, where all their wine was 50% off…I was so disappointed when I found out about this. I was a few hours too late!
And Airfield who has a delicious unoaked chardonnay and a really pretty tasting room with a back barrel room.
One the way home, we stopped at Treveri Cellars, a bubbly producer with a wide variety of flavors and styles of bubbles, a must for any bubbly lovers!
Dinner at Second Street Grill – A mix of classic American food with an Asian twist and quite the hot spot in town, as I noted from the Prom group, baby shower and multiple parties in the house!
Some more photos from day one of my trip: [slideshow_deploy id=’25884′]
Day Two (Downtown Yakima, Outskirts of Yakima and Selah):
Gilbert Cellars – A beautiful tasting room located in the heart of downtown. Super friendly people, a great atmosphere and some good wines make for a warm, welcoming & fun tasting room!
AntoLin Cellars – Incredibly tiny tasting room (you could almost touch both walls if you reached your arms out) but really great wines and genuine people, also located downtown.
Kana Winery – Based on the Grateful Dead, this winery is just plain fun. They have crazy names for their wine, fun people and decor, also located downtown.
Lunch at the famous Miner’s Drive-In – Delicious, HUGE burgers and shakes; a local favorite.
Naches Heights Vineyard – A beautiful property, worth the drive for that alone!
Wilridge Winery – 2 minutes down the road from NHV is Wilridge, a quaint house with sprawling views of the valley. Gorgeous view from the top of this hill!
Southard Winery – Pronounced Suth-erd, this family-owned and operated tiny winery is newer to the wine scene, but a great spot! Worth watching for in the near future.
Some more photos from day two of my trip: [slideshow_deploy id=’25883′]
Reflecting on my trip, my favorite stops are easy to pinpoint:
-Milbrandt, although not part of the passport program, offered an incredibly spectacular wine and bites pairing, a truly wonderful experience for the palate at a very reasonable cost ($8 for a flight of three whites and one red and $12 for the red flight). With a new winemaker (since 2011) and a great group of people, we joined the wine club and brought home our share of wine from Milbrandt. The “Sweet Catherine’s” Cuvee is so reasonable at only $13 a bottle, and so refreshing for a summer day!
-Cultura Winery was such a small, down-to-earth, friendly winery but the wines are really what made me fall in love. You can feel the passion when speaking with owner and winemaker, Tad Fewel (along with his wife, Sarah, whom I didn’t meet) but the way this is expressed in the wine is something you have to experience for yourself. Their website says it all: “Wine as fine as this can only be achieved by controlling the entire process — from vine to barrel to bottle.” My favorite? Their newly released 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc, a wine they are very proud of as the grapes are grown by them, so it is 100% Cultura in a bottle, and I was lucky enough to take home a bottle. At $40 a bottle, I think it was well worth it!
-AntoLin Cellars was very different in terms of the feel, initially a very small, quiet tasting room, with an Asian inspiration, I felt almost zen-like being there. I’d never had AntoLin (although I wanted to make it to their table at Taste Washington, I didn’t get a chance), and had no expectations of what I was in for. Their wines were really, really great and very reasonable. My favorite was the 2010 Estate Carmenere, a grape which many people aren’t familiar with but is slowly gaining in popularity. With AntoLin located in the heart of downtown, this is a must if you ever find yourself in Yakima!
Aside from amazing wineries, Yakima also is home to awesome outdoor activities, unique sites and good eats! Play a round of golf at Apple Tree Golf Course (or the other three public courses), bike or horseback ride through vineyards and orchards, take a hike along the Rattlesnake Hills, stroll through the Hillside Desert Botanical Gardens, or visit one of the many, many local farms with a variety of fresh, delicious produce! They are also home (Selah, WA) to the Tree Top Apple visitors center, a super fun spot to visit, young or old.
For a unique lodging option, check out Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn, a real working farm where you’re able to sleep in teepees, your four-legged friends are welcome, you’re encouraged to relax in outdoor bubble baths and you can book vineyard horseback tours, where proceeds go to rehabilitating horses that the owners have taken in who were abused or injured.
For gourmet dining, head to Carousel, a local French cuisine restaurant with escargots, rabbit, veal, Coq Au Vin, duck, lamb and beef, paired with a wide assortment of wine. For a more laid back atmosphere, check out Second Street Grill, a great place to grab some hearty food and a delicious cocktail after a long day of wine tasting. I suggest the Huckleberry Lemonade, an amazing blend of Idaho’s 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, fresh huckleberry juice and lemonade…a surprisingly light, refreshing and not-too-sweet drink that hits the spot after a long day!
If you’re looking for a quick, fun, beautiful getaway, look no further than Yakima Valley. With so much to do, and only a short 2 1/2 hour drive some Seattle or Portland, it is a great option to escape the dreary weather in Seattle and head over the mountains to some sunshine. I had a wonderful time on my visit and already can’t wait to go back!