The leaves may have left the vines, but the wines have not left the wineries. Winter is ripe for a wine-tasting getaway with no crowds and, oftentimes, access to the winemakers who love to talk about their craft. Three go-to wine destinations are only three to four hours away from the Seattle and Portland metro areas: Yakima, Prosser and Tri-Cities. They are lined up along Interstate 82, so it’s easy to visit all three over a three-day wine weekend. On a single trip, you can visit only a few of the hundreds of wineries that spread out in the area, all the more reason to come back.
Downtown Yakima has seven winery tasting rooms, making a wine tour on foot entirely possible. AntoLin Cellars offers a laid-back tasting room with live music and a lineup of wines made from grapes sourced from their own estate and other notable local vineyards. Right around the corner you’ll find Gilbert Cellars, fifth-generation local fruit growers who planted vineyards, developed a passion for making fine wines and opened their downtown tasting room to share it with the world. And, within walking distance, you can discover more tasting rooms by consulting visityakima.com/downtown-yakima.asp#drink.
Suggested lodging is Hotel Maison. Go to visityakima.com to check out everything Yakima has to offer.
Just 50 miles south on I-82, Prosser is a centrally located wine hub, surrounded by distinctive growing regions and populated with 30 wineries. First, head to the Walter Clore Center. This is Washington’s wine-education center, where you can learn all about the state’s 14 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) and even begin your Prosser tasting journey with the wines the staff selected that day.
A short distance down the road from The Clore Center, you’ll find Lee Road, home to tasting rooms representing some of the region’s best wines: Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Mercer Wine Estate and Kestrel Vineyards. Next, drive to Vintner’s Village, a complex where many of the region’s wineries have opened tasting rooms. With so many to choose from, you won’t be able to visit them all, but make sure you stop in at Martinez & Martinez Winery, Milbrandt Vineyards (here, order small plate snacks to go with your flight) and Thurston Wolf Winery.
Learn more about Prosser at tourprosser.com.
For newcomers to Tri-Cities, this sprawling urban area is comprised of the neighboring cities of Kennewick, Richland and Pasco. When you leave Prosser, drive about 35 miles east on I-82, and then I-182, to Kennewick.
First stop: Monarcha Winery. This tasting room is set in a picturesque, park-like location along the Columbia River. Founder and winemaker Victor Palencia’s family is from Michoacán, Mexico, terminus of the monarch butterflies’ famous journey, hence the label Monarcha.
The next tasting room will take you to the neighboring city of Richland. Stop in at Longship Cellars, a family-run operation whose name was inspired by their Scandinavian heritage (which explains the Viking longship logo). Here you’ll find a remarkable lineup for a flight or settle in with a bottle and a snack from their small-plate menu.
Finally, head to a place called Candy Mountain in Richland. No, it’s not a theme park, but is the home of Kitzke Cellars, another small, family-run estate winery that has something special going for it: a terroir so unique that it might one day be its own AVA. You can taste it in the wines.
Suggested lodging is at The Lodge at Columbia Point. For more information about visiting Tri-Cities, go to visittri-cities.com.