By Allen Cox
IN A LAND WHERE THREE RIVERS CONVERGE amid a shrubsteppe ecoregion and rolling vineyards sits Tri-Cities―Richland, Pasco and Kennewick―an urban area of roughly 100,000. It’s a growing metro region with deep roots in agriculture and lots of sunshine. As a travel destination, it has come of age with plenty to offer the curious, active―and hungry―traveler.
Whether you are a new visitor to Tri-Cities or are a loyal regular, you’ll find that this trio of cities has no shortage of dining choices. And some of the best happen to be at four wineries, where staff know how to pair their house-made wines with food.
The Kitchen at Barnard-Griffin, barnardgriffin.com
Whether you’re up for tasty bites to go with Barnard-Griffin’s wines or hungry for a full meal, you’ve come to the right place. Enjoy a pleasant table on the courtyard patio. A fun option for bites with wine is the “Slate Plate,” where you can design your own appetizer combo from a menu of meats, cheeses and other appy-type goodies. For bigger appetites, the brie and apple stuffed chicken is a winner, as is any one of the pizzettes (solo-sized pizzas). On site, you’ll find db Studio, a fused glass art studio where you can browse and buy or discover a skill you didn’t know you had by signing up for a fused-glass art class.
Terra Blanca Vineyard Grill, terrablanca.com
Technically not in Tri-Cities, but only a short drive away at the base of the Red Mountain wine region, Terra Blanca is a grand-scale winery set among estate vineyards. Open on
weekends (including Friday), the Vineyard Grill’s patio is the place to be for the wine-country ambiance. After sampling the lineup in the tasting room, order a bottle of your favorite and peruse the menu. The star of the kitchen is the wood-fired brick oven, so pizza is a smart choice―prosciutto and fig with a bottle of malbec is my go-to at Vineyard Grill. (From mid-October to March, it’s only open on Saturday afternoons).
Fiction at J. Bookwalter Winery, jbookwalterfiction.com
What could be better than a lazy Sunday brunch at a winery? Fiction, the restaurant at J. Bookwalter Winery, serves up sweet or savory choices to take the edge off your Sunday afternoon hunger. Go traditional with an eggs benny, go big with a hangover burger―
wagyu, ham, bacon and egg―or go crazy with a breakfast pizza designed to cure what ails you. Food is fresh and hand-crafted with love. Fiction serves lunch and dinner, too. Tip: The kitchen grinds their own sausage―the fennel sausage pizza is a winner.
Taverna Tagaris at Tagaris Winery, tagariswines.com
Here, you step into a warm and inviting dining room or outside to an enormous patio punctuated with massive basalt columns reflecting the area’s natural geologic features. Settle in and focus on the well-designed tapas portion of the menu―you can taste a broader selection of the kitchen’s creations that way. The owners have Greek roots and the menu tends to have a Mediterranean influence. The panko-crusted deep-fried parmesan risotto is a must.