Image Credit: Conner Dunn
Define irony… I’m writing a post about wine tasting while drinking beer. Shameful.
Now that I have my dirty secret out of the way lets get on to talking about wine tasting in Washington State!
According to Go Taste Wine’s website there are 691 wineries in the state of Washington. Just to give you an idea about how impressive that is, Napa Valley in California has approximately 626 operating wineries. I know I’m not comparing apples to apples as a state compared to part of a state is not fair, but I thought it was interesting none the less. Speaking of unfair comparisons Italy comes stumbling in like your favorite drunk Aunt for Christmas dinner with a whopping 1 million wineries. Now that’s a lot of wineries!
Although wine has been traced back as far as 7000 BC, Washington wines only date back to 1825 with the first vine being planted in the state. Wine making continued until prohibition rolled in, which of course put a stop to wine making until the 1933 prohibition appeal. It was around the 1950’s that a joint force between Dr Walter Clore and the Washington State University started testing grape vines in different soils and climates around Washington State. This lead to the discovery of what sorts of vines could grow in different regions within the state.
Washington has 13 main regions, with most notably being the Walla Walla Valley, Puget Sound, Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley regions. I personally have wine tasted in the Walla Walla Valley, Puget Sound, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain and Spokane regions, with Walla Walla being my favorite region out of all the areas I have visited. That does not mean the other regions are not worth visiting however 🙂
Below are a few winery highlights (most certainly not the only places to visit while in the different regions) from my travels:
Puget Sound Region:
Probably one of the most populated areas with wineries is the Puget Sound Region. While visiting the Puget Sound area I did my wine tasting on Vashon Island. Here I visited the Palouse Winery, who has a small and tasty collection of white and red wines ranging from $20 to $50 USD. Also on the island is Vashon Winery and Andrew Will Winery. The only way to get to Vashon Island is by ferry which will run you just over $17 USD one way.
Columbia Valley Region:
While in the Columbia Valley my friends and I took a self-guided wine tour. In hindsight I recommend renting a car service or bus tour – it is never fun to be the driver on a wine tour! Not that I would know as I never volunteer to drive! Here is a website with car services and/or tours if you are interested. Please note that I have not used any of these companies, nor endorse them.
While in the Columbia Valley Region we visited the Barnard Griffin Winery, Goose Ridge (my personal favorite) and Bookwalter. I learned an important lesson at Barnard Griffin, never leave your wine in the trunk of your car on a hot day. We luckily did not loose any wine that day thanks to the advice of the tasting room host. She advised us to find a cooler and keep our wines cool as we continued tasting throughout the hot summer day. Hot weather can ruin wine (as can too cold of temperature). Barnard Griffin has a wide selection of both reds and whites with prices from $17 to $60 USD.
Goose Ridge has a balance of both red and white wines, but focuses more on the red wines. My love is their Vireo, a blend of merlot, cabernet and syrah with flavors of cherry, blackcherry and baking spice – YUM!
Bookwalter’s tasting room is nestled in their vines where they offer red and white wines ranging from $15 to $60 USD. They also have a $10 USD tasting fee but that can be refunded with a purchase of $35 of more. My friend and I both picked up a bottle of their Cabernet, a delightful wine with flavors of raspberries, cherries and cranberries.
Red Mountain Region:
The Red Mountain Region is near the Columbia Valley Region and makes for a convenient tour of both if you are in the area. While in the Red Mountain area I visited Kiona Winery – their late harvest Riesling is to die for! Also to die for is their view overlooking the vineyard. Bottle prices range from $15 to $80 USD.
image credit: Gary Paulson
I also visited Terra Blanca in the Red Mountain Region. The winery alone is a feast for the eyes, with a beautiful tasting room and gorgeous scenery. Best of all they have a dog friendly outside courtyard! Tasting tours are offered here for a fee and wines range from $18 to $55 USD a bottle.
In the Spokane area I have been to Latah Creek Winery, which is located in the Spokane Valley area. Their Monarch Red blended wine is my personal favorite here. Can you tell I like blended wines as I keep recommending them to you!!??! The Monarch Red is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet with peppery flavors that will leave you wanting more! They also have a Huckleberry D’Latah – which if you have never had huckleberry before I highly recommend! Wine prices range from $10 to $30 USD. Downtown Spokane has many wineries, with Townshend Cellar being one of them. The red table wine (yes another blend), was my favorite with flavors of orange zest and pepper. We stopped here after taking a stroll through the beautiful Riverfront State Park. Wines range from $10 to $50 USD here.
Walla Walla Region:
Walla Walla may be known for their onions, but they also make some pretty amazing wines! I spent a couple of days in Walla Walla a few years ago where I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of wineries that are located here. The town is split up into winery sections, by the airport, downtown and outside of town at the vineyards. My friend and I visited the downtown and vineyard areas. Downtown is handy as most of the wineries are within walking distance – meaning no need for a car service. Walla Walla is a smaller town, so be sure to book your accommodations early as to ensure you are also within walking distance to your hotel!
In the downtown area we tasted at Spring Valley Vineyard. It is rare that I like a merlot, but here I found their merlot not only tasty but worth taking a bottle home with me (don’t worry, I paid for it before I took it). Their Mule Skinner Merlot has a collection of berries ranging from cherry, raspberry, strawberry and cassis. Wines here range from $45 to $50 USD. We also made a stop by Fort Walla Walla Cellars. This winery focuses primarily on red wines, with their Cabernet Sauvignon being my favorite filled with flavors of plums and currant fruits. Wines range from $38 to $45 USD.
image credit: Chris Campbell
In the outskirts of town we visited L’Ecole. This winery had been recommended by many of our friends, so we made sure to stop by. The winery tasting room is located in an old school house that dates back to 1915. Wine prices vary between $19 to $59 USD. I drink more red wines than I do white, however I found that the white wines of L’Ecole, specifically the Semillon, a citrus/honey/apricot wine a delight on the palate. Our last stop was Waterbrook Winery. The setting of this winery is breathtaking as the tasting room is surrounded by a pond, vines and mountains. Wine here is between $12 to $25 USD.
All this talk about wine makes me want to trade in my beer and grab a glass of vino 🙂
Have you ever wine tasted in Washington State? Where is your favorite spot to wine taste?