MikeL's Guide to WA Wineries
Yakima Valley trip - day 3

[This was written as email to an out-of-towner who was going to be in Seattle for a few days in June 1997, and wanted to do some serious winetasting. I listed a several day schedule, it's broken up into 4 parts here.]

Day 3

After yesterday's busy day working east through the Zillah and Outlook area wineries, we continue eastward.

Coming into Prosser from the west on I-82, take exit 80 to Willow Crest. This is a very new winery, and they're learning quickly with inexpensive estate grown wines.

On into the town of Prosser from Willow Crest, you'll pass Pontin Del Roza (3 minutes). If you catch Dad Pontin in the tasting room, you're certain to have an enjoyable talk about the history of agriculture in the Yakima Valley.

Just as you reach town (3 minutes), you'll be at Hinzerling Vineyards. Mike Wallace has run his quiet little outfit there for just about as long a WA has made premium wines. The wines are unique, including some wonderful ports and long lasting reds. If Mike is behind the counter, you can truly have a historically interesting chat.

Just a few minutes through town, and out the river is Yakima River Winery. They're one of WA state's older wineris, a Mom&Pop outfit, you're sure to be able to chat with the winemaker.

Next is Chinook Wines (5 minutes). Kay and Clay make a limited amount of exceptional wines. My wife and I were married in 1990, and bought a case of their 1990 Merlot as our anniversary wine. We have another bottle on our anniversary each year. (We'll have to get re-married every 12 years!)

Just past Chinook, is The Hogue Cellars. They're a major commercial producer, with lots of different wines, one for every taste. Very high availabilty in Seattle convenience stores, plus a new premium line known as Genesis.

Immediately adjacent to Hogue is Thurston Wolfe Wines. The winemaker (Wade Wolfe) is also the general Manager at Hogue next door, but here he has the freedom to try more unique wines.

If you skip the less important ones in Prosser, you'll have plenty of time to go on to Benton City...

Back to I-82, due east (about 25 minutes) to Oakwood Cellars. In a blind Cab tasting my wine crowd did last year, including some of WA's highest ranked Cab's, Oakwoods was the popular favorite. The winery is a basement room of the house, converted to a tasting room.

If Terra Blanca is open, be sure to stop in. They're a a brand new winery with an extremely ambitious winemaker, Keith Pilgrim. At this writing the place was not yet open to the public, and I have not tasted his wines.

4 minutes back up the hill to Seth Ryan Winery. Another 4 minutes up the dirt road is Kiona Vineyards. A huge variety of wines, all very affordable and all quite nice.

Another 5 minutes up the dirt road to Hedges Cellars. This is the actual winery, but is open by appt. only (do give them a call, especially if you'll be there on a weekday). The regular hours tasting room is back in Issaquah, a suburb of Seattle.

Across the driveway from the new Hedges building is Blackwood Canyon Vintners. Plan on spending some time here. Mike is a bit of a talker, and will happily show you around for as long as you'll stay. Some of his dessert wines will simply knock you over, they are unbelievably wonderful, however his prices have gotten fairly high of late; he will probably have them all open (including expensive 375ml dessert wines) to sample, which is rather rare. Mike is the undisputed "character" in the WA wine industry, don't miss this one, but be prepared for an adventure!

There are some hotels in Prosser, but at this point you'll do best going on to the Tri-Cities as there are many more choices there. Tomorrow is onwards and eastward to the Tri/cities and Walla Walla.

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