Before Washington wine was on the international enological map, there was wine in Yakima Valley. The first established wine-growing region in the Evergreen State, Yakima Valley was also the first in the Pacific Northwest, designated as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983. Today, the appellation supports the top wineries in the state, cultivating 17,000 acres of wine grapes — the most of any appellation in Washington — and supplying half of the state’s total wine production its fruit.
In the namesake town of Yakima, wine is not only part of the beverage scene — it started it. With humble roots and tranquil country roads, the wine community is close-knit and heavily family operated, where, in many cases, the hands pouring the juice into your glass are also the ones that made the wine itself.
Get to know the makers and Washington wine better with a weekend of wine tasting, following this leisurely stroll through the Yakima Valley.
1 p.m.: Start a day of tasting in downtown Yakima with a flight of award-winning wines at Kana Winery. The intimate tasting room sports bistro-style seating that welcomes all and pleases the senses with wines like the 2017 Soaring Eagle Vineyard Chardonnay and the 2012 Old Vines, a single-varietal, single-vineyard showcase of Blaufrankisch, one of the state’s oldest grape varieties.
2:30 p.m.: Saunter down Yakima Avenue to AntoLin Cellars where the contemporary tasting room on Historic Front Street transports you to a vineyard via the estate-grown wines. Taste the husband-and wife-owned winery’s five-acre Yakima Valley vineyard in the gold-medal-winning 2012 Carménère, the single-varietal Malbec and the crisp, apple-forward Riesling.
4 p.m.: Skip over to Gilbert Cellars to taste from a rotating selection of 10 different wines from the family-run winery, with generations having farmed the Yakima Valley since 1920. Get yourself a glass of the 2017 Vin Du Vallée, a Rhône white blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier, or the 2014 Allobroges, a Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Or take this tasting experience next level by making a tasting appointment at the winery on Draper Road, abutting bucolic surroundings of wine grapes, fruit trees and a lavender field.
12 p.m.: Before heading home, come to the source at Wilridge Vineyard, Winery and Distillery, Seattle’s oldest winery and the first winery in the in the Naches Heights AVA, ten minutes west of Yakima. The family-owned and-operated vineyard is certified Organic and Biodynamic and Salmon Safe, and is fringed with apple and pear trees, the source for the artisan brandy distillery it launched last year. Select from over 20 estate-made wines, like the 2015 Semillon or the 2013 Nebbiolo, while you stroll the vineyard or enjoy a picnic lunch on the wrap-around porch of the farmhouse wine bar.
2 p.m.: Another steward of the land, the small-batch Naches Heights Vineyard (NHV) is certified LIVE and Salmon Safe in its growing practices to best showcase its terroir. Sample the top-selling 2016 Albariño and the 2013 Two Dancers, a Yakima Valley red blend of Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard tours are booked by appointment only, but if you aren’t able to get to Naches, the downtown Kameo Flowers, Events and Wine Tasting Bar pours the NHV wines, among other Yakima Valley wines, to check this winery off your list.
Meet more Yakima Valley makers at craftbeverageyakima.com.