How Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Ted Baseler plans to put Washington wines on the world map.
AS TED BASELER winds along the snaking platform that passes through the center of Chateau Ste. Michelle, he expounds on the winery’s achievements over the last three decades. The accolades are hard to miss. Sports-arena style banners listing vintages’ top scores fall from the bottling room ceiling. Awards bestowed by judges from around the world cover 72 feet of the corridor wall. Down the hallway stands a shrine to the company’s Single Berry Select, which, up until two months ago, had been the highest rated Washington wine ever. All seems well in the wine empire of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates yet the president and CEO isn’t satisfied. “It’s my desire to see Washington unequivocally seen as one of the top three regions in the world and that there would be no debate about it. It would be Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Washington,” says the 52-year-old Bellevue native. “And we’re getting there.”
Washington is the second largest wine producer in the United States but it’s far from being an international heavyweight. “California is the big dog, and we’re the underdog. But we are growing much faster than California,” says Baseler. In the last quarter century, the state’s wine industry has exploded, growing from 19 to 425 wineries. The rapid growth is clearly illustrated on Red Mountain near Benton City, which earned federal recognition as an American Viticulture Area in 2001. Already six new wineries are under construction in the region, including a $6 million home for Col Solare, an ultrapremium red wine produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori, Italy’s leading wine family. Having Antinori set up shop in the desert of Eastern Washington is an enormous stamp of approval for the industry, says Tom Hedges, founder of Hedges Cellars, which has a winery and vineyards on Red Mountain. “It’s not enough to have great wine. You have to have image. And image comes with someone that has been in the business for 600 years like Piero Antinori and his family. Antinori gives us the history that we need to have,” he says.
The state’s wine history stretches back to 1871, when wine grapes were first planted in Yakima Valley. Washington’s wine industry didn’t take root until 1934 when Seattle’s Pommerelle Wine Company and the National Wine Company in Grandview were established. In the next 40 years, the two companies merged, underwent several name changes and a corporate buyout, and emerged as Chateau Ste. Michelle. The young wine company began constructing its Woodinville winery on an 87-acre dairy farm previously owned by Seattle lumber baron Frederick Spencer Stimson. “Back then establishing the chateau was a bold move for Ste. Michelle,” says Bob Betz, former vice president of winemaking research at Ste. Michelle and owner of the Betz Family Winery in Woodinville. “The wine industry and tourism in Napa Valley was really accelerating, and it was a bold move for Ste. Michelle to stay in Washington.” In 1976 Chateau Ste. Michelle’s winery opened, and by the early 1980s 18 more wineries had sprouted.
Around this time, Baseler returned to Washington from Chicago, where he had been working for advertising firm J. Walter Thompson. He took a job with Seattle advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather / Cole & Weber, where his client portfolio included a tiny account called Chateau Ste. Michelle. Baseler became close friends with the company’s executives, but it was still surprising when the former president asked him to join Chateau Ste. Michelle. “I really believed there was huge potential for the company and Washington wine industry,” he says. So at the age of 30, Baseler took a chance and joined the state’s first wine company.
Walking above the tank room, where Chateau Ste. Michelle produces its 600,000 cases of white wines, Baseler points out large sections of ice forming on the tanks’ exteriors and explains how the process, called cool fermenting, is designed to release flavors in certain white wine grapes. It’s clear that after more than two decades of working to advance Ste. Michelle and Washington’s wine industry Baseler cares more about producing great wine than the bottom line. “We’re not setting our sights on bigger. We want to be better,” he says.
Baseler turns to a wall map of Washington to explain why, as wine critic Pierre-Antoine Rovani wrote in the April 2006 edition of Wine Advocate, the state’s “future is as bright today as any viticultural region’s on earth.” The state is geographically blessed with the Cascade Mountains, which trap coastal rains on the western side, keeping Eastern Washington vineyards dry and sunny. The state also basks in two extra hours of sunlight during the grape-growing season thanks to its northern location. All good reasons why Ste. Michelle Estates stayed in Washington, invested in 3,400 acres of estate vineyards, and built six additional wineries, including three Baseler was influential in launching—Walla Walla’s Northstar, Snoqualmie in Prosser, and Columbia Crest of Paterson.
The company’s wine empire, which stretches beyond Washington and includes wineries and vineyards in Napa Valley, grew again in May with the purchase of Erath Vineyards, a producer of high-end pinot noir and one of Oregon’s oldest wineries. As Washington’s leading wine company, Ste. Michelle produces 3.7 million cases annually and is ranked ninth in the United States wine industry. “It’s very rewarding to help shape Washington’s wine industry. It’s not like being a custodian where you’re handed the keys to a wine legacy created 300 years ago and your job is to maintain it,” says Baseler.
Beyond Ste. Michelle, Baseler fueled Washington’s wine industry growth through side projects. He returned to his alma mater WSU, where he graduated with a communications degree in 1976, and ignited an effort to create a viticulture program. Baseler lobbied the state Legislature for funding, rallied industry professionals, and consulted on the program’s curriculum. Then three years ago, Baseler launched another project with Hedges and the late Dr. Walter Clore, a WSU horticulturist widely known as the father of the state wine industry, to create a culinary center to showcase Washington wines and tourism. In May 2007, the Dr. Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is scheduled to open in Prosser. And recently, while serving as chair of the Washington Wine Commission, Baseler pushed for a new marketing campaign aimed at dispelling myths about state wines and increasing domestic sales. “Washington State: The Perfect Climate for Wine” is being tested in Florida, and is bearing fruit, he says: “This is just the beginning.”
In the coming decade, Baseler wants to make Ste. Michelle and Washington wines bigger players in the international market and he’s already gained a foothold in Italy. In the early 1990s Baseler was introduced to Piero Antinori by Russian wine consultant André Tchelistcheff, who worked for both companies. “We hit it off famously,” says Baseler. He cultivated a close friendship with the Italian winemaking superstar, known for combining sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon to create the wines known as Super Tuscans. The bridge between Washington and Italy led Ste. Michelle and Antinori in 1995 to begin producing Col Solare wine, made with Washington grapes and recently awarded a 94 from Wine Advocate for its 2002 vintage. The success with Col Solare has inspired more collaborations. This month Ste. Michelle assumes the role of North American distributor for Antinori, a deal that benefits the Woodinville company by opening up export channels in Italy. Then in September, the Italians move into Red Mountain with the opening of the Col Solare winery, which will provide an international tourism anchor in Washington. “It is a great statement not only about the company but really about the state of Washington that they would feel that Washington’s were of the class of these fabulous wines from Tuscany,” he says.
Back in Chateau Ste. Michelle’s barrel room, Baseler stops to describe how the winery’s French oak barrels are made from trees meticulously cultivated to produce barrels with extremely dense wood grains devoid of knots. “It helps the flavors tremendously to have this tight grain,” he says. There lies the foundation for Baseler’s plan to put Washington on equal footing with the wine empires of France and Italy: quality. “First you have to consistently produce higher quality wines that win blind tastings and competitions,” he says. Then the state has to grow its fan base through increased distribution and get wine drinkers into Washington wineries. “When people can see the heritage of the wine, where it’s harvested, made, stored, it increases their appreciation of the wine dramatically,” he says. “People come up to me at wine festivals (around the world) and say, ‘I visited Chateau Ste. Michelle ten years ago and I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.’ That’s really what it’s about.”
Woodinville and Port Angeles
The vineyards may all be east of the Cascades—it’s hard for our rainy corner of the state to compete with 300 days of sunshine. But that doesn’t stop the more than 125 winemakers from producing some of the leading wines produced in Washington State, whether from large commercial operations like Ste. Michelle and Columbia or small artisan vintners devoted to high-quality sips.
Mark Ryan Winery
19501 144th Ave NE, #F-900, Woodinville
The Winery Mark Ryan Winery has an always-up-for-anything, party atmosphere: The warehouse, in the midst of reconstruction, has exposed drywall and concrete floors, and a disco ball hangs over the barrels. It’s situated in the Woodinville Park North complex, a loose wine co-op the owner calls “Hoodinville.”
The WinemakerOwner Mark Ryan McNeilly has been in the business for years, working in sales for Matthews Celleas by day and moonlighting as a winemaker. McNeilly makes a mean red, but he’s no beer-drinking frat boy: the one time he tried to create his own hoppish brew, he failed miserably.
The Wine The 2001 vintages of Long Haul and Dead Horse drew high rankings from Wine Spectator, but the small releases sell out quickly. This year look for Wild Eyed syrah and the winery’s first white wine, a viognier. Open by appointment.
14030 NE 145th St, Woodinville
The Winery An elegant building with a sprawling summer porch and gabled roof sits pleasantly among flower beds and manicured lawns. The tiled, rustic tasting room is Washington’s largest.
The Winemaker Columbia was founded in 1962 by a group of friends, including a half-dozen UW professors. Since 1979 the head winemaker has been David Lake, for 20 years he was the only Master of Wine actually making it in North America. He was the first vintner in the state to create a syrah, a cabernet franc, and a pinot gris.
The Wine 2005 Columbia Winery’s 1999 Otis Vineyard cabernet sauvignon was selected as one of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2004. Columbia Winery’s 2003 gewürztraminer, a “vintage of intensely flavored fruit,” was picked as one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of 2005. Open daily 10–6.
19730 144th Ave NE, Woodinville
The WineryEarly next year, Januik will move next door to Columbia Winery to a new facility designed by Mithun, the firm that built REI’s flagship store in Seattle. The modernized winery will share space (and the winemaker) with another artisan winery, Novelty Hill, and the tasting room with a large fireplace will overlook gardens and barrel rooms.
The WinemakerMike Januik worked as head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle for nine years, garnering distinction as one of the world’s top 10 masters of merlot awarded by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 1999.
The WineWine Advocate wrote this spring: “Nobody in Washington State delivers more outstanding quality for the dollar than Januik Winery.” Several wines were high scorers, among them the 2003 cabernet sauvignon and merlot from Klipsun Vineyard. Tasting room opens February 2007.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
14111 NE 145th St, Woodinville
The Winery Washington’s oldest winery, founded in 1934. Tour the cellar and barrel rooms, stroll the historic grounds, or lounge by the trout pools. The fairy-tale chateau and spacious tasting room attract crowds.
The Winemaker Bob Bertheau, head winemaker for two years, strives to bring out the natural varietal character and regional expression in the wines.
The Wine Chateau Ste. Michelle has won so many awards from so many publications, their Web site has a searchable database of honors. Open daily 10–4:30.
14404 137th Pl NE, Woodinville
The Winery The JM winery sits on seven acres of land that is home to 400 rare species of evergreens and pines and 120 varieties of Japanese maples that can only be found in one other place in Seattle: the Arboretum. It operates out of owners John and Peggy Bigelow’s two-story house.
The Winemaker Inspired by his vintner brother-in-law Mike Januik, Bigelow turned away from his high-tech job to steep himself in the wine world.
The Wine Bigelow recommends this year’s release of a 2001 Ray’s Boathouse wine award winner, the 2003 Tre Fanciulli, which refers to the couple’s three sons: “three treasure boys.” Open noon–4, first Saturday of the month.
12280 Woodinville Dr NE, Woodinville
The Winery From his own living room Mark Newton brought pictures, candles, and baskets to decorate the small warehouse and office space. Then he commissioned a neighboring rock-cutter to hew him a “slab” to be used as a counter. He threw in some bar stools and, before he knew it he had created a chic little tasting room so heavily trafficked that he had to start charging.
The Winemaker All it took for Newton to be hooked into winemaking was one evening 23 years ago in Napa Valley, spent sipping sparkling wine and listening to French cabaret music with his father. He found himself making his own wine in Ballard soon after.
The Wine If you’re lucky, you may sample his cabernet franc sogno (“dream” in Italian), a wine as dreamy as its name. Tasting room open noon–5 weekends.
255410 U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles 360-452-0160, OlympicCellars.com
The winery Here women rule in every sense. The tasting room, housed in an enormous dairy barn, is jammed with hot pink T-shirts, and free “Working Girl Road Trip” kits full of wine glasses and chocolate.
The winemaker He’s a Frenchman surrounded by women: Benoit Murat left Toulouse, France, in 2004 to join owners Sara Gagnon, Kathy Charlton and Molly Rivard. At the ripe age of 27, Murat won the Jefferson Cup last year for his 2004 Dungeness Red Lemberger.
The wine The $2 tasting fee introduces you to the Dungeness White, a semisweet rieslin and to Handyman Red, a big-bodied blend that goes with cigars or chocolate. Tasting room open daily 11-6pm.
334 Benson Rd, Port Angeles
The winery Two miles from the city center, nestled beneath towering firs and the Olympics, the winery’s freshly built tasting room is surrounded by gardens and warmed by an outdoor fire pit.
The winemaker Timber executive Don Corson started making wine in a Redmond garage in 1981. After 11 years of seminars and practice, he and his wife Vicki opened their winery in the woods near Port Angeles.
The wine Among the hits are Grâce, a Bordeaux blend, and Trinquer (French for “to clink glasses”). Tasting room open 11–5, Friday–Sunday, and by appointment.
Port Angeles Food and Lodging
Joy’s Wine Bistro
1135 E Front St, Port Angeles
A Hidden Haven bed and breakfast
The soil and the 300 days of sunshine make for ideal growing conditions, and the grapes from the Red Mountain and Columbia Valley appellation show up in some of the state’s finest reds. The Tri-Cities has been sprouting chateaus and estates that invite you to linger and enjoy the views of hillside vineyards. The region loves its chain restaurants, so cheers to wineries that have introduced fine dining in their tasting rooms.
878 Tulip Ln, Richland
The Winery Barnard Griffin is basking in the glow of having just been voted Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, besting 800 or so possible entries. As you arrive- you’ll see fermentation tanks and equipment outside, then the flower—festooned patio and tasting room filled with the fused glass art of owner Deborah Barnard and the pottery of V. Gravenslund, as well as many gifts, goodies, and their instantly recognizable tulip label bottles.
The Winemaker The honor validates the destiny of vintner Rob Griffin, who grew up making wine at the knee of his uncle in the then-quaint Napa town of Oakville. While obtaining his degree in fermentation science from UC Davis, what would now be called enology, Rob nosed around Washington, impressed by the Wild West nature of the fledging wine state. In short he’s doing what he was born to do, and well.
The Wine Come to the winery to taste the limited reserves—labeled with the mythical griffin, or gryphon, a powerful creature of mythology who watches over treasures—an apt metaphor for Rob’s wines. Wine tasting 10–6 daily; $5 nonrefundable tasting fee for reserve vintages; no charge to taste tulip label wines.
16304 N Dallas Rd, Richland
The Winery The three generations of the Monson family, founders of Goose Ridge Estate, have four decades of agriculture in their blood, from cattle ranching to orchards to vineyards, now growing more than 1,300 acres of grapes, the largest continuous block of bunches of juicy fruit in the state. It was all planted under the guidance of Dr. Walter Clore—the man responsible more than any other for convincing Eastern Washington farmers they could grow world-class grapes. For a big vineyard, Goose Ridge is a boutique winery, reserving less than 1 percent of the best of their grapes for about 5,000 cases of private label vintages, served in Seattle at the likes of Metropolitan Grill and El Gaucho.
The Winemaker The winemaker is Charlie Hoppes, local Wapato boy made good, a Boeing engineer who switched gears with a degree from UC Davis.
The Wine In the tasting room, tucked in the vineyards and surrounded by foothills, it seems as though everyone knows each other. It’s anything but impersonal; you’ll be warmly welcomed while they pour a taste of 2003 reserve syrah, 2003 reserve cabernet, 2005 riesling, or vireo, a signature blend named for the local songbird who warbles while sitting on the wires. Tasting room hours 10–6, Thursday–Sunday.
Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard
34715 N Demoss Rd, Benton City
The Winery Multiple flagstone patios, both sunny and shaded, provide expansive lookouts over landscaped grounds and beyond to vineyards and the Yakima River below. Massive doors lead to an immense and impressive tasting room. Soon, Terra Blanca will feature outdoor concerts for up to 4,000 concertgoers on its slopes under the stars.
The Winemakers At the dawn of the Pliocene era, repeated floodwaters deposited high levels of calcium carbonate (white earth) in the soils of Terra Blanca’s Red Mountain Estate Vineyard. In 1993, at the first inkling of a new era in Washington winemaking, geologist Keith Pilgrim and his wife ReNae purchased 300 acres at the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. While the Red Mountain appellation was merely hinting at its potential in 1997, the Pilgrims harvested their first vintages, and in the same year were the first in the state to construct subterranean barrel caves. As the Pilgrims say, “Over the last 10 years, we’ve guided the operation from rattlesnake-infested sagebrush to pristine 80-acre vineyard and a winery that produces more than 26,000 cases a year.” The latest realization of their vision has them living large, in a $10 million facility, unveiled during spring 2006 barrel tasting weekend in the Yakima Valley.
The Wine They’re pouring at least a dozen varieties of reds and whites, including 2001 Red Mountain syrahs, a favorite of the wine press, and a couple of exotic late-harvest ice wines. Tasting room open 11–6 daily.
844 Tulip Ln, Richland
The Winery Tagaris Winery owner Michael Taggares, honors his Greek ancestors—who planted vineyards in the 1300s—by using the correct historic spelling of the family name, altered when his grandfather passed through Ellis Island. Last September, overseen by family friend and president Penny Morgan, Taggares built an 18,000-square-foot facility that included a high-end restaurant, Taverna Tagaris, and hired wunderkind chef Chris Ainsworth from Seattle’s Fish Club.
The Winemaker Tableside, Taggares is serving fat, bold red wines from the 2005 harvest by the glass or pitcher. You read that correctly. What winemaker Allan Pangborn is decanting directly from the barrel is nothing short of futuristic. Pangborn, a bubbly man with a 26-year pedigree that includes crafting sparkling wines for Korbel and Ste. Michelle, is presenting nouveau wines.
The Wine These fresh vintages are made possible by “declaring war on tannins,” says Pangborn, using grapes with significantly longer hang-time on Taggares’s 200 acres of south slope, high elevation Wahluke AVA vineyards, and a gentler, sophisticated processing method in the winery. You’ll have to head to the Tri-Cities to experience them, as Taggares isn’t planning to retail wines anytime soon. In the summertime, don’t miss outdoor dining on the Patio Kouzina by the basalt water fountain and fire pits of mythic proportions. Tasting hours are 11–4, Tuesday–Sunday; the restaurant opens at 5:30 (closed Sunday and Monday); reservations are a must. Check the Web site for live music Friday and Saturday nights.
J. Bookwalter Winery and Bistro
894 Tulip Ln, Richland
The Winery A person’s wine palate typically progresses from sweet whites to dry and then from fruity reds to complex ones. At eponymous Bookwalter Winery, son John and father Jerry are taking progress in a different direction—in the tasting room. First came chairs instead of standing at a bar. Next came a little lounge, staying open later than everyone else. Soon there was a patio overlooking the gardens, the pride and joy of wife, owner, and Master Gardener, Jean. Then there was live music and a select menu of Fran’s chocolates, Marcona almonds, artisan cheeses, olives, and charcuterie plates. In short, it’s a place to taste wine in the Tri-Cities with real atmosphere.
The Winemakers Jerry the “whites guy,” produce six varieties, while son John specializes in three reds, all in consult with Zelma Long, whom Bookwalter’s retail manager Dawn calls “the vine-to-wine rock star of the industry.”
The Wine Wine Spectator gave their ’02 cabernet and ’03 merlots 91 ratings. Relish in Bookwalter’s unique table service tasting while sampling the 2003 Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon and 2004 Columbia Valley merlot counterparts. Tasting hours are 10–5 daily, until 6 on Sunday; $5 tasting fee, refundable upon purchase. The winery bistro and patio are open later to serve a light menu and wine; check the Web site for the live music schedule.
Hedges Family Estate
53511 N Sunset Rd, Benton City
The Winery When you reach the European-styled chateau of the Hedges Family Estate, lording over Red Mountain and the valley below, it’s easy to imagine you’re in the French countryside. The Bordeaux-styled wines even taste richer, sipped in sumptuous marble surroundings or on the flagstone patio by the grand fountain. Below you, the grapes grow in formal rows of single bunches, with neat labels declaring the varietals grown.
The Winemakers Husband and wife Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges own three vineyards—Hedges Estate, Bel’Villa, and Red Mountain—from which brother and winemaker Pete Hedges help them craft two labels—CMS by Hedges and Hedges Family Estate. Pete’s nephew Chris and his wife Maggie run Prestige Wine Estates down the road a pace.
The Wine In all, it’s one of the largest family wine dynasties in the state, concentrating efforts on Washington’s variety powerhouses, cabernet and merlot. Says Pete, “We set the standard for wine blending and putting more than one wine on the label.” Production is a healthy 60,000 or so cases a year, but your best chance for sampling estate reserves is at the chateau. This year, the family recommends the 2003 Two Vineyards Reserve or the 2005 dry rosé. Tasting room hours are 11–5, Friday–Sunday. They also have a tasting room closer to home in Issaquah, open 11–5 Friday & Saturday. A tasting fee of $5 covers all Hedges Family Estate wines; the rest are complimentary.
Kiona Vineyards and Winery
44612 N Sunset Rd, Benton City
The Winery Banks refused John and Ann Williams a loan to build their winery on 86 acres of sagebrush atop Red Mountain in the early 1970s. So they built an enormous house, stashed barrels in the garage and transformed the basement into a tasting room. After 30 years, the Williams reclaim their home this summer when Kiona’s new tasting room opens offering sweeping views of Red Mountain from its veranda.
The Winemaker Scott Williams went to WSU to be an engineer but came out a winemaker. Williams graduated in 1980, the year his parents released their first 500 cases of wines, and has been working in the cellar ever since. “It gets in your blood,” he says.
The Wine Kiona wines win truckloads of awards. “We have 14 wines. I would be surprised if you couldn’t find one you liked. Most people like several,” says Williams. Recent superstars include the chenin blanc, which took home the silver at last year’s San Francisco International Wine Competition, and the cabernet sauvignon, a silver medalist at this year’s LA County Fair Wines of the World. Tasting room open daily noon–5.
Tri-Cities Food and Lodging
Ice Harbor Brewing Company
Pub grub and award-winning Northwest beers
206 N Benton St, Kennewick
Courtyard by Marriott at Columbia Point
New and nice, right on the Columbia River
480 Columbia Point Dr, Richland
Cozy Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast
1220 Forsell Rd, Grandview
The historic Walla Walla Valley dates its winemaking roots to the 1800s when it was settled by Italian immigrants. Today the college town in the foothills of the Blue Mountains is populated by over 90 wineries, dozens of grape growers, and a handful of fine restaurants and wine bars—a complete wine tour experience.
L’Ecole No. 41
41 Lowden School Rd, Lowden
The Winery This acclaimed Walla Walla winery is housed in the 1915 schoolhouse in historic Frenchtown settled by the French Canadians of Hudson’s Bay Company. The tasting room is located in the meticulously restored fourth, fifth, and sixth grade room.
The Winemaker Brainy winemaker Martin Clubb is well-schooled, with degrees in chemical engineering and management. He happily married into the wine business, run since 1983 by Jean and Baker Ferguson; wife Megan is president and CEO of Baker Boyer Bank, the oldest banking institution in the state.
The Wine L’Ecole wines are in high-demand.Come to the classroom to experience the depth and breadth of their vintages; extra credit to their barrel-fermented semillon and Seven Hills Vineyard Estate merlot. Open 10–5 daily.
700 C St
The Winery Located in World War II–era Army Air Corps firehouse and barracks near the airport, the tasting room isn’t chic, and it isn’t a room—it’s the winery itself.
The Winemaker “It’s the Fruit, Stupid.” That’s the philosophy embroidered on winemaker and owner Ron Coleman’s baseball cap. He was a wine salesman in Seattle, a sommelier in Milwaukee, then worked for Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge here.
The Wine The winery made the list of Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2005, an honor based on consistently producing quality wines of distinct style, in his case, elegant and understated reds. Try the 2002 DuBrul Vineyard Reserve (cabernet franc), 2003 Sagemoor Vineyard Reserve (syrah), or his classic Firehouse Red. Tasting r0om open 10–4 Saturday, and by appointment.
2014 Mill Creek Rd
The Winery Founders Ken and Ginger Harrison purchased the 1907 Kibler family farmstead in 2000 creating a gorgeous, idyllic inn and winery. Settle into your room, painstakingly restored and furnished with antiques, or pull an Adirondack chair near the creek. The only busybodies around are the hummingbirds and the bees, from which the Spanish name Abeja is taken.
The Winemaker Touring and tasting for small groups by appointment only, so that winemaker John Abbott can tailor the experience to your knowledge and interests.
The Wine Sip a chardonnay, a cabernet, or the Beekeeper’s Blend, the last available only at the winery. Tasting by appointment.
820 Mill Creek Rd
The Winery You won’t find aprons or buttons or other tourist tchotchkes in the tasting room, just a cabinet full of Riedel glasses, a table topped with big, dark bottles, and a soundtrack of pulsing rock music.
The Winemaker Charles Smith is wine’s wild child, who managed Danish rock bands in Europe for a decade before a road trip to Washington drew him to Walla Walla. He sports Chihuly-esque curly hair, black T-shirts, and sunglasses, making him a local legend.
The Wine Most of Smith’s attention goes into making six single-vineyard syrahs (say it out loud, “K…syrah”), already winning Wine Advocate’s honors for the top-rated syrah in the valley. He uses words such as “pencil shavings” and “crushed rocks in a Cuisinart” to describe his flavors, but he’s very serious about delicious, accessible wine. He says the spring 2007 releases will be the best ever. Tasting room (approximate hours) open 10–4 Saturday, April–October.
Walla Walla Vintners
225 Vineyard Ln
The Winery The simple tasting room is in the garage of a building attractively built to blend into the rural landscape. Inside, depending on the season, you’ll walk right through the heady, grapey smell emanating from the open-topped stainless-steel fermenters.
The Winemakers Myles Anderson is a retired psychologist, director of the community college’s Center for Enology and Viticulture. Gordon Venneri was in insurance and retirement planning until family wines tasted on a trip to his ancestral home of Calabria, Italy, got him hooked on winemaking.
The Wine They live for customer feedback. Feel free to speak up as they open up a bottle of 2003 Walla Walla Valley ‘Vineyard Select’ cabernet sauvignon for you. Tasting room open 10:30–4:30 Saturday, or by appointment.
Pepper Bridge Winery
1704 J. B. George Rd.
The Winery Named for a military route between Fort Walla Walla and an Army Post in The Dalles, Oregon, the winery radiates sophistication from its Tuscan-colored walls and glistening copper roof. Here you can tour the state’s only gravity flow system for processing.
The Winemakers Owner Norm McKibben hired vintner Jean-François Pellet, a Swiss-born third-generation grower who’s worked wine in Germany, Spain, and the Napa Valley. He’s President of Vinea, Walla Walla’s trust committed to sustainable viticulture.
The Wine They produce two wines, a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot, the latter ’03 rated a 90 by Robert Parker. Their goal is to produce high-end wines using only estate grapes to showcase the distinctive terroir, or features, of the region. Tasting Room open 10–4 daily; call ahead for morning appointments to tour the vineyards; $8 tasting fee, refundable upon purchase.
Basel Cellars Estate
2901 Old Milton Hwy
The Winery The grand lodge at Basel Cellars Estate Winery, a Wine Club members-only luxury resort, garnered Sunset magazine honors as 2005 Wine Destination of the Year. It’s a high-tech, high-touch fantasy of woodwork and stone masonry, including a Harley Davidson-–themed game room and movie theater.
The Winemaker Trey Busch was a suit salesman for Nordstrom for eight and a half years before becoming first an assistant winemaker for Eric Dunham at Dunham Cellars. In 2002 Wine Enthusiast called him one of America’s Winemakers to Watch.
The Wine About 90 percent of Basel Cellars’ vintages are blended from estate grapes, from their Pheasant Run and Double River Ranch vineyards, the latter a new 58-acre parcel, which surrounds the property. Try the 2005 Forget-Me-Not, a semillon–sauvignon blanc blend. Tasting 10–4 Monday–Saturday, 11–4 Sunday, either at the resort bar or in the -entertainment hall.
Walla Walla Food and Lodging
Locally produced food and wines
1129 S Second Ave
Grapefields Wine Bar and Café
Bistro fare and local wines
4 Main St
Upscale regional cuisine
55 W Cherry St
Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center
The Yakima Valley was Washington’s first recognized viticultural area, established in 1983, when it was home to a dozen wineries. Today there are over 50 wineries and some 11,000 acres of vineyards that supply grapes to vintners across the state. A new grape-growing region, Rattlesnake Hills near Zillah, was formally established in February.
71 Gangl Rd, Wapato
The Winery High on a gentle knoll, Sagelands offers spectacular views of Yakima Valley from a sun-drenched patio to enjoy while sampling its nine varietals.
The Winemaker A native of Provence, France, Frederique Spencer honed her winemaking skills in Bordeaux and Australia before joining Sagelands in 1994.
The Wine Put away your best Sideways lines because here you’re drinking merlot. Merlot is king of the grapes in Yakima Valley and Sagelands’ 2003 vintage won the silver medal at the New World International Wine Competition. Open 10–5 daily.
500 S Bonair Rd, Zillah
The Winery This Tudor-style winery with iron bistro tables lining the stone driveway and a charming garden complete with white gazebo defines bucolic—right down to the geese swimming in a nearby pond.
The Winemaker Gail Puryear jokes he started making wine thanks to a study-abroad trip to Chile his junior year at WSU with his wife Shirley. “They said don’t drink the water but you can drink the wine. So we did,” he says. Several years later the Puryears bought a Zillah vineyard and began building Bonair.
The Wine Buttery Chardonnays were all the rage in the 1970s when the Puryears fell in love with wine, so that’s how they make the Chateau Puryear reserve chardonnay, which has been winning awards since 1987. Tasting room open 10–5 daily.
2020 Gilbert Rd, Zillah
The Winery Vineyards spread out beyond the ranch-style winery in the Rattlesnake Hills, and a giant windmill looms over the picnic tables. Panoramic views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams from the lawn and tasting room take the world away.
The Winemaker A fourth-generation hop farmer, Andy Gamache was on track to enter the family business when the wine bug bit. Gamache, 27, traded hop vines for grape vines. “I saw how you can bring out different flavors and showcase the fruit’s character through the winemaking process and that got me interested in wine.”
The Wine Sip Hyatt’s riesling or syrah, both gold medalists at the Taster’s Guild International. Or fill your glass with Hyatt’s ultrapremium Roza Ridge, a 2,600-case reserve label of syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Open 11–5 daily.
2980 Gilbert Rd, Zillah
The Winery Deep in the scenic Rattlesnake Hills sits Sheridan’s stately cedar winery with a modest tasting bar carved into the barrel room. Savor the view from the lawn.
The Winemaker Scott Greer contemplated buying 76 acres near Zillah for 10 minutes and then spent years learning how to grow grapes and make wine. “I believe in jumping into the deep end and learning how to swim,” says the 45-year-old finance-world escapee.
The Wine Greer makes “big red wines that are a marriage between power and elegance.” Test drive L’Orage, French for “the big storm,” and taste the 2002 hailstorm that destroyed all but three tons of grapes. Or try Sheridan’s sauvignon blanc and semillon blend, which is Greer’s venture into white wines. Open 11–5 Friday and Saturday; noon–4 Sunday.
Two Mountain Winery
2151 Cheyne Rd, Zillah
The Winery Tucked away on Schmidt Orchard’s 40-acre farm in a 1946 peach warehouse, you’ll find Two Mountain winery, where the family pours wines at a tasting bar fashioned from wooden planks and wine barrels.
The Winemaker Matt Rawn worked on his family’s 40-acre farm Schmidt Orchards since he was 12. At age 15, the Yakima Valley native had his first wine tasting on a family camping trip, administered by his late uncle Ron Schmidt, who founded Two Mountain. Rawn was hooked.
The Wine Critics favor the merlot and cabernet sauvignon but Rawn suggests an off-dry riesling that isn’t overly sweet or a light and crisp lemberger to take the edge off a hot summer day. Open 10–6 daily.
Maison de Padgett
2231 Rosa Dr, Zillah
The Winery Forget you’re deep in Eastern Washington’s orchards at this white-washed Andalusian-style winery with walled gardens and a medieval-looking tasting room marked by arched doorways and iron gates.
The Winemaker David Padgett, an employee of Costco for 15 years, was headed for life as a chiropractor but jumped careers after purchasing Zillah’s Horizon’s Edge winery. The 42-year-old winemaker wanted a creation of his own, so he built Maison de Padgett. “Every wine at Maison is created and named after something in my life,” he says. He named Risqué chardonnay for his wife.
The Wine Padgett is always experimenting in the cellar. This year it’s Lip Service rosé, with giant red lips on the label. “It’s basically a magnum of pink wine,” he says. Open 11–5 Thursday–Monday.
5201 Highland Dr, Zillah
The Winery For an authentic experience, visit Portteus Vineyards, nestled on the family’s 74-acre vineyard. Inside the tank room, owner Paul Portteus pours his award-winning wines behind a no-frills bar. On the way out, sneak some grapes and sample next year’s vintage.
The Winemaker Paul Portteus, previous owner of Seattle’s Penny Lane Records, snubbed Napa Valley for Yakima Valley 25 years ago.
The Wine If you brave the dusty gravel road to visit Portteus, then you have one thing on your mind: great wines. Try the zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon to find out why Portteus has been wowing critics since 1986. Open 10–5 weekdays; 11–5 Saturday; noon–4:30 Sunday.
Willow Crest Winery
590 merlot Dr, Prosser
The Winery Aptly located at the corner of Port Avenue and merlot Drive, Willow Crest’s cozy sun-kissed winery is more like a quaint mountain-lodge bar than a chic tasting room.
The Winemakers Baby-faced Victor Palencia, Willow Crest’s assistant winemaker, grew up working in the vineyards and started making wine under the tutelage of Willow Crest founder David Minick, long before his 21st birthday, which he celebrated in January. “I spit a lot,” he says, smiling.
The Wine Feel free to ask to taste wines absent from the tasting menu. Try Willow Crest’s superstars the Estate cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Open 10–5 daily.
2880 Lee Rd, Ste C, Prosser
The Winery In the sleek new tasting room, opened in February, you can enjoy the patio in the sun or opt for the leather sofa and comfy chairs in front of the fireplace, as you gaze at art from regularly rotating local artists.
The Winemaker The doctor can see you now. That’s Dr. Wade Wolfe, PhD in Viticulture from UC Davis, who researched vineyards for Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington’s wine infancy in 1978. He probably knows more about how and where to grow premium wine grapes in the Yakima Valley than anyone. The winery, opened with wife Rebecca Yeaman in 1987, has a reputation for producing adventurous wines.
The Wine The doc’s experimenting with Spanish whites lately—for example, the popular pinot gris viognier, which has folks at Anthony’s waxing rhapsodic about “tropical fruit, peach, and orange dancing crisply on the tongue.” Tasting room open 11–5 Thursday–Sunday. —Val Mallinson
Desert Wind Vineyard
2258 Wine Country Rd, Prosser
The Winery Desert Wind’s elegant new tasting room perched high on a bluff, with French doors opening to a patio and scenic views of Yakima River, won’t be open until September, but in the meantime, follow the the work in progress on the winery’s Webcam: www.desertwindvineyard.com/Construction.php.
The WinemakerM Greg Fries’s winemaking career took root after his father planted 13 acres of pinot noir on the family’s Oregon farm. Fries holds a degree in enology and viticulture from UC Davis.
The Wine Produced with grapes from the family’s Wahluke Slope vineyards, Desert Wind’s wines are deliciously complex as illustrated in Ruah, an intense merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon blend that scored an 86 in Wine Spectator. Tasting room opens in September.
2890 Lee Rd, Prosser
The Winery At Kestrel’s down-home tasting room pick up delicious wines and goodies from the cheese case stocked with international brands—and hold an impromptu wine and cheese party on the lawn.
The Winemaker Taking a hands-off approach to winemaking, Flint Nelson makes sure to preserve Mother Nature’s hard work. The simple approach gives Flint time to develop new wines including Kestrel’s first port, which will be released this autumn.
The Wine Fall head over heals for Pure Platinum, a viognier and gewürztraminer blend picturing a slinky blonde on each release, and Lady in Red, a non–vintage red wine featuring a seductive redhead on the label. Lady in Red won a medal at this year’s LA County Fair Wines of the World Competition. Open 10–5 daily.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2880 Lee Rd, Ste C, Prosser
The Winery Stylishly decorated with burgundy and cranberry walls and dark wood accents, Alexandria Nicole Cellars fosters a chic party vibe. Taste wines and nibble on sandwiches in the main tasting room, slip behind a velvet curtain to sip reserve wines in the private tasting room, or book a group dinner in the secret dining room for VIP status.
The Winemaker Jarrod Boyle was an assistant viticulturalist at Hogue Cellars when he discovered his dream—232 acres in the Horse Heaven Hills, which is now the winery’s Destiny Ridge Vineyards.
The Wine Fill your glass with the winery’s viognier or merlot, which both scored a 90 in Wine Enthusiast. Open 11–5 Wednesday-–Sunday.
Yakima Food and Lodging
Fine Italian; these guys say they’ve cooked for the Pope; also the G.BAR (aka the “G-spot”) at Gasperetti’s, the see-and-be-seen scene
1013 N First St, Yakima
Barrel House Wine Bar
22 N First St, Yakima
Birchfield Manor Country Inn
Guest rooms and fine dining
2018 Birchfield Rd, Yakima