Washington’s oldest grape-growing region is also home to nearly one-third of the state’s vineyard acreage. History runs deep in the Yakima Valley, thanks in part to a significant amount of multigenerational growers and winemakers. Although this area might be better known for its abundance of hops, tree fruit, and vegetables, it’s truly the cradle of Washington wine.
The Best Wineries in the Yakima Area
What better way could there be to start a trip to Yakima Valley than with a producer dedicated to sparkling wine? Juergen Grieb was born in Germany and received degrees in winemaking and sparkling winemaking before coming to Washington. Here he spent decades behind the scenes before starting his family-run winery in 2010. Treveri makes everything from traditional chardonnay sparklers to less common varieties, like syrah. The capacious tasting room sees so many visitors, its staff became adept at crowd control long before the pandemic. A large patio overlooks the estate vineyard.
Founder and winemaker David O’Reilly has been crafting wines from Yakima Valley and Willamette Valley since 1999. O’Reilly brings a sophisticated, vineyard-focused style to his wines. The winery pours pinot noir and red blends in a red, barn-style building that has commanding views of the valley, including a Mount Adams backdrop.
A relative newcomer to Washington’s wine scene, Emily and Lee Fergestrom’s winery, established in 2017, is already making waves. Alexis Sells, who previously worked at Duckhorn, serves as winemaker for a lineup that focuses on fruit from the Yakima Valley. Reservations are encouraged, and visitors (and their glasses) often retire to the patio or lawn next to the winery, ideal for a BYO picnic.
Perched on Yakima’s outskirts, Gilbert fully embraces the valley’s rural charm, with its surrounding gardens and views that stretch into the distance. A family of fifth-generation fruit growers founded the winery and applies that orchardist background to a wide assortment of offerings, from standard Bordeaux-style varieties to less commonly seen wines, like grüner veltliner and pinot noir.
Justin Neufeld moonlights on his own project while also making wines for Gilbert Cellars. At JB Neufeld, he focuses on the varied expression of cabernet sauvignon from across Yakima Valley. The winery is open for tastings by appointment.
The Best Wineries on Red Mountain
Back in the 1970s when growing grapes on Red Mountain seemed like fantasy, friends John Williams and Jim Holmes purchased land in the area. The first plantings, in 1975, included cabernet sauvignon simply because the duo liked it. That variety now dominates the mountain. While Holmes went on to establish famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, the Williams family is now three generations deep at Kiona. They produce a wide assortment of wines, including the cult favorite lemberger, and pour tastes in a generous indoor and outdoor space.
Charlie Hoppes cut his teeth as winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, then founded his own winery in 2000—a beautiful spot on Red Mountain surrounded by its estate vineyard and looking out upon the rest of Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Fidélitas makes a variety of Bordeaux-style wines, but the focus here is largely on cabernet sauvignon, with Hoppes exploring the variety’s expression across Red Mountain and beyond.
The Champagne region of France very much informs the style and substance at Hedges, one of the oldest wineries on Red Mountain. After all, it’s where cofounder Anne-Marie Liégeois grew up. Now she and husband Tom Hedges infuse old-world sensibilities into their multigenerational family winery, which includes a chateau, farm, and biodynamically farmed vineyards.
Italy’s Antinori family has winemaking roots that stretch back more than six centuries to 1385. In 1995, family patriarch Marchese Piero Antinori founded this winery in partnership with Chateau Ste. Michelle. The project spared no expense and focuses largely on Red Mountain’s famed cabernet sauvignon. Much of the fruit comes from the winery’s estate vineyard, which extends its rows out from the Col Solare building like rays from the sun.
Chris Upchurch spent decades making top-end wines at DeLille Cellars before planting this vineyard and starting the winery with his wife, Theodora. Here, he focuses on red wines from the surrounding estate vineyard—plus an unmissable sauvignon blanc from Boushey Vineyard. The tasting room in the winery’s barn-style quarters is open by appointment.
While living in Southern California, Greg and Shae Frichette decided that they wanted to move back home to have children. The only problem: Shae thought that meant her home in South Carolina; Greg figured on his home in the Tri-Cities. A coin flip led the couple back to Washington to start this small, family-run operation. Shae’s vibrant personality drives the tasting room at Frichette, one of just two Black-owned wineries in the state.
Tim and Kelly Hightower’s wines unfailingly capture the power that Red Mountain’s appellation can offer. But they also offer nuance and a snapshot of the particular triad that makes this area special: the land, the wine, and the people. The couple founded their winery in 1997 with a focus on Red Mountain fruit. Over time, they established an estate vineyard where they are involved in growing their wines every step of the way. Visitors to the winery can partake of both postcard views and a small menu of paired snacks.
The Best Wineries in the Prosser Area
Only a handful of people in Washington have been making wine longer than Co Dinn, who first came to the state from Napa in 1996 and subsequently spent nearly two decades at Hogue Cellars. In 2013, he struck out on his own with a winery that focuses on single-vineyard, Yakima Valley wines. It occupies an impressively refurbished art deco building in the town of Sunnyside—once home to the municipal water department.
First, Hugh and Kathy Shiels planted DuBrul Vineyard in 1992; it went on to become one of Washington’s premier vineyards, known for grapes full of old-world grace. The couple then went on to found Côte Bonneville, dedicating it to wines crafted from this vineyard. Daughter Kerry makes the wines; visitors can taste them inside a former train depot that dates back to 1911. The trim white structure, now relocated to Sunnyside, originally sat along the Union Pacific line between Yakima and Walla Walla.
During World War II, an early Sunnyside settler named H. Lloyd Miller leased some of his land to the government to create an airbase for training pilots, later converting that site into headquarters for his farm. In 1971, Miller’s son planted the family’s first wine grapes in what would become an 800-acre vineyard. In 2005, his grandson founded the winery, named for the land’s unusual aeronautical brush with history. Airfield’s broad range of red and estate white wines proudly call out Yakima Valley on their labels.
Part of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates family, 14 Hands started out as a restaurant brand before its enormous success led to it being available at retail and, ultimately, the establishment of a brick-and-mortar winery complete with patio space. While the winery’s ubiquitous entry-level offerings (also available in cans) get much of the attention, 14 Hands also makes an assortment of reserve-level wines.
The Mercer family was the first to plant grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills in 1972. Today, this multigenerational farming family is one of the famed appellation’s largest growers. The tasting room in Prosser offers an assortment of white and red wines from the estate vineyard, a newly expanded patio, even the occasional game of oversize Jenga.
Kay Simon is one of Washington wine’s pioneers, graduating with a degree in enology from UC Davis in 1977 before moving to Washington to become assistant winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle. In 1983, she founded Chinook with her husband, Clay, where he tends the vines and she makes the wines. Women are underrepresented in the Washington wine industry, but Simon has made wine here for over 40 years.
Fourth-generation farmers and brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt shifted their family’s attention to grapes, quickly becoming the largest growers in what are now the Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes appellations. Today Butch and his children own the winery the two brothers founded in 1997; it offers a wide assortment of red and white wines across a range of price points from the family’s vineyards. The closest of their three tasting rooms is the Prosser flagship, which has patio seating and a rotating setup of small plates to accompany bottles and flights.
Dr. Wade Wolfe is a legend in the Washington wine industry, joining Ste Michelle as viticulturalist in 1978 before subsequently becoming director of vineyard operations. He was also a longtime general manager at Hogue Cellars. In 1987, Wolfe and his wife, Becky, founded their own enterprise. While Wolfe’s red wines get much of the attention, don’t miss the winery’s PGV, a blend of pinot gris and viognier.
The Best Wineries in Tri-Cities and Beyond
Few wineries in Washington can boast such history; founder Jerry Bookwalter helped establish, and subsequently managed, some of the state’s most storied vineyards. He started this winery in 1982, when Washington had only a handful of players. Today Jerry’s son, John, is at the helm, and Bookwalter is one of the state’s most recognizable brands, with a new winemaking facility and tasting room to showcase its compelling blends and varietal wines. Bookwalter’s nearby Fiction restaurant is also a big local draw.
“Borrowed fruit and a rented cellar” constituted the business plan when Rob and Deborah Barnard founded their winery back in 1983. Almost four decades later, the winery keeps churning out well-priced whites and reds. It’s also officially a family operation; the Barnards’ daughter, Megan Hughes, is involved as assistant winemaker. The tasting room in Richland is stuffed with bottles, comfortable seats, and Deborah’s fused-glass art installations (her studio is located on the premises). A newer satellite in Vancouver pours the winery’s reserve lineup.
Though the winery’s palatial facility is located in Benton City with commanding views of nearby Red Mountain, Double Canyon focuses on fruit from its estate vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills. It’s all about cabernet sauvignon here, with long-time winemaker Kate Michaud at the helm.
The Monson family has a long farming history in Yakima Valley; in 1997 they pioneered planting in the Goose Gap area, which recently became an officially designated appellation. Those vineyard rows lie next to both Red Mountain and Candy Mountain; Goose Ridge wines share a common thread of ripe fruit flavors. Meanwhile this vineyard’s large, north-facing slope helps preserve acidity, creating compelling wines.
Born in Mexico and raised in Prosser, Victor Palencia started working with grapes at the tender age of 13. By the time he was in high school, he was working at a local winery. By age 20, he was a winemaker, with a particular knack for albariño. He has two wineries under the same roof, Palencia and La Monarca.
After years spent making wine in Seattle, Bart Bartholomew moved his operations to the Tri-Cities. Namely to a recently completed facility in Kennewick in the same complex as Palencia. The tasting room patio overlooks the Columbia River and brings in live music on weekends. Bartholomew distinguishes itself in part by focusing on varieties seldom seen elsewhere, such as tannat, carménère, and aglianico.
One of Washington’s largest wineries—and part of the Ste. Michelle family—Columbia Crest sits off by itself in Paterson, part of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. It is a trek over from Yakima Valley but exceedingly worth the effort, given the winery’s bucolic grounds and facilities overlooking the Columbia River. The tasting room also offers a wide assortment of wines seldom seen outside the property.