No question—Red Mountain looks like wine country. The tiny appellation has a little over 4,000 total acres, about half of it planted with wine grapes. And yet, relatively few operations actually make wine here; Red Mountain’s main appeal is that agricultural charm.
Any visit should start with Kiona Vineyards and Winery, just outside Benton City. Kiona was there at the beginning of Red Mountain’s vinous journey, when John Williams and Jim Holmes planted the area’s first vineyard in 1975. (Holmes subsequently went on to plant famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, while the Williams family has become one of the main growers on Red Mountain, farming over 200 acres.) Today Kiona is a multigenerational winery with an expansive tasting room, plus plentiful outdoor spaces. At its core, though, it remains the same family-run operation it was when John and Ann Williams poured wine out of a tasting room in their home basement. Make sure to sample the lemberger; Kiona was the first in the country to plant this seldom-seen grape.
Just down the road at Fidélitas, winemaker Charlie Hoppes has over 30 years of experience in Washington, and made wine at Chateau Ste. Michelle before founding his winery. Hoppes’s experience in the state informs his current wines, which exude polish. The tasting room boasts a spacious patio that looks out onto the Horse Heaven Hills and an indoor area with walls of glass and a roll-top door. As always on Red Mountain, vineyards surround you.
A short drive back toward town gets you to Upchurch Vineyard. Chris Upchurch spent decades making top-end wines at DeLille Cellars before planting this vineyard and starting the winery with his wife, Theodora. Both winery and tasting room occupy a handsome building by the estate vineyard. Here you can taste red wines that show Red Mountain’s power but also finesse. Make sure to try the sauvignon blanc as well.
Finally, back in Richland, another multigenerational wine operation awaits. Jerry Bookwalter planted and managed some of Washington’s most storied vineyards before launching his own J. Bookwalter Winery in 1983. His son, John, is now at the helm and has grown the business into one of Washington’s most recognizable brands. The wines have literary themes—Protagonist, Suspense, Conflict—and fruit from highly regarded vineyards in the state. A new production facility and tasting room has a range of indoor and patio spaces. Its nearby full-service restaurant, Fiction, has a lengthy lunch and dinner menu and a bar that pours beer and spirits, should you want a break from wine. Or, head back to your lodging (Richland is a logical home base for visitors), grab a quick nap, and head over to Anthony’s at Columbia Point. The seafood-focused restaurant chain has a Richland location that overlooks the Columbia River, complete with an extensive Washington wine list.