One of my favorite holidays each winter is Valentine’s Day. I’m a romantic at heart and I love nothing more than sharing a bottle of wine and some fine chocolate with my husband. It has been two years since our wine jaunt has taken us to the Yakima area to celebrate their first event of the season, “Red Wine and Chocolate.” This event always begins in early February and takes place over two weekends. We really wanted to head that way over Valentine’s Day weekend, but with the heavy rain and snow on the pass, we decided to wait until this past weekend to head that way. I’m glad that we did. The pass was dry, the day was sunny and the wineries were less crowded. However…..the winds were extremely high on Saturday and we had to contend with our share of tumbleweeds.
This wine jaunt was important to us because we really wanted to revisit a few of our favorite wineries and we definitely wanted to visit those that we missed in 2009. One of our favorite stops is Piety Flats Winery. Located in an old Mercantile Building right off of I-82 on Donald Wapato Rd, it is always like taking a step back in time when we walk through its door. I love browsing the Mercantile, purchasing my snacks for the day and of course tasting their line-up of wines. We featured them in the fall of 2010, when we selected their Chenin Blanc for our club members. Our time was limited and focused, but I didn’t leave until I enjoyed a taste of their Chenin Blanc and a taste of their late-harvest black muscat. It’s always a treat.
Our next stop was Eaton Hill Winery. Now I must admit that we visited them in 2009, but I remembered that this winery not only pairs chocolates with their award winning wines, but they serve a warm soup as well. The wind was wild, the temperature in the low 40’s and my stomach was rumbling. As I entered the tasting room (located in the restored Rinehold Cannery building, built in the early 1900’s), the smell of soup and wine filled the air. Two years ago they served a Mexican Wedding Soup that I remember well. This year they served Barbara’s Mexican Bean Soup. After a lite bite I was ready to sample their wines again. They never disappoint! Our picks are the 2000 Konnowac Vineyards, Gold Foil (a silver medal winner), 2005 Konnowac Vineyards Silver Foil, (2 silvers, 3 bronze medals), Autumn Red Lot 09 and their 2007 Konnowac Vineyards Malbec. We enjoyed visiting with their tasting room staff and we have invited them to feature their wines at our annual July BBQ for wine club members. They have agreed and we really look forward to featuring their wines which will pair beautifully with Brothers BBQ of Puyallup, WA.
**It should be noted that Eaton Hill Winery has been up for sale and it looks like it might have sold. We can only hope that the future owners will keep the atmosphere and integrity of this fine winery.
Our next stop was Steppe Cellars. Located off the beaten path, up Chaffee Rd at the top of the hill, this tasting room is located in a Quonset hut. A unique and yet cozy tasting room. On this windy, chilly day, the patio heaters that are strategically placed inside kept the temperature cozy and warm. The Quonset hut also kept the winds at bay….or attempted to. The winds were so strong, that it took the door right off its hinges and the wind whipped through and a few empty wine bottles crashed to the floor. This just added to the experience and it didn’t keep any of us from sipping the wines and nibbling on the treats. We enjoy owners Tom and Susan Garrison, who are generous in their pours and offer great conversation. Their winemaker, Anke Freimuth-Wilman creates amazing Gewürztraminer and Riesling wines. The 2008 Gewurztraminer is well balanced and dry (just the way I like it) and the Riesling –is crisp with wonderful hints of pears and apples. I’ll save my purchased bottles for a warm summer day. Our other pick is definitely their 2007 Artemisia. I love a blended wine and this one is so rich. I love that the blend is a blend of six different varietals. Perfect!!!!
We left Steppe Cellars only to be greeted by tumbleweeds that nearly blocked the road entirely as we made our way back down Chaffee Rd. The tumbleweeds were everywhere, but we didn’t let that stop us from making our way to the next winery. The high winds and the road took us to our next stop, Portteus Vineyards and Winery. We were greeted by a young boy as we made our way to the tasting room. The winds were so strong that he was having difficulty standing on his own two feet. Literally falling into the winery, the place was packed with wine lovers. The tasting room is nothing fancy, but who needs that when you are there to experience good wine and good wine is what Portteus Vineyards is all about. Owner and winemaker, Paul Portteus opened the winery in 1981. He is a very well- known and respected winemaker in the area, who is handing over more of the winemaking responsibility to his son Seth. They offer quite a flight of wines. The value wines are good for the buck, especially the 2008 Cabernet Franc with its spicy hints of clove and dark chocolate. We also enjoyed Purple Haze, which is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Petite Sirah. Who wouldn’t like a wine with that kind of name….a little Jimi Hendrix anyone? Our favorite premium red wines were the 2009 Reserved Petite Sirah and the 2007 Estate Red.
As the wind continued to blow us along and as we continued to dodge the tumbleweeds, we came upon Cultura Winery. Intrigued by their elegant black and white sign, we pulled into their lot. The tasting room is in a new barn shaped structure with a beautiful red door. Enter, and you will notice a beautiful red wall, a cozy, contemporary atmosphere and owners Tad and Sarah Fewel behind the wine bar. They have three Bordeaux style red wines, all of which are exceptional. Their flagship wine, 2007 Kairos is an equal blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Our personal favorite is the 2007 Chronos which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a small percentage of Merlot. They also have a nice 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. They are a small operation, making approximately 600 cases a year. They plan to keep it this way because they like the hands on approach. This is one new winery that will always be on our list to visit when we are in the area.
Our next stop was Paradisos de Sol. We like visiting this winery because it is like visiting grandma’s farm. When you pull in, you may scratch your head and wonder if you are at the right place. A sign is posted that says, “Yes! This is a tasting room. Come on in!” There are colorful flags blowing in the breeze (or lying flat on the ground with the high winds that day) and you will be greeted by more than one chicken or turkey scratching the ground. Enter a cozy tasting room that is located inside the L-shaped rambler. Owner and winemaker, Paul Vandenberg, loves to complement food and wine. You will be offered small bites that will complement their large flight of wines. The pairing is perfect and you will enjoy the experience. Our favorite is the white Semillion that is called “Oyster White.” It is one of the most rich and bold whites that I have tasted in a long time. In fact, another rich buttery white that came to mind was a vintage Chardonnay that I tasted two years ago at Blackwood Canyon outside Benton City, WA. When my husband mentioned this to winemaker, Paul Vandenberg, he said that he was mentored by Mike Moore and he makes his wines in a similar style. (For those of you who do not know of Blackwood Canyon wines and Mike Moore – check out our blog article called The Renaissance Man of Wine.) The Oyster White wine stood out above all others and it is our pick for wine club members in April. It’s an expensive white ($32 a bottle), but worth every penny. Only 88 cases were made and they seem to be flying out the door. One thing that Paul mentioned is that he isn’t really sure why this particular wine turned out the way it did this time around. He’s not sure it can be duplicated. I’m glad we purchased our share. It will be great with seafood, especially oysters and equally good with brie.
Agate Field Vineyard – this is our winery pick of the trip. This winery has a “cowboy feel” to it as you drive up the long drive. With the wind blowing and tumbleweeds scattered about, I thought I must be on a movie set for a western movie. The building is rustic, made of logs. It has a second-story deck that overlooks the vineyards of Whiskey Canyon. The tasting bar is made of knotty pine and high above the shelves of wine are wagon wheels. Beyond the tasting bar is the barrel room and this is where we met winemaker Bob Radke, pouring his premium wines. Bob has an infectious smile and a down to earth personality. I enjoyed meeting him and I especially enjoyed my second visit with him the following day when we picked up our wine order for club members. This is one person who loves what he does. He likes keeping the production of wines low (500 cases a year). This gives him a hands-on approach. This is a family business – founded by Ben Rashford and his wife, Ruth. The winemaking is done by Bob, (their son-in-law). After a visit to Agate Field Vineyard, you feel like you are just another member of the family. Our wine picks are the 2005 La Moisson Red and the 2006 La Moisson Red. Both are made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but the 2005 has 18% Merlot added, which gives it a nice depth. Both are silver medal winners and they have earned 89-92 points in Wine Spectator.
Not far from Agate Field Vineyard is Wineglass Cellars. It’s a simple name, a simple label, but nothing simple about the wines. Plan to stay awhile when you visit this winery. They have a wonderful flight of wines to sip…from a crisp chardonnay that really lingers in the mouth, to many full-bodied reds. Owner and winemaker, David Lowe is known for his “Capizimo” which is a beautiful blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sangiovese and malbec. It took a Bronze medal in 2009 at the Washington State Wine Competition. As the crowd stayed in the main tasting room, we ventured back to the barrel room to meet David and to taste his Pre-Release premium wines. Premium they are. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Elerding Vineyard is everything I personally like in a cab. Lots of black cherryon the nose and a hint of pepper. We also liked the 2007 Syrah “Les Vignes de Marcoux.” I’m just beginning to really appreciate a good Syrah and this one is right up there among my favorites. I would describe it as earthy with a bold finish. A very well balanced wine. Typically I like a Syrah with a meal, but this is one Syrah that I could enjoy without the food.
Our final stop before the end of our day was Severino Cellars. This tasting room is located in a beautiful restored craftsman style farm house, with an inviting front porch. Enter through the back door and you come into the kitchen, which is the tasting bar. The staff is friendly, and what better way to end our day than to sip their wines in the kitchen nook and visit with others. Severino is a small operation, making only about 1200 cases a year. This is the type of winery that we personally enjoy. All of their wines are a great value but our personal favorite is the Severion Red Lot #3. It is 66% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a beautiful blend that is very fruit forward and easy to drink. Sipping a glass of it in the kitchen nook was a great way to end our day of tasting.
When we stay in Yakima for a weekend, we always enjoy having dinner at The Second Street Grill. This restaurant is in the downtown area of Yakima in a stylish red brick building with large glass windows. The glass windows at the front of the building double as garage style doors that I imagine open up in the good weather so the dining experience can be taken outside. I love that the interior of the building is sectioned off into different areas. The dining area is in the front of the building with tables and booths with high backs which give you privacy. Up a few steps and you are in the center of the building which is the large bar. The bar offers an extensive tap stand, many of which are Northwest brews. Toward the back of the bar is a fireplace and lounge area with leather chairs and couches, the perfect spot to have a drink, an appetizer and wait for your table to become available. The menu has a lot to offer from steaks to pasta dishes to salads. We enjoyed a nice shrimp appetizer, Filet Mignon, potatoes and steamed green beans that was prepared perfectly. Paired with a nice bottle of Northwest Merlot and we were set for the evening. We have never been disappointed when we have eaten here. We have always had great service and good food. The wait can be a bit long, but that’s okay with us because we can always enjoy a drink in the bar, as we go over our notes of our wine jaunt.
We woke to a bright sunny day, no wind….no tumbleweeds and a few more wineries to explore.
After picking up our club member wines from Agate Fields Vineyards, we came across Sheridan Vineyard Winery. The gate was open so we ventured in. Well, the Sheridan Vineyard Winery wasn’t open, no need to open because their wines are all sold. We have heard wonderful things about winemaker, Scott Greer’s wines but we had yet to sample them. Disappointed we were getting ready to leave when we noticed that another tasting room located across the gravel parking lot, on the bottom level of a home, was open. Excited, we made our way to the small tasting room and met Pat Dineen, owner of Dineen Family Vineyards. Retired from the banking industry, he and his wife turned their interest to wines. Their lovely home overlooks some of the prettiest Zillah vineyards in the area and their tasting room is simple yet elegant. Pat was quick to let us know that he grows the grapes but he doesn’t make the wine. But as we all know, the wine starts with great fruit, so Pat’s dedication to producing the best fruit can be experienced in each glass of wine poured. Dineen wines are made by Scott Greer. We were able to taste and purchase their 2008 Estate grown Heritage Red Wine that is a perfect blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cab Franc, a wine with deep red color and cherry notes. We also picked up their more value wines, the 2008 Kamiakin Red Wine blend and their 2008 Kamiakin YakimaValley Syrah. The red blend is a blend of 60% cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. It is rich in color with a bold fruit nose. I enjoyed the balance of tannins and its long finish. The Syrah is also deep in color, almost black. This wine is dense but also silky smooth with a long finish. All of these wines will get even better with age. They are now on the bottom of our wine shelf, where we will let them age for a few years (if we can). We want to thank Pat Dineen for his generous pours and for also letting us taste his Cabernet Sauvignon, which has yet to be released. Though it was a bit tight, it opened up beautifully and I know that in time it will be a superb cab. We may have been unable to taste Scott Greer’s wines for Sheridan Vineyard, but we were able to taste his superb wines under another label. My mouth was very pleased!!!!
Before heading back to the western side of the state, we decided that we would explore the wine tasting rooms in downtown Yakima. We have never visited these tasting rooms because we typically like to drive through the country side and enjoy wine tasting with a view. But this time we decided it was time to see what the city of Yakima had to offer.
Our first stop was Kana Winery. We noticed this winery the night before as we left Second Street Grill. The tasting room was packed! An assortment of dark and white chocolate truffles were waiting to be paired with winemaker, Ben Grossman’s wines. It was really difficult to pick our favorites. The majority of their wines have been given high points from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast; but we narrowed our favorites down to three. Our first pick is the Rhone-style blend of Viognier, Roussane and Marsanne known as “Masterpiece.” This wine received 87 pts from Wine Spectator and it’s a really food friendly wine. We also enjoyed the 2004 Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain which is a beautiful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Merlot, Petit Verdo and Malbec. This one received 89 pts from Wine Spectator. I wish I would have had a bottle of it last night to pair with my steak dinner. Last but not least, the 2006 Scarlet Fire, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain is a Rhone style red with a blend of Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah. We were able to get a few bottles before its upcoming release. Superb!!! No wonder it received 90 pts from Wine Enthusiast. All of their wines are under $30…a great value for wonderful wines.
WE STRUCK GOLD at Treveri Cellars!!!! We adore a good sparkling wine. In fact, every December, we feature a sparkling wine for our club members along with a Gluhwein and a premium red wine. Well, we don’t need to look any further for top notch sparkling wines. German born owner and winemaker, Juergen Grieb has an impressive line of sparkling wines. He had four of them available for tasting, but he quickly informed us that he will have four more available soon. A total of eight sparkling wines in one location! I’m in heaven. We first sampled his Sparkling Blanc de Blanc “Brut.” It was crisp, complex and very dry….just the way I like Brut. Our second taste was the Sparkling Pinot Gris. I’ve never tasted a sparkling Pinot Gris – this one was semi-dry with soft bubbles. Very refreshing! The last two were my favorites. The Sparkling Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Definitely a Riesling and a Gewruztraminer…their flavors are easy to recognize and now the taste is captured with bubbles! There is no doubt that German winemaker, Juergen Grieb understands wine. With a degree in winemaking and a degree in sparkling winemaking and 30 years of experience behind him, I am so glad that he has turned his attention to sparkling wines. What a unique experience it was to visit a tasting room that featured only sparkling wines. While tasting the wine and nibbling on the treats, Christian Grieb took the time to show us the process to make these sparkling jewels. Each bottle is handcrafted in the Methode Champenoise method. A true art. As we started to leave the tasting room (located an industrial warehouse building), my husband exclaimed, “Did you see all the happy faces in there?” Our hat is off to Juergen Grieb who put smiles on all of our faces as we sipped his bubbly treats.
Our final stop before heading home was Gilbert Cellars. This is a wine bar and tasting room that is contemporary in style, it has friendly tasting room staff and a light menu. It was a great way to end our trip. Many great wines from winemaker Justin Neufeld to pick from; many of which have won awards. Our favorites were the 2009 Chardonnay Doc Stewart, 2007 Allobroges (bronze medal winner), 2007 Petit Verdot (bronze medal winner and 90 pts) and last but not least the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which is a blend of their five favorite barrels (91 pts). This is the perfect place to stop in Yakima for a light meal and a great bottle of wine.
As our day ended, we loaded our van with all of our boxes of wine and made our way back to Western Washington. We always enjoy our trips to Eastern Washington. We were in need of some sunny days and in need of some great wine. I just couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my weekend. One thing we did manage to leave behind….The Tumbleweeds!