We were lucky enough to enjoy a bit of the summer in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley took time out of her day to meet us to talk about the Valley. While we were there she also filled us in on their upcoming event Catch the Crush happening October 12-13th 2019.
We met Barbara initially when we visited the Yakima Valley while attending the Wine Media Conference held here in October of 2018. She had planned a spectacular pre-conference tour highlighting the wine, cider and beers of the area. When we wanted to return to the Valley to visit and speak with winemakers she was a great resource. She graciously assisted us with finding the perfect spots for sunrise and sunset as well as suggesting winemakers to speak with.
We met Barbara at Stems Wine shop in downtown Yakima. Stems is a GREAT place to find wines from all over the region!
Catch the Crush
Catch the Crush is an annual event in the Yakima Valley. Barbara took a bit of time to fill us in on the details. Each of the wineries has their own style of event that you can enjoy with a Premier Pass. And the Premier pass will only set you back $35. If you are able to get to the area and take part, this promises to be a fantastic event!
More on the Yakima Valley Wine Region
I mentioned we spent a bit of time in the Valley…. here are some links to some of the great places we visited.
Our time in Washington was nearing it’s end. Morning had us traveling from Walla Walla west to the Yakima Valley once again to visit with Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. We met her for an interview at their tasting room in Sunnyside.
Driving through the small town of Sunnyside you come upon a quaint restored building that was previously a train station. When Hugh and Kathy Shiels moved to the area, Hugh set up practice as an orthopedic surgeon. The renovated Train Station was his office for many years. It has now become their beautiful tasting room.
Kerry is a wealth of information on the area and the science behind the vineyard and wine making. Kerry has an engineering degree, which she put to use with Fiat in Italy, before returning to get a degree in Viticulture and Enology and then taking over as winemaker. She is smart and intense, a woman who made her way in the male dominated engineering field.
We headed to their DuBrul vineyard before things warmed up too much. The drive up to the top was a little sketchy for our Kia hybrid, but we made it. The mountains were both out (Mt Adams and Mt. Ranier) as we reached the top of the vineyard to walk through the vines.
Own rooted vines
We talked about the aspect of this vineyard, which allows them to grow so many varieties well and discussed the difference with own rooted vines.
“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.
Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville and DuBrul Vineyard
This is certain to be a topic we hear more about and lamented over as phyloxera has been found in Washington and precautions will need to be taken. I will tell you that I find the difference in the character of the wines from own rooted stock undeniable and wonderful.
You can look forward to hearing much of our conversation in future posts. It was really a fascinating morning.
Co Dinn Cellars
We made a stop to visit Co at his tasting room at Co Dinn Cellars. Co also has a renovated historic building in Sunnyside. His winery and tasting room are in the old Water Works. It’s a gorgeous space.
He showed us around and took us through a tasting. We also had an amazing conversation on closures…more on that later.
We headed back to the Gorge and through Hood River then off to Hiyu on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge AVA.
Hiyu Wine Farm
Go to the website…the water colors will enchant you. I was sucked in immediately and knew that I needed to visit this place.
Hiyu is 30 acres of wine farm. There is a sense of wildness here. Nate Ready, a Master Sommelier and China Tresemer fell in love with the beauty of this region. This place is undeniably stunning, with it’s glorious views of Mt. Hood.
The idea didn’t begin with wine. They really wanted to cultivate a lifestyle. From 7 acres in 2010 it expanded to take in another 20 acres in 2015.
We arrived a bit early, and walked in to see if it was okay if we explored the property. There was a bit of chaos happening, the goats had just escaped and there was some scurrying to round them up.
Community within the staff
The farm has a staff that includes a handful of interns. Duties rotate weekly, so everyone gets to do each of the jobs. This insures that no one takes for granted the job someone else is doing. It has a little 60’s 70’s nostalgia feel to me. A little feel of a hippy commune, and I’m down for that.
The garden in front of the tasting room is an edible food forest. You will find Goji berries and rock herbs here seasonally. We headed up the hill to the garden. Wild and overgrown, the things that were complete for the season were taking their natural course, going to seed to prepare for the next season. There are flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, artichokes, favas and cardoons.
From here we walked the vineyard and then up to the hill where the view of Mt. Hood is simply breath taking. Winter to spring the cows, pigs and chickens wander through the vines, grazing and fertilizing. There is an acre of pear trees left. They have a green house and make compost on site.
Falcon boxes protect the vineyard. And they have grafted field blends. They don’t hedge the vines here, allowing them to be a little more wild, and do just 1 pass with a scythe. Cinnamon is used to prevent powdery mildew.
Livestock & Animals
There are cows and guinea fowl. A 100 year old irrigation ditch feeds the pasture and gardens. We wound down by the pond and visited with the ducks and came around to the goats. Phoebe the matriarch stood on the fender of the horse trailer. They were fiesty, but contained once more.
There are hawthorn trees and over by the house there are currants. I was reminded of days as a child on mountain farms in West Virginia. Life is allowed to thrive and be wild and perhaps a bit messy.
The day ended with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We leave you hear with a bit of spectacular nature.
It was a quiet morning as we drove south of Walla Walla toward the Oregon border. Pulling off Peppers Bridge Road into an area with several large wineries, we headed to the one that stood out architecturally. This was Valdemar. Bodgas Valdemar is known in the Rioja region of Spain, and has ventured to Washington to explore making wines of place here.
Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla
Modern with clean lines the building evokes the feel of the modern architecture seen in Spain. There were few cars here at this point and we headed to what we thought was the front entrance, an immense door that stood a full story tall. Natasha let us in and we met Kaleigh Vrapi, the Valdemar Estates Hospitality Director. We were led upstairs around the stunning space as things started to open up for the day. After a stop in the tasting room, we headed out to the patio next to the fountain with a beautiful view of the Blue Mountains for our interview with Kaleigh.
The sparkling winery
After our interview, which we will share with you later, Kaleigh led us through the rest of the space in this beautiful facility. Down the open stairway that spans the full height of the space, past the antique basket press, into the barrel rooms and finally into the winery, to meet Assistant Winemaker Devyani Gupta. Devyani was awaiting the crane to install new fermentation tanks that morning. As the truck had not yet arrived, she took a few moments to show us around the sparkling facility.
Flights of Rioja & Washington
Kaleigh then led us back up to the tasting room and took us through a tasting. Tastings here are done as flights and we began with a couple of flights from Bodegas Valdemar beginning with their rosé of Garnacha & Viura, followed by their barrel fermented Viura and then into the reds, which as you would expect…are Tempranillo based.
Now it was time to move on to the Vlademar Estate Wines, which are labeled as “Component Trial” . This exploration into the wines of this region features labels are perfect for the geeky wine nerd, listing vineyards by percentage, as well as the harvest notes etc.
All of their Washington wines are Syrah. The first of these is their Blue Mountain Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley, then they have 2 from Red Mountain. The Red Mountain Syrah is a blend of syrah from Kipsun and La Coye vineyards and then they have a vineyard specific Klipsun Syrah.
This is the perfect place to come and explore wine and food pairings. Find a comfortable spot with a view, chose a flight or two, then ask your server for suggested pairings from their Tapas and Pinchos menu. They are all about hospitality here.
A stroll in Walla Walla
We headed back to Walla Walla and after a stroll, stopped in to the Cadaretta tasting room. In October with WBC18 we had been treated to an extraordinary dinner at Cadaretta’s glass house. We needed to get back and explore some more of their wines.
Cadaretta Tasting Room
In the tasting room, Greta was a friendly face! We had met her at the Glass House. She took us through a tasting and we left happily with a bottle or two.
My Dinner at Andrae’s
(Can anyone give me a shout out for that movie reference?)
Now we were ready for dinner and dinner had a plan! At our dinner at Doubleback back in October, Chef Andrae of Andrae’s Kitchen had put together a spectacular meal. Thaddeus Bugs of the Minority Wine Report had gushed about his food when we arrived and asked if we had been to the gas station? What? Well, now were were back to do just that.
Chef Andrae Bopp has a resume filled with work in restaurants like Balthazar and Le Bernardin. His current restaurant and catering business run out of the Cenex Gas Station on Rose Street in Walla Walla. His food is impeccable, but he keeps it real. Unsure of what to expect, we pulled into the Cenex, but the sign over the door let us know we were in the right place.
I stood back to peruse the chalkboard menu for a bit. It was a tough decision, but we settled on AK’s Corn Salad, Poutine and a combo of tacos. The kitchen runs like a well oiled machine. The staff are polite, attentive and obviously in love with the food they are making. We kicked back at table up front to wait while they did their magic. Chef Andrae came in while we were there to check in. We grabbed our to go order and headed back to the hotel to indulge in some deliciousness to end our day and our stay in Walla Walla.
Rest for another day…
Tomorrow we would spend a good deal of the day driving. First it would be back to Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley to meet Kerry Shiels and visit her Du Brul vineyard and a stop to see Co Dinn at his Sunnyside tasting room. Then we would drive back to the gorge through Hood River and up to Hiyu with their stunning view of Mt. Hood. We would finish our day with views of Mt. Hood as we headed back to Salem Oregon for the night. Join us for more!
After a good nights sleep, we were up early, but not too early, (not pre-dawn like the day before!) to meet Co Dinn up at Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain.
As you are driving through the Yakima Valley, Snipes Mountain is hard to miss. It bubbles up in the middle of the Valley on the south side of the highway. Snipes Mountain, named for Ben Snipes who had a cattle ranch here in the 1850’s, is it’s own AVA.
Meeting Co Dinn on Snipes Mountain
We were scheduled to meet Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars here early in the day. There was plenty of time, as we headed out early and followed the GPS. But the %/&*#$*&% GPS led us astray, trying to take us in the back way, where there are locked gates and dirt roads. We called Co and got back on track and eventually met him off the mountain, which gave him an opportunity to stop and show us some of the soil strata on our way up.
At the top of the mountain we visited a beautiful block of Co’s Syrah, while he filled us in on the soil and we took in the expansive views. He got pretty detailed on the soils and geology, so we will save that for our in depth interview with him later.
We also visited his Chardonnay block that looks north toward Sunnyside and across to DuBrul Vineyard. We look forward to doing a comparitive tasting of these two Chardonnays later this year.
After a great morning we looked at the clock and realized it was time to get moving. Luckily would be back this way so we scheduled to join him at his tasting room in a couple days. Now it was back on the road, we had to continue our journey east to Red Mountain.
Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA
We drove east and passed Red Mountain to the North of the highway. The entrance to the area is on the east side of the mountain. As we were running just a bit early, we headed toward Richland to find some coffee. We found a great quaint coffee shop, with a friendly staff, good coffee and bags of cherries for sale on the counter. After a cup of joe we were back on the road to Red Mountain and to Hedges Family Estate.
The Red Mountain AVA has been getting quite a bit of press lately. The AVA is not actually the whole mountain, but the South facing slope. This is (currently) the smallest AVA in the state at 4040 acres. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah here are bold and powerful and are thought to be some of the finest examples of these varieties in the state.
Sarah Hedges Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate Winemaker
When we were deciding on a winery to visit in this region, we were drawn to the fact that Hedges Family Estate is biodynamic on their vineyard. (You know biodynamics is my jam!). We reached out and Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the winemaker for Hedges Family Estate was able to meet with us.
The property is stunning. You drive up the the beautifully landscaped French Chateau and enter another world. Sarah’s mother is French and had a great influence on the design. I could have happily spent the day reclining in the garden.
Sarah was in a meeting when we arrived, but soon joined us on the patio under the trees, next to the fountain, overlooking the vineyard. It was a pretty enchanting spot. She shared with us her story and her family’s. We dove into their going biodynamic, moving to native ferment, the old world philosophies in the vineyard and winery as well as about slowing down. Sarah has been known to play meditation and yoga music in the winery to assist fermentation. The staff looked at her skeptically at first, but they couldn’t deny the results.
Into the Tasting Room
After our interview we moved into the tasting room for a tasting with Sophia. This winery has multiple labels and the selection we tasted through was vast and included some barrel samples that Sarah brought in for us. We look forward to sharing all those details with you later.
We headed out to grab some vineyard shots and then jumped back in the car to make our way east to Walla Walla.
Walla Walla “The city so nice they named it twice”
We spent time in Walla Walla last year for WBC18, so we knew a little of the lay of the land coming in. We stopped for a really delicious lunch at the Walla Walla Bread Company. I will throw out a high recommendation here, for if you ever find yourself in this town.
Walla Walla AVA
While we spent time in Walla Walla on our last trip, we really have yet to “dig into” this AVA. The area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state. Rainfall in the valley varies, but some vineyards on the east side have the ability to dry farm, which is rare in Washington. The eastern side also gets into the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains.
The region is known for reds with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon dominating the plantings.
Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA
We had time to check into the hotel, before heading north of the city to visit Tim & Jennifer Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery at their Valley Grove Vineyard. The drive took us through vast wheat fields, rolling as far as the eye could see. The hills rolled and sometimes you were engulfed in nothing but wheat. Eventually we came to a green patch near a creek and turned into the vineyard. The old red barn is an iconic landmark.
Tim and Jennifer met with us at a picnic table on the back patio overlooking the vineyard. We talked about their journey into wine, their Seattle winery and then walked the vineyards talking about their plans for this place.
Off to the Walla Walla Tasting Room
All too soon it was time for us to leave. They were packing up to fly out on a well needed vacation to the East Coast in the morning. We determined we had not had enough and headed downtown to their tasting room. It was jazz night, so they were open late with live music. Carl runs the tasting room and it also happened to be his birthday. We arrived early and grabbed a table in the back and watched as every table filled up. Carl did an amazing job of keeping up with the busy room.
Time to rest for the next great day
We were a little tired, so we looked for a pizza spot nearby and grabbed a pizza to go. I’ll send a shout out to Sweet Basil Pizzaria for great service and a great pie!
Off to bed to rest up. Our morning stop would be the beautiful Valdemar, followed by some time in Walla Walla and dinner at the Gas station.
What were we thinking!? A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot in Washington! Days here are longer. In July they are about 15 hrs. Sunset was 8:57 pm and sunrise is about 5:15 am. At least today we did not have a ton of driving to do.
We were up really early to get out to Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA before the sun. Paul Beverage, the owner, couldn’t join us that early, but was happy to give us permission to shoot on this beautiful property. We quietly pulled in. They allow camping on the property and there was an RV out front with people tucked away sleeping, as we were arriving before sunrise to set up.
Naches Heights AVA
The Naches Heights AVA was approved in 2012 and was the first Washington AVA to be completely sustainable. All 7 initial vineyards were biodynamic or LIVE certified. This AVA is in Yakima County, but sits outside (north and west) of the Yakima Valley AVA.
We’ve talked about the Missoula Floods that washed through this area. I remember speaking with David O’Reilly of Owen Roe at their Union Gap Vineyard. We stood toward the top of his vineyard at 1,200 feet and were at the top of the Missoula Flood level. Naches Heights sits between 1,200 and 2,100 feet, so the entire plateau is above the Missoula Floods.
The plateau was formed as a lava flow from the Cascades cooled. The soil here is known as Tieton Loam Loess. The high elevation means less chance of winter damage in the vineyard.
Paul Beverage started his winery in Seattle back in 1988. In 2007 he planted Wilridge Vineyard near Yakima. The vineyard was planted to be Certified Organic and Biodynamic.
They consider themselves a “Recreational Vineyard”. There are bike trails and hikes, and they have a map to guide you around the vineyard and to the cliff trail hikes in Cowiche Canyon. You can even rock climb on the Andesite rock cliffs where the vineyard has bolted anchors.
You can also just kick back on the porch of the 100 year old farmhouse that is their tasting room and enjoy the views and the wild (or not so wild) life. The cats are friendly. Rachel, a young black cat, came running up to me meowing and spent part of the morning purring and curling up in my lap!
Rachel, the vineyard cat. She ran up to me from across the porch meowing and demanded to sit in my lap and be petted! How could I not ablige.
The farmhouse has 3 AirBnb rooms, they take reservations for RV parking and you can camp in the vineyard! Staying here, gives you the luxury of waking up and taking in the gorgeous sunrise in your PJ’s with a cup of Joe in hand.
Back to the Yamika Valley AVA
Justin of JB Neufeld made some time in his morning to talk with us about his Cabernets. In addition to his own label, he is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars and we met him on their beautiful property on Hackett Ranch.
The bees buzzed happily in the lavender behind us as we chatted with a view of the beautiful gardens and amphitheatre here on the property.
Justin is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. He looks to how this grape expresses itself in different soils and climates within Washington. We had a fascinating discussion with him on how he pulls the best out of each of his vineyard designates from Red Mountain to Red Willow, across the entire Yakima Valley, to create a beautiful complex blend of Cabernet. We also talked about microflora in the soil and about the wines he makes with Gilbert. You can expect us to share more of this interview later!
Wine Yakima Valley
When we visited Washington before for #WBC18, we met Barbara Glover who had put together the pre-conference tour for Wine Yakima Valley. Barbara was instrumental in helping us connect with vineyard owners and winemakers for this trip to the Yakima Valley. We were excited to meet with her and talk about all the exciting developments in the Yakima Valley Wine Region.
She arranged for us to meet her at Stems, a wine shop in downtown Yakima. We met Brad the owner and were able to talk Yakima Wine. In addition to the great interview with Barbara, it was fun to just chat with them about the region, it’s people and culture.
Brad mentioned that when he opened Stems, he planned to be just focus on Washington Wines. Local demand to learn more about other regions has him holding events including wines from outside the region. The thirst for knowledge (and wine) is alive and well in Yakima! This is a great place to pick up a bottle or twelve of wine and anything wine related that you can imagine.
When we asked where to grab lunch, everyone said the same thing…Los Hernandez. We did a piece on our delicious lunch here.
We were running early for our tasting at Owen Roe, so we thought we would stop by Treveri. I mean who can pass up bubbles after filling up on tamales!
As we were filled with tamales, we passed on the cheese and charcuteries offerings, but…if you are in the area, this is a great stop for bubbles and a snack. Tastings are seated and are free. We found a spot outside. The clouds had rolled in and it actually got a little humid (which is not typical for this area!). It was just mere moments before an attentive host came to talk us through the menu. It felt a bit luxurious to sit and enjoy the view and have someone continually bring you new bubbles to try.
These are good affordable bubbles. Your tasting will take you through bubbles that go from Brut Zero to Demi Sec with their sweetness levels and in addition to the traditional Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay, they have a rosé of Syrah and Chardonnay and the Demi-Sec sparkler we tasted was of Gewurztraminer.
When we were here last October we attended a dinner at Owen Roe’s Union Gap vineyard. I had an opportunity to walk the winery with owner David O’Reilly as well as do a vineyard tour with him. As we walked the vineyard we tasted the Owen Roe wines on, in the blocks the grapes were harvested from.
But Owen Roe has many more wines than just the Union Gap vineyard designates. They pull from Red Willow for their Chapel Series, as well as from DuBrul, Olsen, Outlook and Elerding here in the Yakima Valley for many of their other wines (and they do have a really wide selection of wines!) They also source from the Willamette Valley from vineyards across 4 different AVAs. When we knew we were going to be back in the area, we knew that we wanted to sit down and taste through their wines.
Tasting with Brandon at Owen Roe
The space looked so much different than our last visit! Our October visit was during harvest and the winery was filled with fermentation bins! Now there were stacks of barrels, some of which created a private tasting area and this was where Brandon set us up for our tasting.
Brandon set us up with a wide and large tasting through many of their wines and we promise we will walk you through that tasting in the not so distant future.
It was still early when we finished at Owen Roe, but we were bushed! We picked up some dinner and crashed early. The next day would be early again. Co Dinn was meeting us at Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipe Mountain AVA, early in the day. Next we would drive on to Red Mountain to visit with Sarah Goedhart at Hedges Family Estate. Then we would be making the drive to Walla Walla to meet Tim & Jennifer Amstrong at their vineyard. So stay tuned!
in the Yakima Valley, we wanted to catch up with Barbara Glover who heads up
Wine Yakima Valley. She had put together
an amazing tour for many of us in the Wine Media for the conference held in
Walla Walla in Oct 2018. The tour gave
us an in depth look at this region and was the reason we decided we needed to
return to learn more.
a couple of morning interviews and Barbara was kind enough to squeeze us in
last minute. Now…where to meet? Barbara made a call and set us up to meet at
Stems in Yakima.
Stems is a wine & gift shop, so we had a backdrop of shelves of bottles of Yakima Valley wines for our interview with Barbara.
who runs this shop was generous in letting us use the space and we had great
conversations on the area. We found a
couple of bottles that we were not able to find elsewhere to take along with
are in Yakima, this is a great place to pick up a bottle and gain some valuable
information from Brad on the area! It’s
also a pretty great spot to pick up gifts for fellow wine lovers!
We stayed in Newberg in the Willamette Valley on the night of our third day. Sadly while this area is heaven for wine, we did nothing but sleep. But sleeping here got us closer to our morning stop, the Columbia Gorge. It would also put us closer to the goal for the day, Washington Wine.
The hotel was silent as we quietly packed the care and headed out. I wanted to take in at least one waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. It was relatively quiet as we made our way through Portland pre-morning traffic and drove into the Gorge in the early morning hours. After a quick look at the map, I chose Bridal Veil Falls as our morning stop.
Bridal Veil Falls
We arrived at 6:30 am and had the place mostly to ourselves. A quick hike to look out over the gorge rewarded us with vista views as the morning light started to dawn. The moisture in the air with the green trees felt lush and alive. We hiked down to the falls, on the steep switch back trail and spent some time just soaking in the woods, the water and the spectacular falls.
After this bit of peace and tranquility, it was back on the road. Our morning appointment was with James at Syncline, a winery located on the Washington side of the Gorge.
Traffic was a little busier as we crossed the gorge at White Salmon on the Hood River Bridge and got on Route 14. This was a big change from Route 84 on the Oregon side. Route 84 is low in the Gorge, running just above the river, you are blanketed in trees with views upon occasion. You find yourself looking up at the trees and cliffs. Route 14 is higher and the views are expansive.
We were also starting to see the landscape change, from lush evergreen forest to a more arid landscape.
Columbia Gorge AVA
The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004. It sits 60 miles east of Portland and straddles the Columbia River Gorge including both Oregon and Washington. We will be back later to explore Hiyu on the Oregon side, but today we were heading to Syncline on the Washington side.
Syncline – into Washington Wine
At Rowland Lake we turned left to get on Old Hwy 8 and eventually turned onto Balch Road which took us into Syncline.
The front entrance is quiet and unobtrusive, with a simple elegant sign on the fence. The gate was open for us leading up a drive between the trees where you could see vineyard in the distance.
We pulled up and parked near the winery, past the house. The simple entrance felt deceiving now, as we looked at the elegant and beautiful garden with multiple small seating areas for wine tasting. We were to learn later that this garden was designed to be water smart. We found a spot to set up for our interview and were joined shortly by James Mantone, the owner/winemaker. He spoke to us on biodynamics, Shale Rock Vineyard, the climate here in this section of the Gorge and the other vineyards he sources from, before walking us up to take in the vineyard and it’s views. His Syrah has the best view of any of the grapes we have met so far.
We walked back down to the winery. Here we did a tasting through his Bloxom Vineyard Grüner, his Picpoul from Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley, the 2017 Estate Gamay and the 2017 Syrah from Boushey Vineyard. We finished our tasting with a really wonderful treat, a Sparkling Grüner that they made just for their crew. (Thank you so much for sharing this with us James!).
Again it was hard to pull ourselves away, but we headed out, this time driving on to the East end of the Yakima Valley.
The Columbia Gorge to Yakima
Back in the car we headed further east on 14. We stopped to take in the expansive views of the gorge from time to time, watching the the landscape transition from lush and green with steep cliffs to more arid and brown with rolling hills and wind farms.
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
Leaving Syncline, we left the Columbia Gorge AVA and stepped into the Columbia Valley AVA. This AVA covers almost all of the wine growing regions in the state of Washington, with the exception of the Columbia Gorge AVA, Puget Sound AVA and Lewis and Clark AVA. As we drove further along 14 and then turned north on Rt 221, we were driving through the center of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. This AVA sits between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia Gorge. We didn’t stop at a winery here, but we tasted plenty of Horse Heaven Hills wines. The area has almost 30 vineyards, but only 5 tasting rooms. Washington State is the 2nd largest producer of premium wines in the United States and this AVA is home to some of the largest wine producers (think Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle).
Yakima Valley AVA
We ended up on the east end of the Yakima Valley. Trust me, you will be hearing alot more about the Yakima Valley AVA from us. This AVA contains 3 nested AVAs, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and Red Mountain AVA. Today however, we were headed to just east of the Red Mountain AVA, to visit Kitzke Cellars and speak with Seth Kitzke.
As we pulled up passed the houses to the tasting room (which feels like it’s in a neighborhood), were greeted by Paul Kitzke, the owner and founder of Kitzke Cellars. He’s also Seth’s Dad and since we had just been in touch with Seth…it was news to him when we arrived cameras in hand. Seth was on his way in from another appointment and arrived shortly. In the meantime, we were warmly welcomed and brought in to the tasting room, out of the heat.
We walked the estate vineyard with Seth and talked viticulture, soils and all kinds of geeky wine stuff. I could have spent all day chatting with Seth on all things wine. They are located right next to Candy Mountain, which is just south of Red Mountain. The process for Candy Mountain to become an AVA is almost ready for approval. The Proposed Rule is published and now has a 60 day period for comment.
I pulled up a bit from the Kitzke blog about their Candy Ridge Vineyard…
Candy Ridge Vineyard may look like a backyard project on Candy Mountain in Richland Washington but (it’s) what’s right underneath your feet that makes it stand apart. Candy Ridge is built on a very small alluvial fan that was made when the Missoula Floods flowed right between Candy Mountain and Badger Mountain into Richland. Depositing large amounts of gravel, basalt, caliche, and granite in our soils. It is such a small area with expressive unique terroir that showcases depth and subtleties that aren’t overpowered by tannin.
As we walked the vineyard we talked about the caliche in the soil (more fascinating stuff to come).
Seth is also the winemaker for Upsidedown Wine, where he makes wines from all over Washington State striving to create wines with a true sense of place. They also give back with 20% of their net profits going to the charitable organizations they are partnered with.
Now we were off to the other end of the Yakima Valley for an sunset shoot at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.
Red Willow Vineyard
Red Willow Vineyard is on the Western side of the Yakima Valley AVA, outside of Wapato. The address is Wapato, but it’s about 20 minutes due west of the town. These are long straight roads in a region that is all agriculture. We drove looking at Mt. Adams, whose base began to disappear behind the foothills as you get closer.
When we arrived at Red Willow we were warmly greeted by Jonathan Sauer as he waved goodnight to the vineyard crew, who were on their way home. Jonathan had graciously offered to let us shoot sunset on their vineyard near the Chapel Block, where their stone Chapel marks the skyline at the top of the hill.
He put us on the golf cart and we headed out into the vineyards past rows tagged with names familiar in this valley, Owen Roe, Betz, DeLille, Savage Grace… We stopped to look at the soil strata in a cutout section of the vineyard and he pointed out blocks and the notable items in the landscape. At one point we heard an ATV coming and his father Mike Sauer pulled up to join us. After a chat we continued to the top of the hill by the Chapel. We pulled a picnic table into the shade to sit and chat while Michael set up cameras for sunset. (You will get to enjoy our full interview with Mike and Jonathan later).
A little history of Red Willow Vineyard
There is so much history here. One of the oldest vineyards in the state and the furthest west vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA, Mike Sauer started planting the Red Willow Vineyard in 1971. The beginnings of this vineyard were tied to Mike Sauer’s relationship with Dr. Walter Clore, who is known as the “Father of Washington Wine”, as well as with David Lake the head winemaker at Columbia Winery. (that’s alot of Washington wine history in one sentence).
I spent sunset watching the birds swooping down to catch bugs, listening while Mike and Jonathan shared stories of the history of this vineyard. We watched the sun set with this spectacular view from the Chapel over a unique bottle of Blanc de Cab Franc by Savage Grace and a bag of fresh Rainier cherries. I promise, I’ll share these stories with you later.
My heart kinda wanted to burst at such a glorious end to an amazing day. The Sauers are such wonderful generous people, it was a joy and honor to share an evening with them. We rode off into the sunset, in a small cloud of dust down the farm roads, full from a great day and ready for some sleep. It would be an early morning tomorrow, with a sunrise shoot at Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA. Stick with us. We are just getting started!
So when you are in Yakima (probably tasting wine and visiting vineyards) and you ask where to go for lunch, everyone will say the same thing…”Los Hernández“. No fewer than 5 people told us this was the place to go. (we did have a shout out for Los 3 Pancho in Toppenish, where we were told the 1/2 chicken is amazing, but we didn’t have time to stop on this trip).
“They do tamales” we were told, “They won a James Beard Award”. Well that certainly had us intrigued. So, we located them on GPS and set forth to try the tamales.
We were not sure what to expect. We had just finished out interview with Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valleyat Stems wine shop and she and Brad (the owner of Stems) mentioned the asparagus tamales that were limited to the asparagus season. They were pretty sure those were done for the season.
Asparagus tamales, James Beard Award Winner….I was unprepared for the unassuming spot we found when Google Maps said “Your destination is on the right”.
Authentic & Unassuming
The building was a stand alone cinder block building, painted white and trimmed in red, white and blue. Out front wine barrel planters filled with petunias in white, pink and purple, also have a couple of American flags tucked in, perhaps left from the barely passed 4th of July weekend, when we were there. “Orders To Go” says the sign above the door and the window.
Inside there are just a few tables, and you walk to the counter to place your order. The menu is simple, Pork, chicken or asparagus with pepper jack cheese tamales which you can get fresh or frozen (so you can take them home and cook them). They also sell fresh salsa, masa and hojas (the corn husks for tamales). They have lunch specials which adds rice beans and salsa,which was what we had come for. I opted to try the asparagus and pepper jack, as they were still available and Michael went for the chicken.
We sat down at a table with a simple plastic table cloth to wait while our order was made. Three of the tables were full of others quietly enjoying lunch and conversation. These were all people who were not afraid to get their hands dirty, obviously locals who could tell we were “out-of-towners”. A woman walked in, boots dusty from being somewhere in a field. She ordered and ended up joining a man who was already there. They talked about the new vineyard she had just been checking out. It was faint, but lovely to listen to a couple of winemakers talk shop. Both obviously had been up early and in the vineyards.
James Beard American Classics Award
So how did they come to have a James Beard Award, here in this unassuming concrete block building in Union Gap Washington?
Well the James Beard Foundation yearly honors not only the big time chefs and restaurants, but a handful of “America’s Classics”. These are restaurants around the country, that are beloved in their communities. They must have been around for at least a decade. Los Hernandez was one of 5 restaurants honored in 2018 by the James Beard Foundation.
Los Hernández Tamales opened in 1990, when Felipe lost his job at the local Montgomery Wards. Their chicken and pork tamales were a hit. One day, his wife June brought home locale asparagus (did you know that 40 percent of the US asparagus in grown in Washington?) for dinner and they played around with some extra masa, they added pepper jack cheese and a new seasonal standard was born.
The asparagus and pepper jack tamales are only typically available from April to June, we lucked out that they still had them in July. But you can get the chicken and pork tamales year round.
Quietly enjoying these tamales, sitting at a simple clean table with the same type of plastic flannel backed table cloth that cover my kitchen table growing up as a child, it was a little bit of home and nostalgia. Okay, not that my Mom made tamales…for her it was cabbage rolls, different culture, same comfort. It was good to Listen to quiet conversation on everyday things and take a moment, like everyone else here, to refill. The energy doesn’t just come from the food.
How to find them
You can call and order to pick up at 509.457.6003. Which might be a good idea, as we sat there enjoying lunch, the place filled up, we hurried to finish and open up a table.
Los Hernández is located at 3705 Main Street, Union Gap, WA 98903, where they are open Sunday-Friday 11am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 7 pm. Or you can visit their new location at 6411 W. Nob Hill Blvd in Yakima.
Oh…and the lunch special which will set you back $6.75, is only available from 11-2. (I think there is an extra charge for the asparagus tamales, which run $2.09 a piece compared to the pork or chicken for $1.75)
Is your mouth watering and you find yourself no where near Washington? Well..check their site, they sometimes ship… if they have enough. Currently they added a restaurant in Yakima to keep up with the demand and don’t have enough to ship, but, they hope to ship again in the future.
We finished our breakfast and morning flyover seminar, courtesy of Wine Yakima Valley. With caffeine ingested and a little more information to give us a some perspective on the Yakima Valley, we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.
This is a super nested AVA, inside the Yakima Valley AVA which is itself nested within the Columbia Valley AVA. (It is the darker region north of 82 to the West side of the map).
Located on the North Western side of the Yakima Valley AVA the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was established in 2006 with vineyards dating back to 1968. It’s about four miles south east of the city of Yakima, where we were staying. The AVA spans over 74,000 acres with around 1,800 under vine.
Rattlesnake Hills take in the hills running east to west, that are north of the Yakima River. Elevations for here are high, starting at 850 feet and going to over 3,000 feet, with most vineyards planted in the lower elevations.
October and harvest as we drove into Elephant Mountain Vineyard. We passed bins filled with fruit harvested
that morning and had to stop and take grape glamour shots.
climbed up the mountain through the vineyards surrounded by high desert
landscape. I will admit to it feeling a
little odd. We are from Vegas and to see
a vineyard in the midst of this landscape was a little disconcerting. We climbed the hill to the picnic area on
top, where picnic tables were set out with bottles of wine and plates of wine
The Vineyard itself is located on the southern slopes of Rattlesnake Ridge which sits at the base of Elephant Mountain. The ridge sits above the Missoula Flood plain. Elevations here sit from 1320-1460 feet.The high elevation here means that they have about 30 more frost free days than the rest of the Yakima Valley.
Varieties Grown at Elephant Mountain
planted in 1998 with Merlot and Cabernet, the vineyard has expanded to almost 120
acres which now includes Cab Franc, Mourvédre, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Petite
Sirah, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cinsault, Counoise, Barbera and Viognier, Marsanne
I mentioned the grapes on the table. It was a gorgeous line-up for tasting the ripe grapes of Cinsault, Counoise, Mouvédre, Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne & Roussanne.
Co got started giving us a little background on the area and then, Joe Hattrup, the owner of the vineyard met us to speak about the vineyard.
Joe has been a farmer all of his life, but when they started this vineyard, he was new to wine grapes. So they set up a test block to see what worked and learn about the grapes before planting them in the commercial blocks.
They began as I said with Cab & Merlot and quickly got into Syrah. From there they found tat this site with it’s high elevation was good for many of the Rhône varieties. Most Rhônes are late ripening and the elevation here gives them those 30 additional days frost free, as well a great southern exposure late in the year to help with ripening.
They do have a second vineyard, Sugarloaf, also in the Rattlesnake Hills. He mentioned that they had pulled out the Viognier here at Elephant Mountain to plant Grenache which is in high demand and grows better with the protection this site provides.
A little on the Geography
We mentioned the elevation here, but Co put this into perspective with a few stats. At this point in the Yakima Valley, the river sits at 900 feet, and we were standing at about 1450 feet. When you head east to Red Mountain, the river there sits at around 400 feet. So you can see the valley is much lower there.
We were standing in a ring of basalt lava rocks which informs the soils. Up on the ridge behind us, if you look closely, you can see a tree line. A band of trees sites at about 1600 feet, right at the line for moisture, fog and snow.
of wines on the table, all from wineries who source from this vineyard, was
diverse and impressive! The grapes are
concentrated and the wines from these grapes tend to be really inky.
We tasted a wide sampling of Rhône varieties and blends from an assortment of wineries, all with fruit from this vineyard. It was really interesting to see the reflection of the fruit with it’s similarities and then the expression of the various winemakers on top of this.
We were treated to a great lunch following this tasting. A food truck with Authentic Mexican food arrived to fill our bellies. I felt even more at home, with food truck the desert sage brush. Once full, we climbed back into our vans and headed to Walla Walla for the start of the Wine Bloggers Conference. But along the way, we took in some spectacular views and our driver filled us in on the history of the area, ancient as well as recent.
I’ll do yet another shout out to Barbara Glover at Wine Yakima Valley. This visit that she planned for us was entertaining, informative and beautifully paced. Thanks also to Co Dinn and Joe Hattrup for taking the time to give us these great insights into the Yakima Valley Wine Region. And of course to WBC18, without which we might not have visited this beautiful region.
met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima.
As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my
end of the table and introduced himself.
We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted
with him, with attest to that.
been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years. A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa
and then came to Washington in 1996.
Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his
spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co
Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning
everything about this areas soils and climates.
His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.
that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville. The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du
Brul Vineyard. It was planted by Hugh
and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001. Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and
the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.
mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area. Yes, that was plural climates. When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they
have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site.
“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.
Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard
is recognized as one of the top in the state.
Part 1 – Overview and comparisons
Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine
Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s
and some of the surrounding area. She then
turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the
wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a
comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils
and geology within this region.
Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard
continues with details on the soils and top soils. They don’t have clay here, the soils here are
gravel or sand. As they don’t have clay,
they don’t have phylloxera. They are
also in a rain shadow. We zoom in and
begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be
driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla
Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley. She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard. They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard. They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard. Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east. We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.
Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine
grape would be red if it could. Every
grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of
Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”
Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain
In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul
ending in Red Mountain. This hill is an
extension of Rattlesnake Ridge. Red
Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in
blends. This is a southwest facing
slope, not an entire mountain. It is one
of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there
always ripens fully.
a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides
help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water
management. (She goes into some great
details on why this is so)
While in the Yakima Valley for WBC18, we were treated to “Flavor Camp” by Wine Yakima Valley. This allowed us to explore 3 of the tasty libations that have roots here. We of course discussed wine, but then also moved on to learn about two other major crops in the area, cider apples (check out our video with Marcus Robert of Tieton Cider Works), and hops!
for Beer with Nicholi Pitra, Hop Geneticist with Hopsteiner.
Hopsteiner is a company that grows and breeds hops. That’s the stuff that makes your beer so tasty.
is a hop?
Hops are cultivated flowers used as a preservative, and flavoring in beer. The bitterness of a hop is used to balance the sweetness of the malt. The hop’s essential oils add a unique flavor and aroma to the beer that cannot be achieved by using any other plant in the world. The hop plant is a spiraling perennial vine that grows in regions with slightly acidic soil, ample water and a lot of sunlight. Hops can climb strings, or poles and reach heights of 40 feet. A hop’s flowers are called a Cone, and most commonly dried before use, but can also be used “wet,” right off the vine (or “bine”, since this the technical term used for plants that climb).
So a Hop
Geneticist? What do they do?
Nicholi Pitra is a Hop Geneticist, with Hopsteiner, who has a background in biochemistry, biotechnology, and bioinformatics. He breeds and then tests hops, which is a minimum of a 10 year process. He is looking to find desirable qualities in the hops, which includes growing healthy plants as well as finding those qualities that brewers are looking for.
The Yakima Valley and hops
the US grown hops come from the Yakima Valley.
You can see it when you are driving through. Hops farms are all along the valley
had a table filled with containers of different hop cones as well as the beers
that each were used it, so we could do a comparison. We rubbed the buds between our hands, releasing
the fragrance and coating our hands with sticky resin.
He talked us through some of the Hop varieties that Hopsteiner has, and the different flavor profiles (I mean, this is “flavor camp” right?)
range is wide from Apollo which has lime, grapefruit and pine to Calipso with tropical
fruit, pear, apple and mint to Eureka! With
black currant, dark fruits, strong hers and pine to Lemondrop with lots of
lemon and a little orange, green tea and melon.
So now you know…it’s not just adding orange to make that microbrew (although
some brewers might do that), these flavors can come straight from the hop. Just like you get blackberries in a syrah,
which comes from the grape, you can get lemon from hops.
Marcus came to Tieton as the cidermaker, with 10 years of experience in beer, wine and cider under his belt, back in 2010. They started with 200 cases and now produce upwards of 100,000 cases annually.
Where the fruit comes from – Harmony Orchards and Craig Campbell
“The fruit that is used in Tieton Cider Works cider comes from Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards. This land has been in our family since the 1920’s when our grandfather planted his first trees in Tieton, Washington. “