I had heard of Red Mountain. It is on the East end of the Yakima Valley AVA in Washington and was all the buzz. I had even heard it called “Washington’s Napa”. I was skeptical, not of the wines, but of the buzz. So on our first trip to Washington for a wine conference in Walla Walla, we focused our extra time elsewhere.
Returning a little less than a year later, we had a little more time to spend and time to research. As we have been focusing on biodynamic vineyards, we looked for one in the Red Mountain AVA, and came across the Hedges Family Estate.
The history, the beginnings
As I started exploring their site and learning about the Estate and the family I was anxious to see the property and speak with Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the daughter of the owners and their winemaker.
The property is beautiful. Upon arriving you feel as if you have been swept away to a French Château. This is no accident. Sarah’s mother Anne-Marie, is originally from Champagne….but wait….let me tell this story in order.
Tom Hedges & Anne-Marie Liégeois
Sarah’s farther Tom is from the Tri-Cities area. His family arrived in Washington back in 1888, settling first in the Waterville area and farming wheat, then moving to Wenatchee to grow apples. Her grandfather got a job in Hanford, so the family moved to this area.
Sarah’s mother, as I said before is from Champagne. It was at a party in Mexico, that her parent’s met. Her mother, there studying language, her father, studying tequila production, while getting his masters in International Business. 3 months after the party they were engaged, a year later married. It’s a romance that is coming up on 45 years.
The beginnings of the Hedges Brand
They traveled the world with her father, Tom, working in International Produce sales, spending time in South America, North East Canada and finally ending up in Seattle, with Tom looking for a new direction. West Coast wines were becoming a thing, so they started brokering wines, starting with bulk wines internationally, then getting more specific when they started getting requests for Washington wines. The first Hedges wine was sold to the government of Sweden. 5000 cases blended from the bulk wine they sourced from Washington. It was popular and inexpensive compared to European wines. The 2nd year they doubled their volume and decided to try selling this wine in the states. This is when the Hedges Brand was born. They moved from buying bulk wine to buying grapes.
The decision to build on Red Mountain
Then came a trip to Vin Expo in Bordeaux where they were continually asked where their vineyard was. Her father was confused, but her mother explained. In France you are nothing without land. So then the decision to be made was, build a winery or buy land? Her father went to a High School reunion in 1989 and heard that Red Mountain was going to be big, with the best fruit in the state. So decision made, they bought 40 acres at somewhere around $1,200 an acre, and they got the last private water rights ever granted in the area.
In 1995 they broke ground on the Château. This is a place that with it’s attention to detail, transports you to France. Vines line the circular driveway leading up to the Château. You enter through the cobbled walkway shaded by Umbrella Calabra trees, with stone benches and lanterns that you can invision lit at evening. When you reach the entrance you arrive in a courtyard with seating under the trees and a large fountain. The large winery doors beckon, but so does the view of Red Mountain the other direction.
We will continue with our interview with Sarah, discussing the biodynamic practices they have chosen to employ on the estate.
Let’s start with the name. Syncline…where does that come from? It was a new word to me. This winery & vineyard in located in the Columbia Gorge AVA. Vineyards are typically in scenic areas. Grapes like a view. But the Columbia Gorge? Come on…this is a pretty stellar backdrop.
So…back to the meaning of the word Syncline, from their website
syn-cline (‘sin-klin) a trough of stratified rock in which the beds dip toward each other from either side
The Syncline winery is located on the Washington side of the Gorge on their Steep Ranch Vineyard. West of the property 300-foot cliffs rise up from the Columbia River…this is the Syncline, locally called the Coyote Wall Syncline.
The Columbia Gorge AVA
The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004 and is overwhelmingly known for white wines. This is the sweet spot where the rainy western part of the Gorge and the more arid Eastern Gorge meet. Syncline is on the South Eastern edge of the AVA.
We spent a wonderful morning, talking with Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and Co-Founder of Syncline, James Mantone. Sitting in their beautiful gardens, we spoke about biodynamics which they are putting into practice here on this vineyard as well among other things before we walked the vineyard to take in the spectacular views at the top of the Syrah block.
But alas…in addition to the wines he makes from grapes grown on the estate vineyard, he also sources some fine grapes from elsewhere to make some beautiful wines. Such is the case with this Picpoul.
Picpoul is a favorite of mine. I have enjoyed Picpoul de Pinet which comes from the South of France right on the Mediterranean coast, as well as some lovely California Picpouls. You can read about those in Picpoul from Pinet and California and a seaside pairing. The name “Picpoul” means lip stinger in French. It is a zippy high acid wine.
Syncline 2018 Picpoul Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley
We tasted this wine in the tasting room with James when we visited. Since I tend to think of Picpoul and ocean, this was intriguing to me. The grapes for this wine are sourced from Boushey Vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Boushey Vineyard sits at a high elevation (700-1200 feet) on southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. Dick Boushey is considered one of Washington States top wine grape growers.
Soil and the long ripening time at this vineyard allow for lots of complex flavors to develop.
The fruit was hand harvested and transported to the winery on October 2nd. It was whole cluster pressed and settled overnight. The juice was then racked to one of our stainless steel tanks. Fermentation completed with no malolactic fermentation. It was aged in stainless steel and bottledin March 2019. 300 cases produced • 12.4% Alc. By Vol.
James tasting notes mention “Bright lemon verbena and key lime blossom” as well as “citrus zest and wet stones”. When we opened this wine, the first thing I smelled was chalk and dust followed my notes of tart citrus fruit. It opened further with some floral notes and then lemon zest and yes wet stones. This wine was completely enjoyable on it’s own.
We paired this wine with herbed goat cheese and olive oil on bread to start. The pairing sweetened the cheese and brightened the wine and was kind of magical.
Then we went to a classic Picpoul pairing of shellfish. We had mussels in garlic and butter dusted with lemon zest. Which is indeed a perfect pairing with this wine. Often you think of oysters with Picpoul and somehow those didn’t hit me as the right pairing. Perhaps it was me thinking of the photos I had recently seen of the hoarfrost on the vines in the Yakima Valley. None-the-less this wine wanted a warmer version of shellfish and these mussels did the trick, warm with savory flavors and a bit of brightness, they snuggled with the wine and brightened a chilly evening.
I totally told you all about the vineyard at Syncline, but I skipped right over the stunning gardens and grounds at their winery and tasting room. Here…take a look.
Head up there in the summer, on a weekend. Drive the Gorgeous Gorge and then stop for a tasting and to enjoy the garden.
That’s a wrap!
All the unwrapping is complete on our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Hopefully you enjoyed the journey and perhaps have a few wines to search for, or a vacation to plan to take in some of these places.
We wish you all a very happy holiday and a wonderful New Year. Here’s to a spectacular 2020!
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.
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!
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. “