Wine: Editor’s picks
This is just a sampling of the venues available for wine tasting in the Yakima Valley. For a complete list of wineries from Ellensburg to Prosser, visit www.discoveryakimavalley.com/wine-map.
Gilbert Cellars has only been making wine since 2004. But a string of high-scoring vintages, coupled with the 2008 opening of its downtown Yakima tasting room, has earned it a place among the flagship wineries in the Yakima Valley. The tasting room, in the heart of the city’s historic district, combines an elegant setting with top-notch wines and gourmet small plates. There is often live music on the weekends, including shows in the tasting room’s basement lounge. 5 N. Front St. in Yakima, www.gilbertcellars.com, 509-249-9049.
Desert Wind Winery
Set on a bluff overlooking the Yakima River, Desert Wind Winery is one of the most scenic of all the Yakima Valley wineries. The adobe-style building, which houses a restaurant and guest rooms as well as the tasting room, offers striking views of the surrounding hills. And the wine? Yeah, that’s good too. Most of the bottles are $20 or less, which is an exceptional value for wines of Desert Wind’s caliber. The Ruah, a Bordeaux-style blend, is particularly noteworthy. 2258 Wine Country Road in Prosser, www.desertwindwinery.com, 509-786-7277.
The large-scale production of a place like Silverlake Winery in Zillah turns some people off. But what the boutique-bottling-only crowd overlooks is that the volume of wine Silverlake produces allows it to consistently offer highly rated, quality products for prices that smaller producers could never match. Bottles of red start well under $20. Besides all that, Silverlake is just a great place to visit, with a spectacular hilltop view of the valley and regular weekend barbecues during the summer. 1500 Vintage Road in Zillah, www.silverlakewinery.com. 509-829-6235
One of only a handful of tasting rooms in Yakima proper, Kana Winery has a plum spot on the ground floor of the iconic downtown Larsen Building. The patio is perfect for sipping a glass of syrah while doing a little people-watching. And the wine is good, too. Kana’s flagship white wine, Masterpiece, and its flagship red, Dark Star, both earn high ratings from the pros. But the winery’s Old Vines lemberger is perhaps its best offering. 10 S. Second St. in Yakima, www.kanawinery.com, 509-453-6611.
Bonair Winery in Zillah got its start in 1985, making it part of the Yakima Valley’s old guard. And, despite a new tasting chateau built a couple of years ago, it retains the quirky, salt-of-the-earth philosophy with which co-owners Gail and Shirley Puryear started it. The duck pond helps, as does the varied lineup of wines including an award winning buttery chardonnay and a dessert-in-a-glass ice wine. There’s variety, too, in the reds with offerings such as malbec and pinot noir alongside the more standard (for Washington) merlots and cabernets. 500 S. Bonair Road in Zillah, www.bonairwinery.com, 509-829-6027.
Prosser’s Kestrel Vintners is probably best known for its Lady in Red series, which has become a must-have for collectors just because of the elegantly sexy pin-up-style paintings on the bottles. What’s in the bottle ain’t half bad, either. At $12 per bottle, the Lady in Red blend is a special occasion wine you can afford to drink every day. But the real treasures at Kestrel are the premium bottlings. They cost more — up to $60 — but they are invariably worth it. Kestrel has plenty of selections in between those prices, too, including full lineups of both red and white varietals. 2890 Lee Road in Prosser, www.kestrelwines.com, 509-786-2675.
Yakima River Winery
Here’s why you stop at Yakima River Winery in Prosser: It has been there since 1977 and owner John Rauner has seen it all. Rauner, who claims to have produced Washington state’s first port, merlot and lemberger, will pour your wine and tell you some stories. The tasting room itself is modest. It’s not part of the new wine “scene” in Prosser, but the wines are usually pretty good. And there’s real history there, as well as good conversation. 143302 W. North River Road in Prosser, www.yakimariverwinery.com, 509-786-3203.
Horizon’s Edge Winery
While Yakima Valley wineries are known for being unpretentious, there are certainly some that are stuffier than others. Horizon’s Edge, on the other hand, is one where you never have to worry about wine snobs. There’s a fun vibe, right down to the kitschy-chic wine labels. It’s hard to be too pretentious when you’re drinking Foreplay Chardonnay or Moneymaker Merlot. Also, for those who enjoy sweeter sips, Horizon’s Edge has a chocolate port unlike anything else you’ll taste around here. 4530 E. Zillah Drive in Zillah, www.horizonsedgewinery.com, 509-829-6401.
Two Mountain Winery
Matt and Pat Rawn are the owners and operators over at Two Mountain Winery in Zillah, but the place really belongs to the dogs. There are four of them, and they must be the envy of dogs nationwide, because all they do all day is lay around and let tasting-room visitors pet them. That’s part of the laidback environment Two Mountain has created. It’s about wine, sure, but it’s also about fun. There are outdoor movies in August and September, plenty of bottles at or under $20 and an atmosphere of relaxation. 2151 Cheyne Road in Zillah, www.twomountainwinery.com, 509-829-3900.
Willow Crest Winery
By the time Dave Minick founded Willow Crest Winery in 1995, he had already been a grape grower for more than a decade. His expertise in the vineyard transferred seamlessly to barrels and bottles, making Willow Crest one of the leading wineries in Prosser. You’ll find great value wines there ($10 for a pinot gris, $8 for a riesling) and some just plain great wines. The most expensive Willow Crest offering is the remarkable Rhone-style blend XIII. And even that is only $24, a bargain for a wine of that caliber. 590 Merlot Drive in Prosser, www.willowcrestwinery.com, 509-786-7999.