Tristan and I had a lovely time in Yakima Valley this week.
While Tristan solved the construction problems of the universe, my lovely tour guide from the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau got me up to speed on the region’s latest and greatest. Here are some of the highlights:
Desert Wind in Prosser, Wash. This winery not only features a gourmet restaurant but also doubles as an inn with four Southwest luxury guest rooms.
Image c/o TripAdvisor
We had lunch at MOJAVE, then tasted some of their wines. We both ordered the Buffalo Bleu Burger – green chiles, chipotle aoli, Danish bleu cheese, crispy smoked pork belly, grilled onions on a pretzel roll bun. YUM.
Just a few minutes away is the future site of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center. The building will be completed by the end of the year, with all the fixins’ inside by May 2014 (image courtesy of Walter Clore):
The space will have tons of offerings and uses but these seemed the most exciting to me:
- A forthcoming tasting bar geared towards education could, for instance, sample four different Chardonnays aged in different oaks, or compare wines from four different AVAs (American Viticulture Areas).
- The aroma wheel will help visitors identify the various notes in wines, and a lounge and retail space will offer various wine and artisan food products from Wash. state.
- Displays and exhibits will outline topics such as the history of Wash. wine, key players in the Wash. wine industry (such as Walter Clore), irrigation technology, unique attributes of the various AVAs, and the farm-to-table process.
- Guests will be able to watch a culinary demonstration in the demo kitchen or even host their own event in the indoor/outdoor space with vineyard views – there’s also a full catering kitchen and 450 square foot wine cellar.
The next stop was Vintner’s Village, Prosser’s one-stop-shop for winery tasting rooms – kind of reminded me of a Leavenworth for ages 21 and over. Some of the larger wineries have their own freestanding establishment (all of them feature different architecture and some have their own patios); smaller wineries have a tasting room in The Winemaker’s Loft, a Tuscan-style storefront (Courtesy of Seattle Times):
The single bottle I purchased throughout my entire stay was at Airfield Estates – their Bombshell Red ($16). Now we all know that cute labels positively affect taste, but it really did taste like fall in a bottle – spicy and sweet.
Awesome wine barrel airplane, huh?
I also really liked the wines from Milbrandt Cellars and Gamache Vintners. Keep an eye out for Gamache’s 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Since Gramache’s owners are growers by trade, they have access to some of the oldest vines in the region. This particular wine will come from three different vineyards, three different AVAs and three of the oldest vines around. Intriguing, no?!
For dinner, my host took Tristan and I to Gasparetti’s, a downtown Yakima Italian institution that’s been around for 70 years. Let me just say – it was phenomenal from start to finish. I started out with one of their specialty cocktails, a glass of champagne with a sugar cube in the bottom and a splash of bitters, and their famous shoestring onion rings with housemade basil dressing.
My main course was the real obsession – penne rigate tossed with Dungeness crabmeat and a tomato garlic cream sauce. I think Tristan licked the plate.
The next morning, I checked out Hackett Ranch in Wiley City. I don’t know what else to call it other than a liquid entertainment hub. It’s a 110-year-old orchard and vineyard owned by the Gilberts of Gilbert Cellars. Aside from growing grapes and making wine at the ranch, the Gilberts have an concert amphitheater and The Cave (great for winemaker dinners) overlooking the vineyards. Think extremely-mini-Gorge.
Here’s a few glamor shots from their website:
Here’s my view, walking down the steps:
The Gilberts also recently co-launched Glacier Basin Distillery, which uses Yakima-grown fruit, and have a brewery in the works that will use Yakima hops. Owner/distiller Thomas Hale gave me a taste of the distillery’s first releases – Grappa (sold out) and Cherry Brandy:
AGAIN with the cute label/taste combination!
At the ranch, a new Gilbert Cellars wine tasting room is almost complete, and will be followed by a distillery tasting room by the end of the year. An adjacent space is reserved for a brewery tasting room in the future. The trifecta of fun! I will be back for sure, with friends. Who’s coming with me?!
My final stop was at Bale Breaker Brewing Company, a brand new brewery right smack dab in the middle of a third generation hop farm. Yakima produces the second most amount of hops in the world, and 70% of hops in the nation. The owners are brother-sister duo Kevin Smith and Meghann Quinn, plus Meghann’s husband Kevin Quinn, all University of Washington alums. They sent us home with their Field 41 Pale Ale and Topcutter IPA, which we promptly used in “Bale-gating” at yesterday’s UW game. They are distributing throughout the rest of eastern Wash. before coming to Seattle, but boy will they make an entrance when they eventually do!
It was a whirlwind 24 hours in Yakima Valley but so worth it; it’s always helpful to learn about wine making and agriculture from the producers themselves (plus, you get samples!). But for the rest of the weekend –
Stay tuned for our next post, Wine Tasting for Dummies.