2-Day Escape to Red Mountain and Prosser | Yakima Valley | Washington / by Julie Overstreet

Julie Overstreet, CSW holds a Wine Business Management Certificate through Sonoma State University. She is also a member of the Guild of Sommeliers and the American Wine Society. She currently lives in Camano Island, WA.

Cooper Wine Company Tasting Room

Cooper Wine Company Tasting Room

Driving from western Washington to eastern Washington is like traveling from Mount Everest to the Bahamas…well, sort of.  About two hours east of Seattle, the landscape changes almost in an instant from snow-topped mountains, evergreen trees, and lakes to mountains wearing nothing but sagebrush and rivers rambling in brown hues. In the midst of this desert-like ambiance is the heart of Washington’s wine country – where the magic happens! Situated in the Yakima Valley is the little town of Prosser, a great staging place for visiting wine country. There are countless wineries within a 30-mile radius of Prosser, so deciding your itinerary may be the hardest part. If you’re making plans to visit this region of Washington’s wine country, consider these suggestions for where to stay, what to eat, and which activities to enjoy.

 

A Little Background

The Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which lies within the larger Columbia Valley AVA, was established in 1983 and is the oldest appellation in the state of Washington. Three sub-regions, all with arid rolling hills along Highway 82, lie within the Yakima Valley AVA: Rattlesnakes Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA, and Red Mountain AVA. Of note also is the grandiose expanse of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, located in the southeast corner adjacent to the Yakima Valley AVA and included in the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Horse Heaven Hills AVA has the distinction of sourcing four 100-point wines from the state of Washington. Most of the wineries mentioned in this article are in the Red Mountain AVA, the smallest of the AVAs in the state at about 4,000 acres, 1,600 of which are currently planted with vines. Red Mountain AVA is the warmest of the regions and has an extraordinary reputation for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah grapes.

Whether driving from Seattle or Portland or flying in from Pasco or Yakima, you will need a rental car to get around Prosser and the surrounding wineries, restaurants, and attractions. Highway 82 is the main highway of travel, and getting around is easy with the use of navigation devices and smartphones.

 Accommodations

Conveniently located just off Highway 82 on the Yakima River is the Inn at Desert Wind Winery, an adobe style inn offering guestrooms as well as a tasting room and production facilities. Each guestroom is attractively decorated with a gas fireplace, balcony, and spacious bathroom. A bottle of Desert Wind wine welcomes guests to their room and a mouth-watering breakfast is delivered each morning. At the guests’ convenience, a complimentary tasting is offered during tasting room hours in the spacious, Santa Fe inspired tasting room located just down the stairs from the guest rooms.

While at Desert Wind Winery, guests can take advantage of the VIP Tour and Tasting for $25 per person. This package includes a tour of the production facility, plus barrel sampling followed by a seated tasting and cheese board. This package is open to groups of two to 50 and requires a 48-hour advance reservation.

If you prefer to stay off the beaten path and experience serious fun in a remote location, Alexandria Nicole Cellars offers Tiny Houses built in 2015 and featured on HGTV’s Tiny House Big Living. Each house is just under 400 square feet and has gorgeous vineyard views and wine on tap. Alexandria Nicole Cellars has a tasting room in Prosser, an easy 45 minute drive from the Tiny Houses.

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Wineries

When you are ready to start wine tasting, Col Solare is the perfect introduction to the Red Mountain AVA. Situated high on the slope of Red Mountain, the tasting room offers impressive views of the valley in an elegant, modern setting. Col Solare is a partnership between Marchesi Antinori of Tuscany and Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington. The winery produces exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.

Kiona Vineyards and Winery, located just a short drive from Col Solare, is perched overlooking the very vineyards that grow the grapes that make its wine. The tasting room showcases high ceilings and massive windows bringing the outside in and making for a pleasant setting. Kiona produces a wide array of wines and highlights low production and exclusive tasting room only wines. A little known fact about Kiona: In 1980, it was the first winery in the United States to produce Lemberger (Blaufränkisch), a signature wine for Kiona and a consistent award winner.

Kiona Vineyards and Winery Exterior | Photo Credit: Kiona Vineyards and Winery

Kiona Vineyards and Winery Exterior | Photo Credit: Kiona Vineyards and Winery

About two minutes down the road from Kiona, Fidelitas Wines sits a bit lower with equally pleasant views of the Yakima Valley and Red Mountain. The tasting room serves current releases in a casual and inviting environment with beautiful handcrafted Sycamore tables inside. Outside, a lovely, generous patio with eye popping red umbrellas invites guests to enjoy evening sunsets. (Red umbrellas, Red Mountain, see what they did there?)

Also of note, Cooper Wine Company, on the corner of North Sunset Road, produces Bordeaux-style wine and offers a friendly greeter named Bud, a chocolate lab who quite possibly will meet you as soon as you open your car door. Also on North Sunset Road, look for the Ciel du Cheval vineyards. These vineyards are noteworthy in that they have produced outstanding wines for over 40 years for numerous distinguished producers, including Seven Hills, Fidelitas, and Ken Wright Cellars.

While in Prosser, consider a visit to DavenLore Winery, a family-owned winery positioned at the base of Horse Heaven Hills offering a wide array of wines with the logo of a coyote named Petro. The eye-catching logo of Petro is so popular among visitors that the winery created temporary tattoos available in the tasting room. Rumor has it, a few past visitors loved the logo so much they have committed to permanent tattoos.

Cooper Wine Company - Bud the Wine Dog

Cooper Wine Company - Bud the Wine Dog

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Eats

Wine o’Clock, touted as Prosser’s “fanciest” restaurant, is a delightful place for lunch or dinner. The bistro, created by Bunnell Family Cellars, has an ever-changing menu serving wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, and small lot wines from Bunnell Family Cellars’ three labels. Plan ahead to make reservations; the restaurant seats about 36 people and is popular for locals and visitors, alike. Of course, when in wine country, some of the best places to lunch are wineries. They offer fantastic views and excellent food. If you are wine tasting on the weekend, Terra Blanca’s Vineyard Grill is open from noon to 5 p.m. and features food prepared in their wood-fired oven and, when in season, produce from their garden. As expected, Terra Blanca pairs their food perfectly with Terra Blanca wines. And about that view... You will enjoy breathtaking scenery of vineyards and the lower Yakima Valley. Another option, Fiction at J. Bookwalter Winery, is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch and offers locally driven, chef-inspired food. When you get to the point in your trip when you just want to eat at a dive, look for the bright, silver painted cement block building on Wine Country Road in Prosser called Ready & Out. This local joint offers a concise menu of street tacos, tortas, and other Mexican fare. A burrito as big as your head will cost you about $6. Of course, you may want to try the “Big Ready Burger,” which they claim is “the largest in all of America.”

Activities

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is conveniently located just off Highway 82, adjacent to Desert Wind Winery. The center is named after Dr. Walter J. Clore, recognized as the “Father of Washington Wine” for his decades long work to improve viticulture in the state of Washington. The vision for the center is to provide a place for visitors, media, and wine industry professionals to learn, taste, and enjoy the diversity of Washington wine and food. Tastings are held daily, highlighting a different Washington AVA each month. Lite bites are available to enjoy while sampling the wines.

About midday when your sweet tooth starts kicking in, a fun place to stop is Chukar Cherries in Prosser. This family-owned business produces quality Pacific Northwest goodies crafted from locally grown cherries and berries. When owner, Pam Montgomery, noticed naturally drying cherries on the trees of her family’s cherry orchard, the seed to start the company was planted.

Walter Clore Aroma Wheel

Walter Clore Aroma Wheel

She began offering snack size pouches of Washington cherries, and the rest, as they say, is history. Some of their best sellers are the chocolate covered assortments of cherries, berries, and nuts.

When you have reached wine capacity, or your kids are threatening to run away if you take them to another winery, a trip to Sage Bluff Alpaca Farm is the perfect solution. John and Jennifer Ely are among the friendliest people you will ever meet and their alpacas are possibly the best cared for alpacas you will ever see. The Elys breed, raise, board, and sell huacaya alpacas and specialize in mentoring new alpaca owners. Whether you are interested in owning alpacas or just want a fun experience learning about and seeing alpacas up close, Sage Bluff Alpaca Farm is a well-cared for farm with very well behaved alpacas.

It has been said some of the best places worth traveling to should have one quality above others:  culture. There is something encouraging about finding culture in small town America. Shifting your horizon to Red Mountain, the smallest AVA in the state of Washington, and a place like Prosser with over 30 wineries and known to be the Birthplace of the Washington Wine Industry, reinforces the thought that big cities don’t produce culture, people do.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Inn at Desert Wind Winery $$
2258 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-7277

The Cozy Rose B&B $$
1220 Forsell Road
Grandview, WA 98930
(509) 882-4660
(800) 575-8381

Email: stay@cozyroseinn.com


Alexandria Nicole Tiny Houses (sleeps 2) $$
158422 W. Sonova Road
Paterson, WA  99345
(509) 786-3497
Email: info@tinyhouses.com

Best Western Plus – The Inn at Horse Heaven $
259 Merlot Drive
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-7977
(800) 688-2192

EATS

Wine O’Clock $$
548 Cabernet Court
(509) 786-2197
Closed Monday, Tuesday
Wednesday-Sunday 12pm-8pm
Reservations recommended

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard
Vineyard Grill $$
34715 N. DeMoss Road
Benton City, WA  99320
(509) 588-6082
Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm

Fiction @ J. Bookwalter $$
894 Tulip Lane
Richland, WA  99352
(509) 627-5000, extension 2

Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11am-4pm
Dinner: Monday-Sunday 4pm-9pm;
Sunday Brunch: 10am-3pm
Reservations recommended

Ready & Out Restaurant & Catering $
1827 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-1480
(509) 832-1468
Delivery and To-Go Orders
Call for hours of operation

ACTIVITIES

Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center
2140A Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-1000

Tasting room open daily 11am-5pm
Groups of 8 or more call ahead

Sage Bluff Alpacas
John & Jennifer Ely
8401 S. Steele Road
Prosser, WA  99350

(509) 786-4507 Email: jely@sagebluffalpacas.com

Chukar Cherries
320 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-2055

Monday-Saturday 8am-6pm
Sunday 10am-5pm

WINERIES

Desert Wind Winery
2258 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA 99350
(509) 786-7277
Tasting room open daily 11am-5pm
Groups of 12 or more call 48 hours in advance for appointment

Col Solare Winery
50207 Antinori Road
Benton City, WA 99320
(509) 588-6806
Tasting room open Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm (Monday-Tuesday by appointment only)
Tour and tasting Sunday 2pm (21 and over)
Groups of 8-20 call for appointment

Kiona Vineyards and Winery
44612 N. Sunset Road
Benton City, WA  99320
(509) 588-6716
Tasting room open daily 12pm-5pm
Groups of 8 or more call 48 hours in advance for appointment

Fidelitas Wines
51810 N. Sunset Road
Benton City, WA  99320
(509) 588-3469
Tasting room open daily 11am-5pm

Cooper Wine Company
35306 N. Sunset Road
Benton City, WA  99320
(509) 588-2667
Tasting room open daily 11am-5pm or by appointment

DavenLore Winery
Use their neighbor’s address then follow signs:
155203 W. Richards Road
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-1575
Tasting room open Friday-Sunday 11am-5pm (Monday-Thursday call for appointment)

J. Bookwalter Winery
894 Tulip Lane
Richland, WA 99352
(509) 627-5000
Tasting room open daily 11am-5pm

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard
34715 N. DeMoss Road
Benton City, WA 99320
(509) 588-6082
Tasting room open daily 10am-6pm April-October; 11am-6pm November-March

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2880 Lee Rd, Unit D
Prosser, WA  99350
(509) 786-3497
Tasting room open daily Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm, Sunday 12-5pm for general tastings. First Friday 5-8pm

UPCOMING EVENTS FOR 2016

OCTOBER
Prosser Beer and Whiskey Festival October 8, 2016
http://www.tourprosser.com/events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/10/08/2298/-/prosser-beer-whiskey-festival


NOVEMBER
Family Christmas Festival November 27, 2016
http://www.tourprosser.com/events/icalrepeat.detail/2016/11/27/2299/-/family-christmas-festival