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Red Wine and Chocolate Review 

Nineteen wineries in two days?  Sounds like a pretty tall order.  Beyond the point of “fun”, even.  Nevertheless, the EverythingYakima.com team managed to pull it off!  What a tough job, huh? 

Click on any winery name to go to that winery's directory listing for a map, directions, and contact information.  To learn more about Yakima Valley Wine Country, how wine is made, and how to go wine tasting, see our Winery Guide.

 

Our whirlwind weekend began on Friday, February 16, when we checked into our rooms at the Clarion Hotel on North 1st, conveniently located just off the freeway.  After getting settled, we took a quick drive to downtown Yakima (very easy access from North 1st Street) for dinner at Rusillo’s.  A bottle of Rusillo’s own Chardonnay got our dinner off to a great start.  The food was excellent, the conversation pleasant, and the wine got our appetites whetted for things to come!   

Back at the Clarion, we hit the sack early in anticipation of a long day ahead.  Saturday, we got our morning off to a great start with a convenient and delicious breakfast at the Clarion’s restaurant.  Then we were on our way to begin our tour at Kana Winery’s downtown tasting room. 

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Kana Winery

We picked up our Red Wine and Chocolate reserve tickets and signature wine glasses, and the fun began!  Kana was sampling an impressive 15 wines, about half white and half red.  Kana offers some varietals that aren’t as common in local tasting rooms, with reds like Lemberger and Barbera, a couple delicious white blends, and of course the perennial favorite, “Dark Star”, a red blend of 48% Syrah, 28% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache, 10% Counnoise.  

Donitelia Winery

Just a few blocks away from Kana in downtown Yakima is Donitelia Winery’s new tasting room.  Here we tasted (and purchased) some excellent Sangiovese!  Donitelia’s wines are all made in the traditional Italian style – delicious. 

Desert Hills Winery

This charming winery is located not far from the freeway on North 1st Street.  The tasting room isn’t visible from the street, but follow the signs to the back of the building, where there’s plenty of parking.  If it’s not crowded, the staff will probably give you a tour of the winery.  Today however, it was quite crowded, so we looked at the art on display while we waited for a space at the bar.  Desert Hills offers a pleasing line up of red wines – Merlots and Syrahs stand out – and we were able to compare Syrahs from different vineyards and vintages.  A couple of us took advantage of the seating area in the corner of the tasting room to relax for a moment, and Sylvia brought our next tastes right to us!  Impressive!  A Merlot and Syrah later, we were on our way.

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Piety Flats Winery

Piety Flats Winery is the gatekeeper of sorts to the Rattlesnake Hills area.  It’s the first winery you’ll come to when you exit for Wapato.  “Donald Fruit and Mercantile” hosts Piety Flats as well as a fruitstand in the summer, and a fantastic gift store.  Its popularity was attested to by the crowds milling about in the tasting room.  Tasting at Piety Flats is always fun and educational.  Often the winemakers themselves are pouring and ready to answer questions about their wines.  As always, the wine was excellent, and we left with more than a few bottles! 

Windy Point Vineyards

Windy Point winery wins the award for “find of the day”!  No one in our group had been here before, and we were all very impressed.  True to its name, this winery is located high on a point overlooking the Yakima Valley.  The tasting room, which also houses a small gift shop, feels like a mountain retreat, with a luxurious seating area and a full size gourmet kitchen.  Cooking classes are held here, and the facility can also be rented for meetings, retreats, or other special occasions.   But the surroundings weren’t the only impressive part of Windy Point.  The wines, and the chocolate pairing, were equally stunning.  The pots de crème (think really rich chocolate pudding) was by far one of the highlights of this red wine and chocolate day!  And the wines were all delicious, including the Estate port.   

Masset Winery 

Another great find, Masset Winery is located in an original barn from the 1905 Angel Farmstead uses the basket press method to press their grapes.  We could definitely taste the difference in the delicious wines.  The winemaker, Michaela Masset, was pouring and it was great fun to hear her talk about her wines.  Masset came in a very close second for "find of the day" - this is one place we'll most definitely be coming back to! thumb_100_0649b.jpg

Bonair Winery 

Bonair Winery, with its gorgeous surroundings, is very popular, and won the award this time for “most crowded!”  Even with some extra rooms opened up for tasting, it was somewhat difficult to find a spot.  Bonair makes some very fun wines, including mead, which is honey wine.  If things get too busy for you in the tasting room, you can step outside with your glass and just enjoy the lovely surroundings of the Rattlesnake Hills.   

Wineglass Cellars  thumb_100_0640.jpg

Here our reserve tickets ushered us into a special tasting of reserve reds with winemaker David Lowe.  Yum!  Tasting here is always a great experience, with personal attention that makes you feel like a friend.  The wines are outstanding also, of course!  Before you leave, take a moment to look at Linda Lowe's great wineglass collection that surrounds the edge of the tasting room.   

thumb_100_0670Paradisos del Sol Winery

Paradisos del Sol’s unassuming surroundings are attested to by the sign assuring visitors, “yes, this is a tasting room!”  The cheery surroundings and casual atmosphere make for a fun experience.  There was a different food pairing for almost every wine we tasted, including chipotle chili, and miniature roasted marshmallows!  We even had time for a quick swing on the tree-swing outside. 

Maison de Padgett Winery

Having lost track of the time at this point, we pulled up to one last winery, Maison de Padgett, which appeared to still be open.  As it turns out, they were already closed, but they graciously allowed us to come and taste anyway.  The tasting room, which feels like a castle’s great hall, was still crowded with tired but happy wine tasters, and we joined in to end the day with very unique and entertaining wines.  The unique names like “Singing Toad” and “Funky Monkey” add to the fun.
 

Sunday we continued our Yakima Valley wine tour by working our way down to the Prosser area.  But first, we swung back to a few Rattlesnake Hills area wineries we had missed on Saturday. 

 

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Agate Field, our first stop of the day, got us off to a superb start!  This small, family owned and operated winery was so pleasant to be at, we could have stayed all day.  Bob, the son of the founder and winemaker, Ben Rashford, poured his outstanding Merlots and Syrahs for us, which we paired with chocolate fondue.  I just had to ask – “why is it called Agate Field; are there really agates here?”  Sure, Bob said, and led us to a basket filled with the largest agates I have ever seen!  It’s hard to believe that these fist sized beautiful stones come out of the dusty fields near this winery.  What’s not hard to believe is that so much great wine comes out of this area too!  

Tefft Cellars 

On our way down the valley, we made a small detour to Tefft Cellars which is near Outlook.  It was well worth it!  My favorite was the Zinfandel.  We also tried some great Merlot and a Rose called “Rosey Outlook”.  Tefft Cellars also has a Bed & Breakfast that makes a splendid wine country retreat, and a great outdoor picnic area with a beautiful mural.  We want to come back here in the summertime when we can fully appreciate the beautiful surroundings. 

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Steppe Cellars 

Before heading back to the highway for the drive to Prosser, we decided to try to find one more winery that the map showed nearby – Steppe Cellars.  After a few miles of twisting roads, climbing into the rocky Rattlesnake hills, we were beginning to fear we’d gotten lost.  But, just when we thought that surely we were lost, a sign would come into view assuring us that we were still on the way to Steppe Cellars!  We were so glad we kept going, because this small but growing winery ended up taking the prize for “find of the day”, and was worth every mile of the drive!  The wines were excellent (we tasted the only Pinot Noir of the day here), the service superb, and we even got a tour!  We’ll definitely be making this trek again. 

Hinzerling Winery 

Hinzerling is the Yakima Valley’s oldest family owned and operated winery.  Last year they had their 100th anniversary – pretty impressive!  Also impressive were the Ports and Sherry, which Hinzerling winemaker Mike Wallace excels in.  We also got to taste some older Cabernets, which was definitely a treat. 

CR Sandidge Tasting Room

C.R. Sandidge’s Prosser tasting room sits at the corner of what appears, from a distance, to be just another little strip mall or office building.  As you get closer, you realize that all those store fronts are really winery tasting rooms.  Talk about a jackpot!  We were impressed with the friendly service at this tasting room as we moved through a line-up of very nice wines. 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars

Next door, we entered Alexandria Nicole’s tasting room.  It’s hard to pick favorites, but we have to agree that out of all the wineries we visited in this whirlwind weekend, Alexandria Nicole was most impressive.  The atmosphere was absolutely beautiful, the service professional and friendly, and the wines outstanding.  Our Reserve Tickets got us into a special additional “library tasting” of reserve wines, in – of course – a den/library room.  Delicious food pairings topped off the experience, and once again we left with more than a few bottles of wine. 

Kestrel Vintners

Kestrel Vintners isn’t part of the aforementioned “strip mall” tasting room line-up, but is located just a short walk away.  The real treat here was the amazing cheeses.  Of course they paired very well with the wines, which are earthy and robust.  Sadly, no matter how judicious you are about sipping, dumping, and spitting, the palate does dull by the end of the day.  We agreed we’d like to go back to Kestrel on the beginning of our next wine tasting foray! 

Desert Wind Vineyard

Despite our fatigue, we just had to make one last stop at Desert Wind since it was their Grand Opening weekend.  This winery is – well, for lack of a better word, huge!  The southwest style building contains a classroom and kitchen area, very nice restrooms (with sound piped in from the class area so you can learn about wine while you freshen up!) and a great-room which houses a gift area and the tasting bar.  The wines were very impressive as well and were a fantastic way to end our wine safari. 

Final reflections... thumb_100_0618.jpg

All said and done – er, tasted and purchased – this was a very memorable, though tiring, weekend.  Even though we had a great time, our group unanimously recommends NOT attempting to visit 19 wineries in two days.  With all the outstanding wineries in the Yakima Valley, it’s very hard to resist simply running from one to the next all day long.  However, you will probably enjoy and learn more if you pace yourself.  Hopefully this review will help you choose which few wineries you’d like to visit next time you’re tasting in the Yakima Valley. 

Another observation our group had was that despite the scrumptious chocolate, the crowds during the Red Wine and Chocolate event were a slight drawback to fully appreciating the weekend.  If we did attend this event again, we would probably try to choose smaller, more out of the way wineries, and save the larger ones for an “off weekend” visit. 

The moral of the story is, if you can’t make it to Yakima for one of the special event weekends, don’t feel like you’re missing out on the excellent wine tasting experience the Valley has to offer.  You can have a wonderful experience during the non-peak times.  One thing's for sure: you're always going to find great wine in the Yakima Valley.

 
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