Six wineries, one brewpub, four espresso milkshakes, one musical performance, and a lot of dogs: we’re back from our trip! This was our annual trip to the Tri-Cities, ostensibly to play at an outdoor music festival, but mostly an excuse to go wine tasting.
Our first (very important) stop was in Ellensburg. The rodeo parade was going on, but it didn’t stop us from getting our usual round of espresso milkshakes at Winegar’s Dairy drive-thru. Who needs lunch when you can get a milkshake like that?
Our first stop, and one of our favorites, was Two Mountain Winery in Zillah. The wine was good (the Tribute was especially fabuliferous), and the dogs were adorable – especially Bentley the Basset hound (I love Basset hound ears, they’re so soft). The winery was having “Dinner and a Movie” that night, with hamburgers and fresh local corn. If it hadn’t been such a drive back from Richland that night, we would’ve been there!
Trying to find Steppe Cellars resulted in a fascinating tour of the backroads of Zillah, many of which are not paved, or end suddenly near cattlelots or cornfields. Just as we were about to give up and try to find our way back to the highway, a sign on a dirt road appeared announcing the winery. It turned out to be a bit further down the road, but it did get us there…
The tasting room was in a seen-better-days Quonset hut with, as my father put it, “natural air conditioning” – note the cracks in the back wall. But the view was amazing, and the wine was beautiful, especially their Gewurztraminer. Their red blend was wonderful, too. There was at least one dog – I saw it lying flat out by the picnic tables. Hard life, being a winery dog.
We only got somewhat lost trying to get back to the highway through Sunnyside.
As we neared Richland, our milkshakes (and wine) had pretty much worn off, so we stopped at Bookwalter Winery for a bite to eat. Bookwalter has a much more gussied-up tasting room than the other places we like to go; in fact, it’s almost a restaurant. There’s a nice patio full of tables, then several rooms inside where you can sit and order a plate of salumi while wine tastes are brought to you. We come here every year, just for the feeling of being pampered. Sometimes we even buy wine. This year their red blend (Lot 22) didn’t seem as good as usual – we had just drunk our bottle of Lot 21 at home and it seemed much nicer – but the viognier/chardonnay blend was really nice.
Later, after our set at Tumbleweed, we sought out dinner at the Ice Harbor Brewing Company in Kennewick. It was pretty good!
The beer was very nice, the onion rings were excellent, and the burgers were good except for being completely lacking in sauce. We had to ask for mayonnaise separately, which seemed odd. I got a burger covered in jalapeños, which made up for the absence of mayo quite well.
The next morning, after a substantial breakfast at Andy’s Restaurant in Pasco, we headed out to Red Mountain, one of our favorite wine regions. We showed up at Hightower just before they opened their tasting room. Suddenly the place was filled with dogs! I’m not sure how many there were, but they were enthusiastic, especially when the staff from Seattle’s Boat Street Cafe all arrived at once for a staff retreat. Happy dogs. The one shown above had a particularly good drool going.
And the wine? Some of the best we’ve tasted in the area. Wow. We bought a bottle of their merlot, which just knocked us off our feet. The Murray Cuvee, named after one of their dogs, was a great blend as well. The winemaker, Tim, was really nice and deservedly proud of his product.
Tapteil was just a few feet up the road from Hightower. They make some impressive, powerful reds there, and they were offering tastes of both their 2003 and 2004 merlot and cabernet. 2004 was a tough year with a hard freeze, and many vineyards lost most of their grapes. What did survive seems to have come through with a very soft flavor profile and tons of fruit. I preferred the ’03 vintages, on the whole, but it was really cool to be able to compare the years. The Tapteil tasting room also offered tastes of different olive oils.
Oh, and Tapteil had a dog (a poodle mix named Argus, I believe), but he was out riding in the truck, so we didn’t meet him.
Fidelitas is a fairly new arrival on Red Mountain. The tasting room is kinda cool, very sleek and metallic on the outside but rustic and spacious on the inside, with huge open doors looking up the valley. No dogs here – weird. They weren’t offering any actual Red Mountain-grown wines, which seemed odd, and the wines they did have were awfully pricy. I liked their semillon-sauv blanc blend, but wasn’t inspired to buy any. Our palates were definitely getting tired at this point, so we called it quits and headed on to lunch in Ellensburg, then on home.