The Yakima Valley is the heart of the Washington wine industry. It is dripping with history, leading us to dub it the cradle of the industry.
It is home to some of the oldest vines – dating back a century – along with Cabernet Sauvignon blocks stretching into the ‘50s and ‘60s. Here is where some of Washington’s first wineries started, and where the famous Walter Clore conducted research to prove Washington’s climate could succeed with world-class European wine grapes.
When America began to identify grape growing regions – known as appellations in Europe and American Viticultural Areas in the United States – the Yakima Valley was rightly the first in Washington, being approved by the federal government in 1983. Today, several AVAs exist within the Yakima Valley, including Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and the Rattlesnake Hills.
Today, the Yakima Valley is home to more than 13,000 acres of vineyards, making it the most planted area in the state.
Here is a selection of delicious wines we have tasted recently from the Yakima Valley. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Owen Roe 2013 Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block Syrah, Yakima Valley, $55: One of the Northwest’s most acclaimed vintners, David O’Reilly, moved his family a few years ago to the western edge of the Yakima Valley. One of his reasons was to be closer to Mike Sauer’s Red Willow Vineyard in Mount Adams foothills. The nose is reminiscent of Bruce’s Candy Kitchen with hints of caramel corn and Marionberry taffy followed by delicious and plush flavors of sweet brambleberries and restrained tannins. Martinez and Martinez 2015 Tudor Hills Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley, $18: Tudor Hills Vineyards in the Yakima Valley seems to be an ideal site for cool-climate whites, and this white Bordeaux carries a theme of Rose’s Lime Juice, pineapple and Lemonhead candy. Ample acidity applies some bite to the finish. The Martinez family enjoys this tasty sipper with ceviche, fish tacos and salads.
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2015 DenHoed Vineyards Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, $11: Mike Conway and daughter Natalie shine with aromatic whites, yet this marks just their sixth vintage of producing Pinot Gris. Their latest effort may be perhaps their best, and they present it in an orchard fruit style with tones of white peach, Asian pear and Golden Delicious apple, backed by lime pith. Winery matriarch Ellena Conway pairs it with Roasted Salmon with White Wine Sauce, a recipe that is part of her latest cookbook.
Wind Rose Cellars 2014 Lonesome Spring Ranch Sangio Red Wine, Yakima Valley, $25: David Volmut helps bring a taste of Italian reds to his tasting room guests on the Olympic Peninsula with fruit from Colin Morrell. Cherry cola and strawberry jam aromas include Italian sausage spice notes. On the palate, there’s cherry and boysenberry flavors within toasted oak, tar and bittersweet chocolate. Lively acidity and cranberry skin tannins make for a bright finish.
Cairdeas Winery 2014 Consonance Red Wine Blend, Yakima Valley, $42: As the Rhône Ranger of Lake Chelan, Charlie Lybecker features Petite Sirah among this blend of Syrah, Counoise and Mourvèdre. The nose is akin to a basket of ripe Bing cherries and plums with Sugarfina Finnska Red strawberry licorice and orange oil. Flavors hint at dried strawberry, orange sherbet and pomegranate with a nice late grip of tannin.
Dusted Valley Vintners 2015 Olsen Vineyard Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $34: One of the Walla Walla Valley’s most enterprising and successful wine companies continues to explore higher-elevation sites in the Yakima Valley for its Chardonnay. The nose is filled with lemon curd, apple pie and hazelnut. On the palate, it comes across as fruit forward, food friendly and juicy with a mix of creamy pear butter, marzipan and lemony flavors.
Daven Lore Winery 2015 Sweet Riesling, Yakima Valley, $18: Prosser vintner Gordon Taylor and his winemaker, Sonya Symons, work with Prosser grower Patricia O’Brien for this peachy and tasty Riesling from 25-year-old vines that’s definitely on the sweeter side at 6 percent residual sugar. Aromas of nectarine, apricot and cherry blossom lead to delicious flavors of more stone fruit and guava with a nice burst of lemon to balance the honeyed finish.
Pacific Rim Winemakers 2015 Spring Creek Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, Yakima Valley, $15: Spring Creek Vineyard isn’t far from the Pacific Rim vinification facility in West Richland, and Steven Sealock goes bone-dry with his latest example of Grüner Veltliner. Six months in old German wood barrels creates aromas of lime, Granny Smith apple and oyster shells as penetrating acidity mixes with flavors of green apple and starfruit. Enjoy with slow-cooked lentils, shellfish and a fresh loaf of hearty bread.
—Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company.