With an abundance of wine tasting rooms spread across Washington, it’s easy to explore the delicious varietals grown in this exciting wine region. Seattle, Woodinville, Walla Walla, Leavenworth, and Vancouver all boast a high concentration of wine tasting rooms in easy walking distance of each other. But if you really want to immerse yourself in Washington wine, head to the Tri-Cities region where you can visit the wineries, meet the winemakers, and explore the history of Washington winemaking.
Known as the “Heart of Washington Wine Country,” the region enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year. The Tri-Cities gets its name from the towns of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. Trio seems to be the theme in this viticulturally rich area situated around the confluence of three beautiful rivers, the Yakima, the Columbia, and the Snake.
With 200 wineries in the Tri-Cities region, knowing where to start can be an overwhelming experience for first-time wine aficionados. To help you get started, here are a few of my favorites:
Goose Ridge Winery
Boasting the largest contiguous vineyard in the state, Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery is an impressive sight. In season, you can see geese flying overhead on their way to the river.
Owned and operated by the Monson family, Goose Ridge specializes in limited productions of handcrafted wines from select, estate-grown grapes. The family has farmed in the Columbia Valley for four decades. The Reserve Chardonnay, a delightful wine with a hint of vanilla nose, and soft, creamy taste, is perfect to my taste.
Be sure to try Goose Ridge’s “wine in a can.” These specially treated 12-ounce cans protect the wine’s classic aroma and subtle taste. Stacks of these six-packs filled with chardonnay—plus a red wine blend—are found in the tasting room. You can mix and match your six-packs, and they’re perfect for a picnic or when you don’t want to open a full bottle.
Started in 1983 by husband and wife team, Deborah Barnard and Rob Griffin, Barnard Griffin Winery, makes a delightful stop for its art, wine, and food. Co-owner Deborah operates a fused glass art gallery where visitors can view, purchase, or make art. Rob Griffin and his daughter, Megan, are the winemaking duo.
The winery’s restaurant, The Kitchen, serves a delicious variety of sandwiches, salads, pasta, small bites, and daily specials. On a warm day, sit outside and dine on the shaded patio. A meal accompanied by a glass of Barnard Griffin sauvignon blanc or sangiovese rose ́ is a great way to enjoy the ambiance of this warm and comfortable winery.
Just a two minute walk down Tulip Lane from Barnard Griffin is J. Bookwalter Wines. This well-known winery incorporates Bookwalter’s love of books and all things literary throughout the tasting room. Bookwalter’s wine names reflect his love of books with labels like Couplet, Conflict, and Protaganist.
The winery is artfully designed with casual and cozy rooms, an outdoor patio and gardens. Bookwalter’s Winery also features a Zagat-rated restaurant, the “Fiction,” and makes a perfect place for dinner at the end of the day.
Served in a casual and friendly atmosphere, dishes are made with the freshest organic and local ingredients possible. Craft cocktails and wine by the glass are available. The Protaganist, a red blend of mostly cabernet sauvignon, worked well with my Snake River steak tacos.
Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village
Kennewick’s recently opened Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village is becoming the Tri-Cities wine tasting place. Adjacent to Clover Island, overlooking the Columbia River, the City of Kennewick turned its historic waterfront into a pedestrian-friendly, regional gathering place.
It’s currently home to two wineries – Bartholomew and Monarcha. Gordon Estate and Cave B Estate open on March 27, 2020. Swampy’s BBQ food truck serves street cuisine to hungry wine tasters, and more food trucks are coming soon.
Phase III will bring Columbia Basin College’s culinary arts program to the village, rounding out the concept and implementation of the project.
Victor Palencia, born in Mexico where the Monarch butterflies winter, named his Monarcha label after the butterflies’ migration path from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. He features distinctive “Palencia” wines that reflect the terroir of the region.
Bart Fawbush, owner and winemaker of Bartholomew Winery likes to work with unique varietals and sources all his grapes. Expect to taste unexpected varietals like tannat, albarino, or rose ́ of carmenere.
A great way to enjoy more of the Columbia River and Washington wine is aboard the M/Y Chrysalis. Water2Wine offers lunch, seasonal dinner, and brunch cruises onboard its 120-passenger vessel. It conveniently departs from the dock just outside of The Lodge in Richland.
If You Go
The Lodge at Columbia Point in Richland, a rustic, luxurious property on the Columbia River. Rooms are spacious, and river view rooms come with balconies to take in the stunning views of the river. Complete with its wine tasting room, this is the perfect place for a wine weekend getaway.
Lu Lu Craft Bar and Kitchen, on the Columbia Point Waterfront is conveniently located next to the Lodge. Locally sourced food here is an understatement. The pork, beef, potatoes, and onions come from the family farm. Try the hand-cut potato crisps for a starter. Delicious!
Saturday and Sunday brunch feature the “Not Your Mother’s Bloody Mary.”
For more information:
The Tri-Cities region also offers a wide variety of recreation from paddle-boarding, hiking, biking, and golf. Visit Tri-Cities provides a comprehensive guide to activities, wineries, lodging, and food.