Yakima, Washington’s Wine Country: Stay and taste the grapes
YAKIMA, Washington. In the early 1900s people flocked to Yakima, Washington, looking for work in the timber and agricultural industries. The city has survived several economic difficulties over the last century. But over the last decade Yakima has experienced a significant revival. Much of this has been due to Yakima and its environs becoming widely recognized as wine country. Perhaps inspired by the area’s substantial hops production, numerous well regarded wineries have opened here over the years, inspiring an increase in tourism. Even better: local investors continue to make concerted efforts to beautify and repurpose the downtown area by hosting art exhibits and adding new shops.
In addition to the area wineries, outdoor enthusiasts will relish Yakima Valley’s 300 days of sunshine. Whether you like to hike, raft or snow ski, Yakima has it all. The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy owns and manages over 5,000 acres with more than 30 trails for people to enjoy.
Whatever your pleasure, one of the finest places to stay in Yakima is The Hotel Maison, a beautiful boutique establishment that opened here in February 2016. The Morrier family, successful hop farmers in the area, purchased the 1911 building and remodeled it into a lovely hotel.
The Hotel Maison is a stunning work of architecture. The building is crafted in the Second Empire style. Popularized in the late 1900s, the style is characterized by its mansard roofs and ornate dormer windows. The Corinthian capitals and other embellished features found at the hotel are, in turn, descended from the Classical style. Architects William Ward DeVeaux and Frederick Heath originally designed the structure for the Freemasons, the world’s largest secret men’s society.
The Masons in Yakima used the temple on the sixth floor of the building as their ceremonial lodge hall for many years. The temple itself was fashioned after King Solomon’s Temple, with massive columns and a stained glass ceiling. The lower levels of the building held offices and other businesses. Eventually the Masons outgrew the building and sold it.
The sixth floor is currently under renovation. Construction is underway that aims to preserve its historic character. When they complete the renovations, the owners plan to make the space available to rent for private events.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is located in downtown Yakima. It’s within convenient walking distance of numerous restaurants, breweries, wine tasting rooms and boutique shops. Its 36 newly remodeled suites offer fantastic views of Yakima, and its lobby serves as an art gallery showcasing local artists.
The Larson Gallery manages the artwork. When a piece sells, they bring in a new painting, effectively creating a revolving art exhibit for guests to enjoy. Prints from the local museum decorate the halls of the walkway down to the hotel garage, and chart the development of Yakima throughout the years.
Tantalizing Wine Tasting Rooms in and around Yakima
The downtown area of Yakima boasts several wine tasting rooms. Owned and operated by the Gilbert family, the Gilbert Cellars has grown fruit in the Valley since 1897.
Curt Gilbert and his nephews Sean and Nate started Gilbert Cellars in 2004. Their 2018 Rosé is refreshing with grapefruit notes, and the fabulous non-vintage port is fashioned from Tempranillo grapes.
AntoLin Cellars is also worth a stop. Not only do they offer appealing wines. They also offer yummy wine slushies. The peach smoothie mix with Riesling wine makes a refreshing cocktail on a hot summer day.
Kana Winery offers marvelous wines and also features live music on most nights. Their Kana Winery 2012 Tempranillo, Stone Tree Vineyard, is simply divine.
An Abundance of Exceptional Grapes
Elsewhere in the Yakima area, you’ll discover Dineen Vineyards, a family-owned viticulture business growing some of the best grapes in the area for other wineries. Dineen sells their own wines under the Kamiakin label. Vineyard owner Patrick Dineen has partnered with Guerra’s Gourmet Catering to offer wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza and other tasty dishes to visitors of the vineyard.
Patrick grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and liked the agricultural side of farming. After 40 years in the banking industry, he invested in a vineyard and bought an apple orchard. Later he purchased Dineen Vineyards. He said, “Our primary goal is to grow grapes for other wineries. I enjoy working with the guys at the vineyard to develop exceptional grapes because great wines are made in the vineyard.”
Several wines made at the vineyard include two distinctive styles fashioned from 100% Viognier. One style ferments in stainless steel, giving it a crispness and fruity tropical notes. The other ages in neutral French oak for 18 months. This results in a more complex wine with a bit more viscosity and a hint of honey on the palate. Patrick said, “By aging the white wines we can get them to last a bit longer like a French burgundy.”
For his part, Leno Guerra began his own small business in the Yakima area more than 20 years ago. He started out farming peppers and tomatoes but began to branch out. Now he and his family cater events and operate the pizza oven at Dineen Vineyards. The Guerras also developed a delicious spice mix called Guerra’s Gourmet Natural Seasonings. The product is for sale and tastes delicious on everything, ranging from chicken and fish to vegetables.
Treveri Cellars, located in nearby Wapato, is positioned on a hillside overlooking the Valley. This gorgeous facility specilizes in producing a variety of bubbly wines. The owner, Juergen Grieb, received his winemaking education in Germany where he learned how to make both still and sparkling wines.
Visitors to Treveri can sample the sparkling wines on offer. They can also enjoy a tour, and savor a bite of food from the kitchen paired with a bottle of one of the house’s effervescent offerings. Not surprisingly, the winemakers have developed several sparkling cocktails that are fruit-infused, colorful and delicious. The sorbet glace is made with a sparkling Riesling and mango sorbet, and the wild hibiscus is fuchsia pink and served with an edible flower.
Flavorful and Fun
Martinez & Martinez is a fun place to stop and taste some wine. Almost 40 years ago, Sergio and Kristy Martinez planted a vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills A.V.A. Three years later they released their first wines. Today, co-owners Monica and Andrew Martinez run the show. Andrew crafts small lots of wine, and Monica runs the rest of the show. Sergio focuses on making exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons. But he also crafts several other wine varietals, including a Petit Verdot and a wonderful Viognier.
Yakima has much to offer
Yakima Valley boasts incredible wines, but they also grow 75% of the hops for the nation. This supply helped ignite the boom in the American craft beer industry on the West Coast and around the world. New restaurants with locally sourced ingredients continue to pop up making the Yakima Valley a sought-after vacation destination. If you need assistance in planning your next trip to the Valley, check out the information available at Yakima Valley Tourism.
— Headline image: The Hotel Maison in Yakima, Washington. Photo by Jim Van Gundy.