While the valley is known for its vineyards (it was designated the state’s first American Viticultural Area, in 1983), it also grows more than 75 percent of the nation’s hops and is home to a clutch of breweries to boot.
Start your visit in the eastern edge of the valley, in the town of Prosser. At the Vintner’s Village just off Interstate 82, pop in to a dozen tasting rooms all within a short walk of one another. Farther down the road at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, learn about the “Father of the Washington State Wine Industry” and how the state went from growing primarily concord grapes for juice and jellies to being known as the nation’s second-largest wine-producing area.
You can sample some of the region’s wines in the center’s tasting room or at nearby wineries such as Chinook Wines, where wine-industry pioneers Kay Simon and Clay Mackey have been making vino since the 1980s.
The region’s other primary product—hops—can be seen growing more than 40 feet up along trellises around the valley. In fact, Yakima Valley hops have found their way into beer around the world since the late 1800s. A great way for visitors to sip brews throughout the valley is on the Spirits & Hops Trail, which has more than 20 stops.
At Bale Breaker Brewing, the Smith family planted its first hops in the 1930s. Today they farm more than 900 acres, but the current generation decided to venture into the brewery business, opening Bale Breaker in 2013. The taproom offers indoor and outdoor seating, hosts food trucks on weekends and fills growlers to go. Try the Topcutter IPA or Field 41 Pale Ale, named for the plot of land the brewery and taproom sit on. And, if on tap, ask for seasonal offerings like the Raging Ditch Dry-Hopped Blonde ale, which makes appearances throughout the year.
The Hackett Ranch, west of downtown Yakima, offers tastes of Gilbert Cellars’ wines. The Gilberts are one of the oldest orchard families in the valley. And while they are still largely orchardists, they got into the wine business in 2002 and have been making an impressive lineup of wines, including Rhône-style blends that exemplify the care and craftsmanship that have put Yakima Valley on the wine map.
Photo Credit: Hackett Ranch in Yakima/Gilbert Cellars.