Explore Washington's Wine Country

About two hours east of Washington’s Cascade mountains, the hills roll into fertile land covered in sunshine, ideal for wine vineyards.

All that sun is good for Washington’s hugely profitable, immensely popular ag crop: grapes. From the Yakima Valley to Walla Walla, getting a taste of the resulting wine is as easy as raising a glass.

Take the long way to or from the west along Highway 12, which skirts the south side of Mount Rainier, and you’ll pass through the volcanic plateau that’s home to Naches Heights, one of the state’s American Viticultural Areas. Just 10 minutes from downtown Yakima, The Tasting Room offers samples from vineyards like Harlequin Wine Cellars and Wilridge Winery. Meanwhile, four more of the valley’s wineries have tasting rooms clustered downtown: AntoLin Cellars, Kana Winery, Gilbert Cellars and Treveri Cellars.

Continue east on 82 to Prosser where, in addition to a scattering of other wineries, there’s the Vintner’s Village, with tasting rooms for 10 wineries. For a sample of Old World style with New World fruit, make an appointment at Maison Bleue. Around the corner are Gamache and Milbrandt and the Wine O’Clock wine bar, pouring wines from the Bunnell Family Cellar and RiverAerie. On your way out of town don’t miss Mercer Estates.

You can pull off 82 east of Prosser to tour the wineries of Red Mountain. Fidelitas is here with its grand tasting room overlooking a slope of vines, as are Hightower and Col Solare—a partnership between Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and Italy’s Marchesi Antinori. Yakima Valley’s annual Red Wine and Chocolate event draws winemakers, grape growers and chocolatiers to Red Mountain for decadent tastings every February.

Your wine country tour culminates farther east still, off Highway 12, in Walla Walla. Whether you start by visiting the wineries east of town, such as K Vintners, Walla Walla Vintners and àMaurice; around the airport east of town, where you’ll find the likes of Buty, SYZYGY and Dunham; or in the area around JB George Road—home to Pepper Bridge, Waters, Va Piano and Fjellene Cellars, to name a few—don’t miss the chance to explore Walla Walla’s quaint downtown. It’s home to a handful of restaurants and a spate of tasting rooms. Stretch your legs and stop by Rotie Cellars, Otis Kenyon Wine or Walla Walla Wine Works, which showcases a collection of wineries.

—Julie H. Case