The quiet small town of Benton City provides a sharp contrast to the bustling Tri-Cities, just a few miles to the east. Stop here to enjoy the lush valley with vineyards and fruit trees.
Melt into the comfy leather chairs inside the tasting room at Kiona Vineyards Winery (44612 N. Sunset NE, Benton City, 509/588-6716, noon–5 p.m. daily) The modern decor is accented by fine art photography taken by a Tri-Cities local. Step outside on the patio and lawn for a nice view of Red Mountain.
The facilities at Blackwood Canyon (509/588-6249, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, $10 standard, $25 reserve) are nothing to get excited about, but that would detract from the wine anyway. The winery sits at the end of a rough gravel road in the middle of the vineyards, and the tasting room is just a counter in the warehouse. The real star of the show is the eccentric winemaker, a believer in old-method, small-batch fermentation processes that produce, hands down, the best wines in Yakima valley. If you have the time, he’ll take you through several hours of tasting, even bringing out bits of food he’s prepared to pair with his masterpieces. The chardonnays, cabernets, and late-harvest wines are quite distinctive.
If you crave better atmosphere, then head to the beautiful French chateau tasting room at Hedges Cellars (53511 N. Sunset Rd., Benton City, 509/588-3155 or 800/859-9463, www.hedgescellars.com, noon–4 p.m. Fri.–Sun. Mar.–Nov.). The attractive high-ceilinged room is accented with a one-of-a-kind bar crafted locally and a big stone fireplace.
Tour through the cool, dark wine storage caves at Terra Blanca (34715 N. DeMoss Rd., Benton City, 509/588-6082, www.terrablanca.com, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) on Red Mountain. The $15 tour (noon and 3 p.m. Sat.–Sun.) allows you to walk the caves, the fermentation bays, the barrel room, and the vineyard, followed up with a chance to taste the fruit of all the labor.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition