When Washington Wine Country is the desired destination you leave the sky rises of Seattle behind and head East on I-90 toward the Cascade Mountains, where the peaks and grandeur of the landscape welcome you. Yet, this view changes again as you leave the mountains behind for a scattered hilltop desert region. Traversing South on I-82, the Yakima wine region offers many tempting stops. About 77 miles past Yakima, you arrive in Richland, one of the Tri-Cities of Washington Wine Country. With freckles of sagebrush, and rows of vineyards peppered among the terrain it is hard to believe that the mountains are just a couple of hours away. Washington may be the Evergreen State, however, the eastern part of Washington is prime grape country and the perfect place for a little wine tasting getaway.
The Tri-Cities region combines Richland, Kennowick and Pasco to form a hub that is surrounded by approximately 200 Washington Wineries. Travelers to the scenic wine trails are greeted by expansive landscapes of beige hills alive with vast vineyards. Outside of Richland the journey begins with a drive through this desert wine country admiring the lush vineyards that supply the bounty of grapes which the area wineries use to produce Wonderful Washington Wines.
Richland area visitors can enjoy local wines at both downtown and rural winery tasting rooms, like Double Canyon Winery located outside of Richland.
Double Canyon Winery in West Richland, Washington
Just in time for the 2017 harvest Double Canyon opened the doors of its new winemaking facility. Building upon the knowledge and collaboration of a small team of experts, Double Canyon used advanced technology and top- level craftsmanship to design and build a facility in a class all its own. With new tools automating temperature-control and other processes Double Canyon is able to achieve an even higher level of precision, efficiency and quality which allows complete control of every aspect of the winemaking process. The new building is also within close proximity to their Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard where Double Canyon harvests the grapes for its line of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The New Production capacity of Double Canyon’s winery is now at 50,000 cases.
Within the new modern tasting room anyone with a strong appreciation for Cabernet will find an array of vintages tempting vintages, including the newest releases from Winemaker Kate Michaud.
Kate Michaud has been the Winemaker at Double Canyon since 2017.
During the visit to Double Canyon I had a behind the scenes tour, barrel tasting and wonderful chat with Kate. A highlight of our conversation was food pairing with the wines that she produces, this was made even more interesting since Kate is a vegetarian. So when the topic of pairing one of these bold Cabernet’s with a steak arises, Kate may recommend instead a Portabella Mushroom burger. Kate mentioned creating a Vegetarian Winemaker’s Dinner with a local chef someday and I hope that is something that comes to fruition.
2016 Double Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
With well balanced depth and generous flavors of cherries and cranberry this 2016 Double Canyon Vineyard Cabernet showcases the near perfect vintage. Cabernet’s growing season is perfect for Washington wine country, particularly in the vineyards around the Tri-cities. I enjoyed the complexity of this wine which evolved with each sip and expressed a long, artistic finish. This vintage retails for approximately $65.
2016 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a show stopper and a bottle founds its way home with me to be enjoyed in a couple of years.
Intense in all the right ways the 2016 Red Mountain Cabernet offers a ensemble of smoky dark red fruit flavors mingled with spices and firm tannins. I can not wait to see how this matures over the next couple of years.
Well worth a visit, Double Canyon Winery is located at 8060 Keene Rd. in West Richland. Tasting Room Hours are Friday–Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm. To inquire about a visit, or for any other questions regarding the tasting room call 509.579.7065. Visit Double Canyon’s Website to learn more about this Washington Winery.
If a change of pace is wanted later in the day than look no further than small batch distillery Solar Spirits for some environmentally conscious production and well crafted Washington Spirits.
I first visited Solar Spirits in 2018 after reading about their innovative process and use of the highest quality Pacific Northwest ingredients. Solar Spirits “put the power of the sun in every bottle”, literally by using solar energy to power their processing equipment and stills. I return to the tasting room when in Richland to taste my favorites and try new, one of a kind Spirits, like their Coffee and Cherry Brandy.
All of Solar Spirits spirits, vodka, gin and brandy, use cranberries as their base, rather than the typical wheat or corn. The cranberries are fermented into wine before they are distilled. You don’t however get a strong cranberry flavor in these spirits, but you do get a smooth and easy sip.
This 100% renewable energy distillery is also winning some big awards with their small batch spirits. Their Eclipse Vodka won Best of Class for Vodka, Best in Category-Neutral Character Vodka and Gold, at the 2019 American Distilling Institutes’ Judging of Craft Spirits held in California.
Current products include vodka, gin, brandy and whiskey. At Solar Spirits Distillery they are “out to save the world one drink at a time”.
CEO and head distiller Jim Batdorf’s attention to detail can be attributed to his past career as a processing engineer.
Solar Spirits also recently released their American Single Malt Whiskey and it is a delightful “Whiskey made primarily with Washington Select 2-Row Malted Barley. Aged 2 years in small New American Oak barrels, finished in Solar Spirits Cherry Brandy barrels resulting in a rich, well-rounded flavor profile.”
Solar Spirits Distillery and Tasting Room is located at 2409 Robertson Drive, Richland, WA. Visit their Website to learn more.
There is an impressive choice of fine wine restaurants known for locally inspired menus in Richland, on my last visit I Wined and Dined at Fiction Restaurant located in the J. Bookwalter Winery.
J. Bookwalter has grown from one of Washington’s oldest wineries into one of the Pacific Northwest’s most recognized boutique wine brands.
J. Bookwalter Winery embraces a slow down process to the wine tasting experience with wine lounge areas and inviting grounds to explore and relax.
The outdoor area of J. Bookwalter draws you in with relaxing wine lounge areas, Bottci Ball courts and their own gardens, flanked by beautiful vineyards and open spaces.
A meal at Fiction Restaurant is best started with one of the Wine Flights offered on the menu. For my tasting I chose The Story Flight which included three J. Bookwalter Literary Red Wines the 2016 Vintages of Conflict, Suspense, and Protagonist.
2016 Protagonist Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley A.V.A Conner Lee Vineyard was a favorite of this tasting flight. Aged 20 months in 75% new French puncheons, and 25%
used French barrels this wine was a well read blend.
The Wine Story began with the Conflict which displayed an inviting classic blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Then the Suspense began to build with this generous and smooth wine, that showcases a lush blend Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Finally the Protagonist stepped in and gave a deeper understanding of the wine story with its blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The perfect pairing with the Lamb Burger and Risotto that was ordered for dinner. Silky and rich in aromas and flavors this reserve Cabernet of my favorite sip of the flight.
Dinner began with two appetizers created by Fiction’s Executive Chef Fransisco Mendoza. A Seasonal White Bean appetizer which combined Cannellini beans and seasoning, served with homemade tortilla chips. What grabbed my attention was the delicious Chèvre and Honey Appetizer that brought together Foamed Chèvre Cheese, Toasted Baguette, Honey Drizzle and Fresh Oregano. It was the ideal appetizer for a warm Spring evening on Fiction’s outdoor patio.
A crisp and fresh Wedge Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Crisp Bacon, Tomatoes, Crumbled Gorgonzola, JB Chimichurri and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing was a perfect addition to the meal.
Pairing perfectly with The Story wine flight and specifically The Protagonist wine was Fiction’s Upper Dry Creek Ranch Lamb Burger with Chèvre and Garlic Aioli with a side of Avocado Fries served with a Sriracha & Spicy Remoulade Sauce. All the flavors combined to make this a savory and delicious entree.
The second entree of the evening included in-season fresh Washington Asparagus along side a delectable plate of Risotto and Steak. It was hard not to appreciate the fresh organic and locally sourced ingredients on this plate.
Fiction combines a casual and friendly atmosphere with a Chef inspired, locally driven farm-to-table dining experience.
The perfect end to a well built story is always the addition of a dessert that leaves you fighting with your Dinner companion for the last bite. The Triple Berry Galette topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was the ideal final chapter encore.
I have been to J. Bookwalter and Fiction Restaurant twice during visits to Richland, I will return for the ambiance and wine selection as well as the promise of new dishes on the restaurant menu. For more information about the winery and restaurant visit their website: https://www.bookwalterwines.com/
There is much more about the Richland to warrant a visit, I do hope that I given you three worthy stops to fill in a day spent in this part of the Tri-Cities area.
Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.