An Afternoon with a Willamette Valley Wine Legend: David Adelsheim

Wine Writers’ Educational Tour (WWET) Willamette Valley 2019-Legends Seminar

Last month I attended the WWET in the Willamette Valley and during this tour we had the memorable opportunity to be audience to 6 of the winemaking pioneers of the Willamette Valley.

Gathered at the table from Left to Right:
Richard Ponzi and Nancy Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards, Harry Petterson Nedry of RR Wines (formally Ribbon Ridge Winery), David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, Jason Lett whose Dad David founded Eyrie Vineyards, and Susan Sokol-Blosser of Sokol Blosser Winery

My hope is to share the story and wines from each of these original founding families of the Willamette Valley and the wines that they shared during the tasting part of the seminar. Each of their personal stories is filled with inspiration, struggles and strong determination to succeed in a business that most of them really knew nothing about, winemaking in the Willamette Valley. Each of these pioneer’s history and story is equally educational and fascinating, so let’s begin with David Adelsheim.

David Adelsheim’s story and winemaking journey began in the Willamette Valley in 1971.

(All quotes from David are from the seminar on August 13, 2019)

David began his story with a little background of how he ended up in the Willamette Valley.

“To give you an idea of our entry into the wine industry, my first wife and I wanted to move from Portland out to the suburbs. But, we didn’t want to go to far away from Portland because of the fact that we never lived outside of the city.”

“So we drew a circle around Portland and kind of went in several directions, but when we came southwest we ended up in this area and ran into a realtor and he told us he had heard that some people had planted wine grapes, which was extremely exciting to me, so we spend the rest of the afternoon looking for wine grapes, and actually never found any.”

Intrigued by the story of wine grapes being grown in the area, David and his first wife continued there search.

“Toward the end of the day we drove up Kings Grey Road, which is over in the Chehalem Mountains, and stopped a guy who was outside his house and asked him if he had ever heard of anybody who had planted wine grapes. And, as it turned out he and that man was Dickey Erath, and he pointed out back a couple of miles away to what was back then the first vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.”

Dick “Dickey” Erath of Erath Winery purchased his first vineyard site on Chehalem Mountain in 1968. In 1969 Dick planted four acres of the property with 23 wine varieties, including Pinot Noir.

“We didn’t actually see those grapes back then either, but as it turned out we had a friend in common, a student who was taking a class, with Bill Blosser. We conceived a plan to get to Bill Blosser and we got in his office and that is where we meet Bill and his wife Susan. Susan invited us to a May Day party, this was 1971, at their rental home which was in the Dundee Hills and they invited some other people. In my mind it was, the Ponzi’s, Harry (Peterson-Nedry) and the Courys (Charles and Shirley Coury). At that point we knew about half of the wine industry.”

Charles and Shirley Coury arrived in the Willamette Valley in March of 1965 and planted their first vines in a nursery which was established by cared for by David Lett. The Coury’s then returned a year later from California and purchased land in Forest Grove that had formally been operated as a vineyard and winery. On the property historically named David Hill, the Coury’s replanted Pinot Noir and Riesling.

David continued to share bits of history from the those years in the 70’s and into the early 80’s, with one bit of important information.

“Nobody ever sold wine, nobody had ever run a business or had a great deal of experience in winemaking.”

David went on to share some of his personal insight into winemaking in the Willamette Valley and tried to answer the question of ‘Why are you here’.

“Why is the Willamette Valley here today with that kind of beginning? I think the answer is ‘Collaborative Peace’, which Susan (Sokol-Blosser) mentioned. The second extremely important piece is we wanted to make great wine.”

Many at the table agreed during the seminar that what was a critical factor in the success of the Willamette Valley wine industry was that they did not set out to make money. David commented, “we just didn’t know how you did that in this business and I think it didn’t matter that much.”

An impressive line up of wines from the Legends.

David then moved on to discuss the two wines that he had brought for the tasting that day; first a 1986 Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir ‘Elizabeth’s Reserve’ Willamette Valley and then a 2007 Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir ‘Bryan Creek Vineyard’ Chehalem Mountains.

“The wine that I actually want you to try is the kind of thing that we did back then, this is a ’86 Reserve, that is in fact a blend of two different vineyards, one from the Chehalem Mountains and one from the Dundee Hills. This wine came about because we wanted to make a small wine of what we thought would be an even better wine. By selecting the best barrels from these two sites which made this wine.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story behind this 1986 vintage that David told in visually expressive way, with comments and laughter added by everyone at the table.

“Now ’86 was not a particularly great vintage and we added a dimension to this wine, which comes out as a minty quality, that would be what became known as the ‘Zambelli Effect. Before this we were doing things smaller, by hand, sometimes in buckets. But then this ‘music man’ came around and he had a piece of equipment that was glowing stainless steel and promised a lot of labor saving advantages. It would de-stem, it would crush and as a result our wines changed. And, we all recognized this.”

David’s 1986 ‘Elizabeth’s Reserve’ Pinot Noir was rich in amber tones yet still fairly translucence for a 33 year old wine. I did pick up some of the ‘mint’ notes in both the aroma and flavor that David spoke of in this Pinot, in addition I noted a mixture of dried fruit, dried herbs and vanilla on the nose. I did love the deep flavor of this wine and was slightly surprised by its light texture. The same flavors came through with each sip, dried herbs and fruit with just a soft hint of vanilla.

When it came time to introduce his second wine you could tell that David was extremely proud of this vintage, and rightfully so, it was in a word Amazing! Here is what Mr. Adelsheim had to say about this 2007 Pinot Noir:

“I wanted to bring this (2007) because it is illustrative of what has happened since around 2000. The 2017 Bryon Creek is a single vineyard, we had made single vineyards before but this was the first time we didn’t call it Chehalem Mountains. Chehalem Mountains which I had petitioned for was finally approved in 2006 and so this was the first thing we bottled that we could put that AVA on.

David Adelsheim is a strong supporter of single vineyard and this wine marked the next step in really giving his wines a sense of place.

“Willamette Valley is not just about large scale place, its about small scale place. It is my belief that the future of the Willamette Valley and Pinot Noir is about single vineyards, single block vineyards, because they are so distinct.”

“When you can produce a single vineyard, that changes everything about a wine. Because you are no longer talking about how to make the wine better. All you can do is leave things out. Because you got what you got and if you screwed it up in fermentation or screwed up a barrel, all you can do is leave that out. So it takes winemaking to the next level, it requires a higher level of focus. But, the pleasures that you retrieve from a single place, single variety of a wine are hugely different from what you get by pushing things together to off set this little problem by putting this wine into that over here. When you do this it no longer tastes of that singular place. So, to me this was the first (2007) vintage we got to actually say where that place was.”

The tasting mat was mislabeled for the Adelsheim Vineyard ‘Bryon Creek Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 Chehalem Mountains.

For me this 2007 Bryon Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir was a perfect Willamette Valley Pinot and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to taste this vintage. On the nose and on the palate my first thought was brandy soaked cherries with a familiar mineral scent that I had discovered in many of the areas wines. I think many at my table agreed this was an exceptional wine.

David, like the other Willamette Valley ‘Legends’ took time to talk with us after the seminar to answer any additional questions that we many have forgotten to ask.

It is not often that you get the good fortune to be among such an important group of individuals who with determination, hard work and yes luck, built a wine region literally from the ground up. I can’t say whether or not I will ever have an opportunity like this seminar again, but I know that it will be one that I remember for years to come.

Thank you Richard and Nancy Ponzi, Harry Peterson-Nedry, David Adelsheim, Jason Lett, and Susan Sokol-Blosser for taking the time to share your incredible stories with us.

I hope that you enjoyed David Adelsheim’s story as much as I did, I will be sharing more from this seminar and the stories from the other Willamette Valley pioneers very soon.

ALL images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Oregon’s Sparktacular Renaissance

For those who get excited when they hear the cork being popped on a bottle of Sparkling wine, the amount of time and labor that goes into producing this treasure is often not the first thought on their wine drinking radar. It’s the seduction of the sound, the shimmery bubbles, and the perfect flavors that keep Sparkling wine sales rising here in the United States. With ten consecutive years of sales growth in the U.S., sparkling wine sales is a good indicator that people are not just buying more wine, they are buying more expensive wine and enjoying every sip. In Oregon, there is a continuing devotion and an uptick in Sparkling Wine production which is gracefully elbowing its way into a place among the worlds top-quality bubbles.

Willamette Valley Sparkling Wines

For the 2018 vintage, close to 40 Oregon wineries produced méthode champenoise sparkling.

While Oregon may well be known for its versatile and award-winning Pinot Noir, yet its accomplishments with sparkling wines change the dialogue when it comes to discussions about Oregon wines. With a suitable climate for the production of traditional Champagne varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Oregon’s sun soaked and wind swept hillside vineyards are yielding an array of sparkling wines exhibiting Oregon’s pioneer determination as well as elegance and complexity.

A Lunch & Sparkling Wine Seminar at Argyle Winery

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Argyle Winery in Willamette Valley as part of the Wine Writers Educational Tour (WWET). Our stop at Argyle was both a lunch, beautifully hosted by Argyle and an Oregon sparkling wine educational seminar with four Willamette Valley Sparkling Winemakers.

Glasses of Argyle Sparkling wine were poured as our WWET group was greeted by Argyle staff including Sales/Marketing Director Nate Rob Alstrin and Winemaker Nate Klostermann (right). I want to personally thank the staff at Argyle for their generous hospitality during our visit.

During lunch we had the pleasure of tasting Sparkling wines from Argyle Winery, ROCO, Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Bryn Mawr. The winemakers from each of these prestigious wineries shared with us the story of their sparkling production journey while we sampled each of their unique Oregon sparkling wines. The Oregon Sparkling Seminar, with an emphasis on the Willamette Valley, was a great way to dive deeper into the history of Sparkling production in the Valley as well as get a better perspective of how the winemakers see this style of wine evolving in the future for Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

Winemakers from Left to Right: Joe Ibrahim of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Rachel Rose of Bryn Mawr, Nate Klostermann of Argyle Winery and Rollin Soles of ROCO.

More than three decades ago the journey to produce Oregon Sparkling wine on a large scale was pioneered by Argyle and Rollin Soles of ROCO, then the head winemaker and co-founder (along with Brian Croser) of Argyle Winery. Rollin will tell you that the Willamette Valley “is really a fantastic place to grow sparkling wine grapes, but you don’t turn the sparkling winemaking process on (in a snap of the fingers) and you don’t learn the craft in that way either.”

“If you want to become a red winemaker in the Willamette Valley, and make Pinot Noir in the Valley, it’s like Bingo Bango Bongo and you look like a champion. But, with sparkling wine, that is not the case. It is hard for folks to wrap their heads around the proper long term process and aging methods of sparkling wines.”

Rollin Soles

Although most Oregon wineries age their sparkling wines for two to three years before releasing the vintage, it’s becoming common to hold back a portion of the production for extended 5 to 10 year tirages.

For more information on the Sparkling Wine process visit Wine Folly’s informative Website:

Individual winery production of sparkling wine in the state is still small, with Argyle leading the way with the largest production of five different sparkling wines. Many other Oregon wineries are only releasing fewer than a hundred cases, making their sparkling wines hard to find, even locally, outside the winery tasting rooms. Sparkling wine is undoubtedly more challenging than a still wine like Pinot Noir, and the processing time is not the only hurdle that wineries have to overcome when producing sparkling wines. Growing or sourcing the right fruit, in the right condition, can be a limiting factor for some wineries. Luckily the climate of the Willamette Valley is ideal for producing exclusive fruits and thus exclusive wines with flavor characteristics different for anywhere else in the United States.

For centuries, sparkling wine has been linked with celebration and special occasions, now however, it is not uncommon to pop open a bottle of bubbles on a Wednesday night for no reason except that it is ‘Wine Wednesday”.

The fact is that some wine regions lend themselves to sparkling wine production better than others and Oregon is continuing to, like bubbles in a glass, rise to the top in the world of sparkling, one vintage at a time. Below are just a few examples of the Sparkling wines tasted on the Wine Writes Educational Tour that are available from Willamette Valley wineries.

Argyle Winery

Argyle Extended Tirage Brut 2008

Sometimes words just can’t do a wine justice and this is the case with this Arygle Sparkling Wine. With layers of fruit flavor and crisp acidity this 2008 Entended Tirage Brut was aged upon the lees for 10 years giving it a deep and creamy character. Orange zest springs forward with each sip, followed by honey buttered toast flavors. A beautiful Sparkling that sings a beautiful song of elegance with each bubble released.


ROCO RMS Sparkling Brut 2015

If you haven’t tried a ROCO RMS Sparkling wine yet, spoiler alert…they are fantastic! The 2015 Sparkling Brut from ROCO is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, and made in the traditional méthode Champenoise. Alluring is a word that comes to mind when sipping this sparkling, the color, the shimmer and the aroma vie for your attention, distracting you from taking that first sip. Then when you pull your attention back to the task at hand and indulge in the first sip you get flavors of a fresh morning breakfast of fruit cocktail and freshly toasted bread mingled with a saline wish. In a word, Sparktacular!

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Willamette Valley Vineyard Brut 2015

The Willamette Valley Vineyard Brut 2015 may have held the most surprises for me in the way of flavor. More citrusy than the other sparkling wines tasted, this Brut washed over my tongue in waves of citrus and zest with hints of apple and that all familiar burnt toast note. Lovely with a silky and smooth texture I couldn’t imagine a better wine to have with a cheese platter on a lazy summer afternoon sitting under a shade tree. Delightful!

Bryn Mawr Vineyards

Bryn Mawr Innovation Series Pétillant Naturel 2018

Bryn Mawr describes their Innovation Series as an introduction to “unbridled winemaking curiosity and technical exploration to our lineup. Different varietals, different techniques, and anything but predictable, these small batch experiments are made with no guarantees of a repeat next vintage. ” This completely sums up what you will experience in a bottle of their 2018 Pétillant Naturel (natural sparkling) a uniquely unpredictable sparkling experience. I loved the use of 10% Maréchal Foch (read more about my infatuation with this grape ) in this sparkling along with 84 % Pinot Gris and 6% Pinot Noir. Winemaker, Rachel Rose, has created a creamy, dreamy, sweet and spirited sparkling with this wine. A must try!

Chris James Cellars

Chris James Cellars ‘Prost!’ Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine 2017

I had the opportunity to enjoy a dinner at Left Coast Cellars in Rickreall, OR with Beth James during the WWET WV tour. As their 2017 Chris James Cellars ‘Prost!'(meaning “cheers” in German) Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine was being poured Beth, with a contagious amount of enthusiasm, told us a little about their journey into the world of winemaking and the conception of this delicious Oregon Sparkling wine. What made this sparkling so appealing is that it is a white blend of 60% Cider and 40% Gewürztraminer. An absolutely amazing flavor combination with sweet green apple taking center stage in both aroma and flavor. Mingled with flavors of a fresh batch of spiced applesauce you get whispers of floral notes and a refreshing dry finish. A sparkling so lovely that I could not bring myself to pour it out when the next wine needed space in my glass. So, I eagerly finished it, problem solved!

Native Flora

Native Flora Cuvée Libertus! 2015

On the last day of the WWET WV tour we were hosted at the stunning tasting room of Native Flora for lunch and a wine tasting. While enjoying views of the Willamette Valley that stretched on for miles we tasted our way through some of Native Flora’s best wines and enjoyed the story behind each bottle from Scott Flora. Saving the best for last Scott brought out a bottle of his limited production 2015 Cuvée Libertus! and he completely wowed us with this sparkling pour. This Extra Brut Sparkling is made by hand, a true Methode Champenoise, and was so refreshing and unique in flavor that when lunch was over may of us (including myself) lined up to purchase a bottle of this sparkling gem. No tasting notes here on this wine as I was so wrapped up in enjoying the glass that I did not take time to do anything else but enjoy the view, the company and the shimmering wine in my glass. If given the opportunity I would say snag a bottle of this sparkling as quick as you can.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Chilling in the Pacific Northwest with Cascade Ice

This post is sponsored by Cascade Ice and all products were provided. Photographs, thoughts and opinions are my own.

As in life, chill for the best results!

I first discovered Cascade Ice products when I moved to Washington State over 12 years ago. It started with their Zero Calorie Naturally Flavored Sparkling Water and then when their Organic Sparkling Water came on the market I knew I had found a new favorite beverage. Recently I became curious when I heard about Cascade Ice’s new product, a Flavored Caffeinated Sparkling Water. To be honest I gave up soda and other sugary drinks last year and I have to admit that sometimes I miss that caffeine boost in the afternoon. With my busy photography and freelance writing business I need all of the energy that I can get.

When most of my day is spent outdoors in nature, I really appreciate the Organic Flavor and Organic Caffeine in this new Sparkling Water.

A little history about this Pacific Northwest Company

Unique Beverage Company was established in 2001 by local life-time Washingtonians Mike Broadwell and Mark Christensen. Family owned and operated with more than 85 years combined experience in the bottling and beverage business, they developed Cascade Ice Sparkling Water. Many of the employees today have been with them from the beginning. From still water, to sparkling water, to sparkling water with caffeine, and a few things in the middle, they are always thinking about new and innovative products.

Taking Cascade Ice’s Caffeinated Sparkling Water on the Road.

Recently I took a road trip up to the North Cascade National Park and drove the Cascade Loop Highway with my family. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try all four flavors, Grapefruit, Citrus Twist, Black Raspberry, and Pomegranate Mango while enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Turns out it was a great alternative to an afternoon cup of coffee since the weather was in the 90-degree range.

Just Chilling by the Skagit River

These new drinks consist of only three ingredients: Carbonated Water, Natural Organic Flavor, and Organic Caffeine (derived from Organic Green Coffee Beans) giving you the #powerof3.

Enjoying the power of 3 by the Methow River in Winthrop, WA

Enjoying nature with a little sparkling water.

It is always important for me to make my go-to source of hydration throughout the day water, but sometimes you just want to enjoy something with a bit of fizz and flavor. This is when I enjoy a chilled can of Cascade Ice’s Caffeinated Sparkling Water the most, and although all the flavors are refreshing, I really love the flavor of the Organic Black Raspberry.

On a recent photo shoot, I brought some Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling water with me to photograph and enjoy on a hot summer day. While setting up a shot a woman and her dog walked by and comment on the beautiful day, I replied that it was just a perfect PNW day and we struck up a conversation. Soon she asked what I was doing and I told her about my photography business and showed her the products that I was shooting that day. Well as often happens I asked if I could photograph her dog and her by the lake and she agreed, then I paid her in kind with a can of the new Sparkling Water. Needless to say she was thrilled and so was I.

Tanner was the perfect model.

Add an Organic Boost to Your Day!

The nice thing about this new sparkling water is that it is perfect if you are trying to cut out sugar and artificial ingredients from your daily diets. Plus, they’re great for a hike, outdoor picnic or just to add some flavor and sparkle to your day. The Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling Water has been great during the hotter Pacific Northwest summer days, especially after a long day of work outside. Really Refreshing and did I mention Zero Calories!

You can find the new Cascade Ice Caffeinated Sparkling Water in local stores in the PNW, such as Albertson’s, Bartell’s, QFC and Safeway as well as in selected stores in several other states. This is a new product so if you don’t see it in a store near you, Ask your favorite store to stock Cascade Ice with Caffeine.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Walla Walla Wine Country: Dunham Cellars

Early Spring in the Walla Walla Valley Vineyards

Walla Walla Valley Wine Country in Washington state draws thousands of wine loving tourists each year with its 140 wineries, nationally recognized Pacific Northwest cuisine, and a wine country charm that is unlike anywhere else in the United States. Walla Walla offers access to an abundance of outdoor recreation, and an impressive local arts & entertainment scene. I have shared other Walla Walla wineries and wine experiences in the past, and since we are still celebrating Washington Wine Month I wanted to give a quick shout out to one more Walla Walla winery that warrants a visit when in the WW Valley.

Dunham Cellars

There is just something incredibly inviting about the Dunham Cellars, tasting room has a welcoming ‘pull up a chair and stay awhile’ feel to it.

As a teenager in the early 1980’s founding Winemaker Eric Dunham discovered his love for wine as he helped himself and enjoyed his parent’s international wine collection. Even a change of wine cellar locks could not stop Eric from finding new ways to sample the cellar’s offerings much to his parents dismay. This self introduced wine loving journey continued as Eric enjoyed numerous trips to Napa Valley over the years with a final declaration that what he wanted to do most with his life was to make wine. With a plan in place Eric worked at Hogue Cellars in Prosser, WA on a 6 month internship and soon after he was hired at L’Ecole No. 41 as their assistant winemaker. Eric began making small lots of Dunham wine at L’Ecole with winemaker Marty Clubb’s blessing and 1995 marked the first bottling of Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon. The rest, as they say, is history after Eric was introduced to David and Cheryll Blair who shared Eric’s passionate pursuit of great wines.

Dunham Cellars Winery and Tasting Room is located at 150 E. Boeing Ave. in Walla Walla, WA
The Tasting Room is open daily from 11:00am – 4:00pm.

Today Dunham Cellars invites people to their welcoming tasting room just outside of Walla Walla to try their current releases and share more about the winery’s history. During my visit I not only got to taste some of their wines but I was given a behind the scenes tour of the winery including a peak into their impressive Wine Library.

Dunham Cellar’s Amazing Wine Library

Who wouldn’t want to take home some of these library collections!

A tasting of their current releases and more!

The anticipation of the first drop from a memorable barrel tasting!
Just a few of the wines from Dunham Cellars tasting flight.

I am a big fan of Dunham Cellars red wines, especially Three Legged Red which is currently in my cellar. However, it was their selection of whites which completely WOWed me. I am continuing to find myself stepping into the role of a Washington State White Wine advocate.

Each of these wines were offered in the tasting flight, can you guess which one I took home with me?

I was instantly charmed by Dunham Cellars beautiful 2016 Late Harvest Riesling.

This stunning 2016 vintage Late Harvest Riesling grabs you attention instantly with its soft amber color even before you take a sip. For me this wine felt like Fall in a glass with spectacular notes of honey dipped pears and sweet spices. I imagined enjoying this wine with a slice of whip cream topped pumpkin pie and I am sure that is exactly what I will pair it with something this coming holiday season. The rich flavor of this wine was so beautifully rounded and delivered a lovely long finish that as I write this and remember the flavor I wish I had purchased more than one bottle. This 100% Riesling was made from grapes grown in Lewis Estate Vineyard in the Columbia Valley and is 100% stainless.

Walla Walla Wine Country never fails to amaze me with its sprawling landscape and unique Washington Wineries. I hope your travels through this wine region, you stop in at Dunham Cellars and get a taste of some true Walla Walla wine making history.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

A Road Trip Stop in Richland, WA

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.

Tri-Cities Washington Road Trip Times

  • 3:30 hour road trip from Seattle, WA
  • 3:45 hour road trip from Portland, OR
  • 5:45 hour road trip from Vancouver, BC
  • 2:45 hour road trip from Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • 2:00 hour road trip from Spokane, WA

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.

A visit to Double Canyon Winery

Double Canyon Winery in West Richland, Washington

All in the Pursuit of a Great Cabernet Sauvignon

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.

Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Highlights

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.

Finding Some Spirit in Richland

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.

Wining and Dining in Richland

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.

On the Menu

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.

The Main Course

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.

Always Save Room for Dessert

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:

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.