George V. Reilly

Washington's Wineries

Tri-Cities Wine Festival

It’s shocking how few times I’ve crossed the Cascades into Eastern Washington in the seventeen years that I’ve lived in Seattle. We go up or down the I-5 corridor, usually heading for Portland or Vancouver, or we cross Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula. But we never go more than about 30 miles inland.

We needed a break and we wanted to celebrate our 12th an­niver­sary. For once, we decided to head over to Wash­ing­ton’s wine country. The Tri-Cities Wine Festival was being held in Kennewick today, so that was our des­ti­na­tion.

We drove across Snoqualmie Pass yesterday, through sleeting rain and snow, arriving in Kennewick after dark. This morning, we wandered around Howard Amon Park on the Columbia, then headed west towards Benton City to visit some wineries. We were struck by how arid the landscape is once you leave the riverfront: scrub and tum­ble­weeds mostly, with the occasional orchard or vineyard. Such a contrast to verdant Western Washington.

We visited three wineries on Sunset Road in the Red Mountain Ap­pel­la­tion. We liked Kiona Winery and Tapteil Winery enough that we came away with bottles from each. Tapteil provided us with a Syrah and some olive oil; Kiona, some Lembergers, a Merlot, and a Gewurz­tramin­er. Were it not for the wine festival, we would have stopped at more wineries.

The Tri-Cities Wine Festival was held at the Convention Center, across the street from our hotel. More than 80 wineries were exhibiting there. We sampled wines from a large number of them. Neither of us are wine con­nois­seurs and the wines quickly started to blur together. Emma kept notes on the program, so there’s some hope that we’ll be able to buy our favorites later. Many of the smaller ones sell most of their stock through their tasting rooms.

Curiously, many of the wines we liked were grown around Lake Chelan. Clearly, another wine trip is called for.

Wine was not being sold at the festival. I imagine this was partly for logistics and partly due to the crazy patchwork of laws sur­round­ing the sale and shipping of alcohol in this country.

Tomorrow, we plan to head south to the Columbia gorge, where it separates Washington from Oregon, and visit a few more wineries.

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