0100fb5ef3bec306142650fbb6a643e009b2015671

A Weekend to Remember in Prosser, Washington

While Prosser may not be as well-known as, say, Walla Walla, but it is the home to a number of recognizable and award-winning wineries. It is, in fact, the birthplace of Washington Wine, thanks to the efforts of Walter Clore but more about that later. Let’s talk about the wineries of Prosser and how to spend a proper weekend in Prosser and not treat it as just another stop along the way to other regions.

GETTING THERE

017ed2c09c03dd7241cfff81fa27305b642a2220ca

As an introduction to those new to the area, Prosser is located about three hours from Portland, Oregon, across this beautiful stretch of the Columbia Gorge that is well worth the drive.  You can also fly into Pasco, Washington from Portland Airport in 45 minutes on Alaska Airlines, Delta and United.

HISTORY

Prosser is the birthplace of Washington wine, as declared by the Washington State Legislature, Mr. Clore was the father of Washington wine.   It was under Walter Clore’s direction that a number of experimental plantings would soon become the foundation of the now famous Washington wines.  Prosser has since remained at the forefront of wine growing and agricultural research in Washington State. Click here for more info on Prosser and the birthplace of Washington Wine from a previous article.

Prosser is home to Mercer Estates, Columbia Crest, and Hogue Cellars, as well as some smaller yet renowned wineries such as Chinook Winery, Gamache Vitners, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Bunnell Cellars, and Domanico Cellars.

 

FRIENDS TO TAKE ALONG

019be6625a9470a81044239c24171fc9407bef8b6e

A walk through the Domanico Cellars Vineyard with the crew.

 

Left to Right:  Sarah of Wow Communications,William of Wild 4 Washington Wine,  April of Sacred Drop, Mattie of By the Tun, Ken of Decanter Banter ,and Jason from Domanico Cellars.

Like any trip one takes, a great trip has only so much to do with the places you visit, the food you eat, and the drinks you consume; it has much more to do with the people you are with and the memories you share.  When visiting a wine region such as Prosser, take people with you on this trip who love food and wine as much as you do.

On this trip, I had the honor of being with four wonderful people, two of which I knew quite well from previous wine encounters and trips:  Mattie Bamman of By the Tun and William Pollard of Wild 4 Washington Wine.  I also had the chance to get to know Sarah Wolcott better; Sarah just launched her own communications company called Wow Communications and works for Zephyr Adventures as a phenomenal wine guide.  She is also the one who organized and led this wonderful Prosser wine tour. In addition to these three fine people, I got to meet Ken Trimpe for the first time.  Ken is a native of Washington and has a great video blog called Decanter Banter and runs his own agency called Vine Vertical.  Our friend, Alina, joined us but had to leave—what a pity; we hope you feel better!

We wine geeks love to geek out over food and wine, and while our significant others sometimes can’t help but roll their eyes at us, we have a blast. I’d like to share some to the great things to eat, drink and do in Prosser. Enjoy!

PLACES TO EAT

01e900c4ab0d0b4b97b16503e43a9bb0567ca1dda7

The beautiful Bunnell Syrah vertical at Wine O’Clock.

 

  1. Wine O’Clock

Prosser is not normally the type of town you would think you could find Michelin Star quality types of restaurants, but I found this place and only wish I could be closer so I could visit it daily.

Wine O’Clock is located in Vintners Village in Prosser, a place where you will find a number of my new favorite Washington wineries, such as Martinez & Martinez, Gamache Vintners, Cayote Canyon, and of course, Bunnell Wines.

Home to the winery of Bunnell Wines, Wine O’Clock also serves as a wine bar and bistro with an amazing and rotating selection of food made from local produce. I would not leave Prosser before thoroughly enjoying the wine flights and menu of Mrs. Susan Bunnell.  Check out her weekly menu here.

  1. Martilla’s Kitchen- Caterer

You can find wonderful food working with Kristin of Martilla’s Kitchen.   This is run by Mrs. Kristin M. Johnson, formerly of Alaska; she named her restaurant after her grandmother, who showed her how to cook her beyond-delicious meals.  If you need an Alaskan chef to cater your meals, or perhaps you are hosting an event, be sure to contact Kristin.

PLACES TO DRINK

01a4795d1afc8549b2b0dfde29013755bee8e4f590

In Washington, there is always wine for you too!

 

Other than Wine O’Clock and Bunnell Wines as your favorite winebar, make sure to visit the following great places:

Prosser Vintner’s Village:

1. Gamache Vintners:  Prosser Vintner’s Village, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Since 1982, Gamache Vintners have been farming a unique spot of land in the White Bluffs of the Columbia Valley, working alongside Mother Nature to grow top-quality grapes for some of the state’s best vintners. They decided along the way to make a few bottles of their own and have since had award-winning success. Make sure to try their 2010 Estate Cab Franc.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Summer Open daily 11-5 | Winter- Call for Appointment: 509-786-7800

2. Martinez & Martinez Winery: Prosser Vintner’s Village- Winemaker Loft- 375, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Martinez & Martinez Winery is dedicated to the production of high-quality wine from high-quality grapes, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. I had the pleasure of meeting Monica and trying her 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The people at Martinez & Martinez are wonderful people and have phenomenal wines.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Call to confirm hours: 509-786-2392 or email at info@MartinezWine.com.

3. Bunnell Wines: Prosser Vintner’s Village, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Although I previously mentioned Bunnell Wines, I wanted to point out my favorite wines from Bunnell.  I loved, loved the 2009 Bunnell Alx- Syrah; it was stunning—as was their 2006 Horse Heaven Hills Syrah, which they paired with an amazing duck plate that blew me away.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Wednesday – Sunday from noon until 5 pm; Tastings for groups of 6 or more by appointment: (509) 786-2197

The team

The dream team at Mercer Estates Winery

Prosser Food and Wine Park:

1. Mercer Estates Winery:  3100 Lee Road, Prosser, WA 99350; 509-786-2097

The Mercers have a long history in Washington.  Mercer Wines is now in its fifth generation of farming in Washington State. Make sure to stop by their tasting room and try their Ode to Brothers-Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre blend, and their beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. If you want to contribute to the Flight 93 Fund, make sure to take home a bottle of Eagle and Plow Cabernet Sauvignon; with your purchase of this wine, Mercer Wines donates 100% of its profits to First Responders groups and veterans. Well worth the visit, and say hi to Jenna! That’s where we took this great picture in front of the terracotta egg used for fermenting wine.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (March-December)

2. Chinook Wines: 220 Wittkopf Lane, Prosser, WA 99350; 509.786.2725,  info@chinookwines.com

Chinook Wines just celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013.  The brainchild of Clay Mackey and Kay Simon, Chinook Wines has become well known for its gorgeously balanced wines and its beautiful, renovated farmhouse tasting room. Make sure to try Chinook Wines’ tropical 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and its food-friendly 2011 Cab Franc.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Saturday and Sunday 12–5 May through October, or by appointment

3. Alexandria Nicole Cellars: 2880 Lee Rd, Suite D , Prosser, WA 99350

Alexandria Nicole Cellars is dedicated to producing small lots of hand-crafted wine from their 267-acre estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard.  This vineyard is located high above the bluffs on the Columbia River, near the town of Paterson, Washington, where the grapes thrive in the soils and climatic conditions of the Horse Heaven Hills.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Open daily 11-5 | 2880 Lee Rd, Suite D , Prosser, WA 99350  | 509.786.3497
HOLLYWOOD SCHOOLHOUSE: Open daily 12-5 | Friday night happy hour 5-8 |
14810 Northeast 145th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072 | 425.487.9463
DESTINY RIDGE VINEYARD AND WINERY: Open by Appt.| 158422 W. Sonova Rd., Prosser, WA 99350 | 509.242.9979

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Pontin del Roza

Pontin del Roza

1. Pontin Del Roza:  35502 N Hinzerling Rd, Prosser, WA 99350

If you love bocce ball and love a beautifully designed tasting room, this is your place. Scott Pontin will host you with some of his very nice white and rosé wines; however, he’s sold out completely of his reds (which is a pity, as this region is now becoming known for their stellar red wines)!  Scott’s family began as turkey farmers; however, in 1967, they started selling Concord grapes for juice to Yakima Valley Grape Producers, now Welch’s. Today Pontin del Roza is a thriving estate winery with over 100 acres of 10 varietals including: Riesling, Malbec, Syrah, Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Petit Verdot.

Scott’s family also farmed wheat, mint, potatoes, and sugar beets and later planted five varieties of apples, which they still farm.  Scott generously took us to see…and pick his apples. I took home some as-big-as-your-head Fuji apples, which I am now enjoying as I write.

Scott will show you a great time, and you will love the events he has at his place.  To get a sense of his place, check out his latest video:

[http://vimeo.com/68493659]

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Open daily 11-5

2. Davenlore Winery: 23103 South Davlor Pr SW, Prosser, WA 99350

This family-owned Yakima Valley winery produces high-quality DavenLore wine from hand-picked local grapes. Gordon Taylor heads up the winemaking and is also the December pinup for the Prosser Winemaker’s Calendar! He’s a hoot, and he has some beautiful wines to boot! I took home a bottle of his Sangiovese Rosé.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Fri – Sat – Sun: 11am-5pm, Mon – Thurs: Call for Appt. 509-786-1575

3. Domanico Cellars:  825 NW 49th Street, Seattle, WA 98107; 206.465.9406; info@domanicocellars.com

Domanico Cellars is a small family-owned-and-operated winery.  Jason and his wife first started their winery in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and have since grown their operations to a larger warehouse, where they house their tasting room and winery in the same neighborhood. I had the pleasure of walking through Jason’s vineyard in Prosser.  His vineyard is home to a number of different varieties and vines that have been long planted in the soils of Prosser.  Jason commutes back and forth between Prosser and Seattle and is also a very active member and board member of the Prosser Wine Network. I fell in love with his two amazing 2008 Domanico Mesa Rojo and Domanico Family Wine.  This latter wine, unfortunately, is not for sale but is only for the family. I guess I can count myself very lucky!

SEATTLE TASTING ROOM: Friday – 5:00 to 9:00PM; Saturday –  2:00 to 9:00PM

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Coming soon!

 THINGS TO DO

While every town has its attractions, Prosser is the place to come if you want to enjoy wine events. .  Click here to find out more about the latest winery events in Prosser. The events change by the season, so it’s worth checking before you head out.  You should also book your spots in advance, as spaces fill up fast.

In addition, Prosser offers great Farmers’ Markets, including their Prosser Winter Market, where you can find all the greatest of the local produce that this region is known for

Berns Tavern

Every location has a dive bar that is worth visiting at least once to get a feel for the local wildlife. We had the pleasure of visiting the one place that everyone says you have to visit before you leave.  This place is Bern’s Tavern. Bern’s Tavern is where you can rub shoulders with a lot of the local winemakers and ask them how things are going in the fermentation hall.  Even if there isn’t a local winemaker there when you go, the people in Prosser are really nice and will chat you up over an ice cold beer.

PLACES TO STAY

Desert WInd

Desert Wind Winery not only has wine but also offers four luxurious guest suites.  It’s located in the heart of the Prosser Wine & Food Park, right next to Kestrel Vintners, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Hogue Cellars, Mercer Wine Estate, and across the street from Chinook Wines.

Also highly recommended is the Seven Gables Pensione, which is a beautiful restored historic home built in the early 1900s.

There is always a place for you and your budget in Prosser!  For more recommendations, contact the tourism office of Prosser at Tour Prosser for more information.

I hope you will enjoy Prosser as much as I did!   Cheers!

IMG_0321-0

Resolutions, Sme-solutions!

As a wine writer, sometimes it’s good to take a break, regroup, refocus, and start again. I thought perhaps my liver might need a break from all the holiday and New Year celebrations, so my husband, the future doctor, came up with the brilliant idea of abstaining from alcohol for a month. My brother and his girlfriend also joined in, and soon it became this month of cleansing, not just from alcohol but also from gluten, solid food, sugar, coffee, and dairy products.

If you are like most people, one thing at a time might be the only way to do this, but then there are those superhumans who manage to abstain for everything all at once, such as taking on the Paleo diet.

I honestly tried. I bought a book called Primal Blueprint, which seemed really interesting and offers a 21-day plan for following the Paleo Diet. Honestly, I picked it up, put it down, and carried it around, and it is still in the same bag I got it from. I have a hard time imagining giving up my coffee, sugar, and milk that I drink every single morning. I don’t see why I should give up my oatmeal when I know it is heart-healthy. Perhaps I could eat less bread, but I love bread.

So this brings to me to the only thing I have been trying to do, and amazingly, I did succeed at it—at taking a break from alcohol. Yes, all forms: wine, beer, cider, and cocktails. Cocktails aren’t something I’ve touched since I became 21, but Oregon is known for its amazing breweries, cider houses, and wineries. It’s a very hard thing to avoid when on every single corner of Portland there are amazing craft brew houses and urban wineries—not to mention the fact that I work at a winery.

The first few days were excruciating, unimaginable in terms of breaking a habit formed over time. I love coming home after work to enjoy a glass of wine that transports me to a place in my memories or a wine that sings with food. However, by day three, it was ok. I replaced alcoholic drinks with sparkling water, and with that I’ve been relatively fine ever since….that is, until I was a part of a beautiful VIP tour and was re-tasting our wines, and I realized just how tasty they were! Nevertheless, I managed to spit the wine out, as a professional always does. Some were hard to spit, but it was, and is, possible—and for me, taking this break has been great on my budget, waistline, and liver.

I am, however, looking forward to opening that first new bottle of wine. Now I just have to decide which one it will be! From Washington reds to Chiantis from Italy, to Spanish Tempranillos, and of course, Oregon Pinots, I’m not sure where to start.

I think I’d like to do a tour of the world through wines. Stay tuned for this fun future series!

Pairing wine with Thanksgiving? Don’t forget these two things!

 

imageFor Thanksgiving dinner, pairing wine with all of those beautiful Thanksgiving plates can be a tricky endeavor. Look for wines with high acidity and fruit to complement that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner! Acid can cleanse your palate, and fruitiness can withstand all of that sugar and salt.   Here are three essential Thanksgiving wines that are sure to please everyone.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine

This wine goes with practically anything, and I mean almost anything. Not only is it a naturally celebratory wine with its bubbles and pop, it is a wine that is sure to please everyone at the table.

For Bubbly, my favorite go-to-wine is Argyle Brut Sparkling Wine.  Made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, it is not too dry but just perfectly dry enough to make even the dry wine drinkers rejoice.  At $26 a bottle, one can probably buy two bottles to share, one at the beginning of dinner and one at the end of the meal.

Perhaps you are interested in trying some Cava or a French Cremant? Most Cava and Cremant are made with the same champenoise method as Champagne, undergoing the same rigorous aging and bottling process in order to make them as miraculous as the better-known Champagne from France.  While indeed the majority of Cava and Cremants employ the same method, some use different grape varietals to make their sparkling wines. They are most definitely worth a try, especially at the much lower price point.

For Whites, you will want a white wine that has a little bit of residual sugar, emphasizing the fruitier side, like the 2012 Hyland Estates Riesling. This wine is fruit forward and has that perfect touch of residual sugar that makes it the perfect complement for Thanksgiving.  It has a beautiful pear, white peach, petrol, and green apple mouth with vibrant citrus and kiwi finish. It’s available online for $28.

Another favorite white of mine is 2010 Schlossberg Alsace Grand Cru AOC Riesling, by far one of the best Rieslings I have tasted to date.  At $35, it is a wine that is sure to please. It is generous and balanced, and it shows beautiful minerality and petrol–all the qualities I look for in a Riesling. It has been rated 91 points by Robert Parker, 93+ by Stephen Tanzer, and 92 points by Wine Spectator.

For Reds, pick a high-acid, low-tannin Pinot Noir, with bright cherry and cranberry flavors over rich spices.  One such is the Southern Oregon wine 2008 Brandborg Love Puppets Pinot Noir.  This wine shows such freshness, with ripe raspberries and strawberries, tha you think you have a beautifully baked pie in a glass. It has some rustic notes that enable it to to stand its ground and complement even the most exuberant side dishes. It is available for a very reasonable $30 online.

Another favorite of mine is a Pinot Noir: 2010 Lemelson Meyer Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This Pinot Noir has been one of my favorite vintages to date, and it comes from the great winemaker, Anthony King, who has consistently made some gorgeous wines. This 2010 reminded me of a springtime fresh fruit basket of raspberries and strawberries, with a touch of light tomato stem giving it that great structure, acidity, and length.  It would be another great pairing to consider for this Thanksgiving weekend!  It is available in 2012 vintage for $48, and if you are lucky, you might find a 2010 in a magnum (a 1.5-liter bottle).

(A secret:  The larger the format bottle, the better the maturing capability of the wine because less of the wine is in contact with air.  In other words, the same wine purchased in a larger bottle will generally taste better.)

I hope you have a wonderful and very thankful Thanksgiving. I am very thankful to have you as readers and I hope that I can continue to provide you with the kind of stories you find interesting and useful.

Happy Thanksgiving!