A Weekend to Remember in Prosser, Washington
While Prosser may not be as well-known as, say, Walla Walla, it is 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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)
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
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:
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; firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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 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!