I was able to explore the Tri-Cities Washington area on whirlwind, but extraordinary, tour hosted by Visit Tri-Cities. The Tri-Cities area includes the cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, Washington — all located in the southern portion of the state. In addition to the three cities that comprise the area, there are three rivers that meet up here, the Columbia, Snake and Yakima rivers. You are well poised to explore Washington’s amazing wine regions from the Tri Cities area.
You can access the area via the Tri Cities airport, or if you would like to explore the entire state, you could fly into Seattle and take a 3.5 hour drive through the stunning landscape of the Columbia Valley. A little less than hour southeast of the Tri-Cities area is Walla Walla, which you definitely do not want to miss on a visit to Washington State.
My visit was a post conference excursion from the Wine Bloggers Conference, so I began the morning travelling from Walla Walla aboard a motor coach.
Goose Ridge Winery and Vineyards
Our first stop was at Goose Ridge winery and vineyards where we began with a tour of the facility. The shear size of the winery is astounding but it makes sense as Goose Ridge is home to Washington State’s largest single vineyard at 22,000 acres! It was harvest and upon our arrival we were able to see a load of grapes begin its journey to becoming wine.
We were treated to barrel samples of wine – a chardonnay from a concrete egg that was only about 2 weeks into the process and a Syrah that had spent many months in barrel. The visit at Goose Ridge ended at their pavilion where we sampled Goose Ridge Reserve wines, cider, their Cascadian Outfitter canned wine. While tours to the public are not offered at the winery, there are tasting rooms located in Richland, Leavenworth and Walla Walla. Goose Ridge is owned by the Monson family who’s history of farming in this area runs deep. The Goose Ridge AVA is currently under consideration which is always exciting news. The landscape of Washington wine would not be the same without this winery and their vineyards, so a trip to one of the tasting rooms should not be missed on any visit to Washington State.
J. Bookwalter Winery
Our next stop was J. Bookwalter. If you are not familiar with J. Bookwalter, you can thank me later for the introduction. We tasted so many outstanding samples, both barrel and bottle, but one of the best things about J. Bookwalter is the onsite kitchen, Fiction. Our brunch/lunch was a treat for the senses – from the avocado fries to the quinoa stuffed peppers – everything was outstanding. Any time I am in Washington a visit to J. Bookwalter and Fiction will be part of my itinerary.
Jerry Bookwalter has been an important figure in Washington State grape growing since 1976, but it was not until 1982 that J. Bookwalter Winery was born. Currently Jerry’s son John is at the helm, but in 2014, most of the wine making was turned over to acclaimed winemaker Caleb Foster. Caleb was a phenomenal host, as was tasting room manager, Ryder. The winery and tasting room are the former residence of the Bookwalters and there is some sort of great energy here that makes you feel as comfortable as if you are visiting a friend for the afternoon. I knew I was going to be a life long fan when Ryder told me that the Conflict pairs best with a recliner and Netflix.
Red Mountain AVA
Our next stop was on the famed Red Mountain. The Red Mountain AVA is Washington’s smallest (4,040 acres) and most famous grape growing region. The first vines were planted in 1975 and are currently producing the states most sought after grapes.
Terra Blanca Winery hosted a Sense of Place Tasting for our group, led by April Redout, of the famed Col Solare. The tasting included 8 Cabernet Sauvignon wines, each from a different producer. Six of the wines were from 2015, one from 2014 and one from 2011. All of the wines were made with grapes grown on Red Mountain.
This is the sort of thing that keeps me fascinated with the subject matter of wine and assures me that I will be a life long student. All of the wines were so distinct! It is amazing to me that grapes of the same variety, the same terroir and mostly from the same vintage can taste so different. Here are the wines that we tasted:
Water2Wine Cruises, Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Following this visit we were dropped off at the Courtyard at Columbia Point in Richland to take a quick break and change for dinner. The location of the hotel was fantastic! Not only did you have a great water view from the property, you have direct access to a 23 mile paved trail. You can also walk to several restaurants via the trail – now that’s a nice perk.
Just when you’d think we couldn’t fit anymore into a day, it turned to night and we had a lovely dinner and wine cruise aboard this beautiful Water2Wine yacht. which we were able to walk to from our hotel – perfect!
The following morning, we had the option of a stand up paddle board class offered through Northwest Paddle Boarding, but the temperature the next morning was just too cold and the even was cancelled.
Our host, Visit Tri Cities, was phenomenal. They made sure that we all knew where we were headed next and providing us with great information about the area along the way between stops. They also gifted us with great Tri Cities goodie bags loaded with awesome gifts — including this bottle of wine, plus a stemless glass, a bottle stopper, chocolates, snack mixes, water — all in a handy drawstring bag for easy transport – everything you could think of that might come in handy while travelling.
Tri Cities is a great central area to explore Washington state wine and it would also be a great place to host a conference or corporate vent. And Tri-Cities wants you – they will happily roll out the red carpet for you.
A ten minute ride to the Tri-Cities Airport concluded my visit to this awesome area and I honestly can’t wait to go back.
Full Disclosure Policy: This is the third article of three that I agreed to write in exchange for discounted registration as a Citizen Blogger for the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference (Zephyr Conferences). Please know that if I am writing about an experience, a person or a place, it is because I felt it worthy of sharing. The conference provided more than enough content to write multiple articles, if it is not something that impressed me enough to share, I won’t write about it.
This excursion was a Wine Bloggers Conference Post-Conference Excursion and I paid a $25 registration for the experience. the food, tastings and experiences, including the accommodation written about were complimentary.