The Tri-Cities area is one of the least interesting places I have been to on my trip so far. It is a very functional area, as the gateway to the South East, and there are many new communities that have blossomed in housing estates. But it is generally a city without much heart and soul. I was fairly glad to be heading off along the Yakima River towards Seattle, as it would take me through areas where a third of the fruit is grown in Washington. After trying many wines from the Yakima AVA I was keen to see how the environment influenced the wines. The most South Eastern sub-region of the Yakima Valley is Red Mountain, where many of the best reds come from. Whilst it is at least a quarter of the size of the Walla Walla Valley, it amazingly grows more fruit. It is very dry, and probably gets very hot in summer. In a way it reminded me of the Barossa Valley, so naturally Rhone varieties like Shiraz do very well here. This is certainly not white wine country, otherwise it would be called Red & White Mountain.
|Red Mountain AVA|
There are very few wineries in the Yakima Valley though, a lot of the fruit either travelling to Walla Walla or closer to Seattle. Most of the best wineries are in these places, relying on wine tourism and their location to sell their wines. The Yakima Valley is about 60 miles in length and most of the towns are very small with little accommodation. I only visited two wineries in the Yakima Valley, and they were both very good for the prices they were charging, but not exceptional quality. Fidelitas was established by a former Chateau Ste. Michelle, like most people in the Washington wine industry. They make a range of single varietal wines which are very solid but not outstanding. Hyatt Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries in the region. They make a range of very good wines that sell for $10-$15 are are the best value I have tasted.
Driving from the Yakima Valley to Seattle is one of the most dramatic and beautiful I have experienced. As you drive through the semi-arid part of Washington State the landscape opens up and stretches for miles towards the Cascade Mountains. As you climb the scenery changes back to being fertile and forested again, and snow-covered mountains appear. This is the major skiing area in Washington, and the snow season isn’t far away. The pass through the mountains closes annually for four months, which effectively shuts down the wine tourism East of the mountains. It pays to be closer to Seattle during this time of the year. Click here to see more photos of my drive through the Yakima Valley.