In my last post, I discussed the places that we went during the first day of our Yakima Valley wine tasting weekend. We did end up heading to a few other places, quickly, near the end of the day, so I’ll do my best to sum them up too.
Maison Bleue: This was the weekend’s other knockout. It was amazingly quiet, especially considering it was later in the day when we visited, and the drunken keg (or should I say wine barrel) party was in full swing at the surrounding wineries. They weren’t officially participating in Red Wine and Chocolate weekend, and they charge a $5 tasting fee, refundable upon purchase. I suppose this turned a lot of non-serious tasters off, but a nominal tasting fee is par for the course for us. We had a white blend called JaJa White that was excellent, and their La Roque Syrah was amazing (apparently these both sold out this weekend). We did get to taste a Grenache that has yet to be released, but they only had 20 bottles to sell when they started the weekend, and they were gone by the time we got there. We will be looking for these wines.
Kestrel Vineyards: we know other wineries that get their grapes from the Kestrel Vineyards (I don’t know if they buy from this winery or just from the same general area), so we were kind of excited about trying some of their wines. But, unfortunately this was a disappointment. They were tasting their low end grocery store wines, and they were really trying to push last year’s vintage out the door. One of the reasons I go to a winery is to try the wines that I can’t get at home, so this was frustrating. They did do a tasting of some of their dessert wines and ports, which were nice, but Jon and I don’t typically buy them, since we aren’t big dessert people. Their low end wines were decent, but let’s just say, if I’m making a special trip to see you, I expect to get something I can’t find at Fred Meyer.
Alexandria Nicole: They were serving two wines, a red and a white, but to be honest, they weren’t very memorable. Perhaps we will try again sometime when we are in Woodinville. They did have a good cheese available to taste though, which was a pleasant change from all the chocolate. It was good to get some protein, rather than just sugar.
Cowan Winery: They had some good wines – the memorable wine here was their Cabernet Franc, which Jon really enjoyed.
When we were done for the day, the sun was getting low in the sky, and we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the road back to Yakima. At that point we were tired, since we had gotten up so early, so we checked into the Ledgestone Hotel in Yakima, and schlepped our stuff from the car. When we saw our room, we were quite pleased.
The Ledgestone is targeted toward the extended stay traveler, so they have a suite style room with a bedroom and living room, and a kitchen with fridge, cooktop burners, microwave, sink and dishwasher. They stock it with a few dishes and utensils so you can make a meal there. It came in really handy. Jon and I went over to the Bob’s Burgers and Brew restaurant next door to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was what you can expect from a Bob’s, the food is consistent but nothing to write home about. But it was close and has fairly quick service. Day one ended with some cable tv watching and chatting about the winery highlights.
The next morning we got up and had cereal and milk (we went to the next door Target the night before and got a few staples). That was a big savings to not have to go out to a restaurant for breakfast. The second day, we decided to stick a little closer to Yakima, so we started our day wanting to scope out the Precision Fruit and Antique Stand down the road. Thwarted again… they were closed. They also had absolutely no signage indicating what times/days or which seasons they are open. That’s frustrating because the internet or tourist brochures said nothing about the stand only being open seasonally, and it would be easy enough to put a sign on the door, wouldn’t it?
So, we decided to head the other way down the road to Zillah, and visit Claar Cellars. Claar is right off the freeway, so it was easy to find. For some reason, their tasting room reminded me of a motel, with the tasting room in the lobby/check in area. It would be interesting to know if this is true. There were not any windows on the back of the building, so if it was a motel, they walled in the windows, which would make sense for storing wine in Eastern Washington. Claar’s wines were decent, but they didn’t have anything amazing – although I did pick up a bottle of their Riesling. I guess it is telling that I found the history of the building to be more interesting than the wines. That seemed to be the theme for the weekend. At the server’s recommendation, we headed next door to the El Porton Mexican restaurant for lunch, and were happy with the lunch there. Of course, Zillah only seemed to have 3 restaurants, and one was closed, so short of driving back to Yakima, what choice did we have?
Next, we found Portteus Winery, one of Jon’s picks for the weekend. Portteus has a long list of wines. It runs the gamut from Chardonnay, red blends, Syrahs, Zinfandels, Merlots and Malbecs. Again, until we got up to the Reserve wines, the selection was ok, but not amazing. We both really liked their Purple Haze blend though. The winery dog is a big, black furry guy, who is very friendly and likes to roll over for belly rubs.
After heading back down Portteus’ long gravel road, we decided to try Piety Flats Winery. This winery is located in a turn of the century general store, and they have old photographs showing what the store originally looked like. The couple that owns Piety Flats is very friendly, and we chatted with them for awhile, since we were the only people there. They have some good wines. An unoaked Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc (which was good, but I wish it were a bit more crisp) and a Chardonnay Pinot Gris blend. They had some good reds too, the best for me was a Carmenere which I had to get. Carmenere is a varietal done mostly in Argentina, and you just don’t find that many of them in the States.
By now we were feeling a bit wined out, so we decided to check out the downtown area. Sadly, it was a bit depressing. We were there on a Sunday, and I understand you won’t have the business crowd there on the weekends, but the downtown was mostly dead. At least half of the storefronts were empty, and the only ones that seemed to have any business were the wine tasting rooms. We went to find an Antique Mall that was tucked away in an old warehouse building, and we were not sure what we were going to find. There were no cars in front, and Jon was convinced we weren’t in the right spot. The restaurant downtown that looked interesting to me online was only open Monday through Thursday.
So, instead of eating out, we went to Safeway and got ingredients to make a really good salad (for Jon) and a really good fruit salad (for me). Good thing it doesn’t take much to satisfy us.