6 Washington State Wineries You Should Know
Washington State has a variety of popular places to visit for wine, with Woodinville and Walla Walla some of the best known. Some of Washington’s best grapes arguably come from Red Mountain AVA, and winemakers are willing to pay the price – three times the state average – to get their hands on this stellar fruit.
A fortuitous mix of heat, low rainfall, cooler nights, and a sandy, silt and loam soil create an ideal location for the cultivation of vinifera grapes. Grown mainly on the southwest slope of Red Mountain, the main grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Red Mountain’s tasting rooms are located off the beaten track in a rural area. It takes a bit more effort to visit but it is definitely worth tasting the renowned wines.
The cellars and accommodations described in this article welcomed me as part of a press trip set up by Visit Tri-Cities. All opinions are mine.
Chronicles of the Red Mountain
Before heading to the Red Mountain area, obtain a copy of the Chronicles of the Red Mountain, a three-book series by author Boo Walker. Do yourself a favor and buy all three. At the end of the first book, Red mountain, you are so invested in the characters that the shocking ending will send you on the hunt for Red Mountain Rising, the second book in the series. Walker is a gifted storyteller who lived and worked in a vineyard and winery in Red Mountain. His writing has authenticity because of his experiences. Some of the characters are based on the legendary winegrowers of the region.
The wineries in this article are all located in AVA Red Mountain, near the town of Benton City.
1. Col Solare
The Col Solare winery is a partnership between the Chateau Ste of Washington State. Michelle, a winemaking pioneer in Washington, and Marchesi Antinori in Tuscany. Since its inception, the mission has been to unite these two cultures and use the best Washington fruits to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. The Red Mountain tasting room looks like a Tuscan villa perched on top of the mountain, and the interior is simply stunning.
When you are in a vineyard renowned for cabernet sauvignon, be sure to try it. If you really want to step up your wine game, buy a bottle of Tenuta Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 for $ 150 a bottle. This limited production wine is made from the 10 best Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for a vintage that represents the best of Col Solare. For a red blend option, try the 2016 Shining Hill red wine, which is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot. I enjoyed the 2019 Shining Hill Rose made from 100% ripe red fruit. I found it lively and refreshing, perfect for a summer wine.
2. Cave Frichette
Greg and Shae Frichette are the owners and winemakers behind Frichette Winery. Shae was inspired to create her own wine label after attending a Celebration of Black Women in Wine event. She chose the sassy name Sashay for her label. She describes her wine as sweet and more accessible. A chance meeting with artist Chance Watt resulted in a significant collaboration. Watt produced the illustrations for the rose and red wine labels, which feature strong women known as Sashay Ladies.
Frichette offers a 90-minute tasting with a private concierge. You will have the opportunity to taste the current versions and enjoy a private tour of the estate’s vineyard and the barrel room. You will learn about their history and what makes Red Mountain AVA so special.
3. Terra Blanca Winery And Estate Vineyard
The Terra Blanca wine estate and vineyard is perched on the southwest slope of Red Mountain in a Tuscan-inspired building. There are panoramic views over the vineyards and into the lower Yakima Valley. Rather than having a tasting, I chose to have lunch on the terrace of the Terra Blanca Vineyard Grill. I loved that there were recommended food and wine pairings to accompany the dishes on the menu. I ordered a flight of wine with three 2-ounce pours. I tried the Arch Triple Threat 2017 which is a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. I paired it with a delicious antipasto consisting of salami, prosciutto, capicola, fresh mozzarella, gouda, olives, grilled seasonal vegetables and seared crostini. It was perfect together. I also tried the Arch Terrace Syrah 2017 and paired it with the Balsamic Soy Wagyu Beef Tips. For my third wine, I chose the 2009 Signature Series Barbera, which I also enjoyed. The property is just beautiful and sitting on the patio is so relaxing it was hard to leave.
4. Hedges family estate
The Hedges family estate is one of the most environmentally friendly wineries in the state. The vineyards are operated with an alternative form of agriculture called biodynamic agriculture. No artificial fertilizers or pesticides are used to cultivate the land. All planting, pruning and harvesting is done by hand. Visitors love to see the chickens that control the cutworm population. No commercial yeast is added during the fermentation process, resulting in a cleaner wine.
The estate’s chateau is charming and you can easily feel like you are in the Loire Valley in France by sitting on the terrace enjoying the gentle bubbling sounds of the fountain while sipping a glass of Hedges wine. The winery is known for their red blends, and they were the first family to blend wines in Washington. The Bordeaux style is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Syrah 2017 was Hedges’ entry into the prestigious Paris Wine Cup and the only American wine to receive a gold medal. It is made from 34% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. At $ 30 a bottle, that’s a pretty good price for a wine of this caliber.
Fun fact: Author Boo Walker worked at the Hedges family estate.
5. Fidelitas wines
You can’t talk about Red Mountain wine without mentioning Charlie Hoppes. He is one of the pioneering winemakers of Red Mountain wine. Initially he made Red Mountain wines for other wineries, then he set up his own cellar and vineyard at Fidelitas Wines. Hoppes has over 40 years of experience as a winemaker and it shows. Fidelitas means faithful, loyal and true. Hoppes likes to say that Fidelitas is loyal to Bordeaux grape varieties, loyal to modern artisanal winemaking and loyal to Red Mountain.
The Fidelitas tasting room is entirely dedicated to wine. In fine weather, large glass doors open to reveal a patio with a view of the estate and the mountains in the distance. Hoppes’ signature wine is the 2018 Optu Red Mountain, the best of the vintage. The upper barrels are intended for this red blend. “It’s our mainstay,” Hoppes told me. “This is the wine that we have made in each vintage since 2000.” It includes 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc. A truly wonderful wine.
Fun fact: In the Chronicles of the Red Mountain by Boo Walker, one of the main characters is inspired to move to Red Mountain because of a bottle of Fidelitas wine. Here is a good bottle of wine.
6. Red Mountain Trails Winery
It is a unique cellar. Visiting Red Mountain Trails Winery takes you outside (literally) to discover Red Mountain. The tasting room is outside around a campfire and next to the horse corral. The focus is on the Bordeaux grape varieties that thrive on Red Mountain, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. To truly experience this winery, set aside an hour’s hike through the vineyards of Red Mountain where you will head to vistas with views for miles of Rattlesnake Mountain, Red Mountain, Mt. Adams, the Horse Heaven Hills and the valley. by Yakima. Another option is a wine cart tour during which you learn about the vineyards. Try to book near sunset for a nice experience.
Accommodation and facilities in Benton City and the Red Mountain area are limited. Plan to stay in Richland at the Lodge at Columbia Point. This charming hotel overlooks the marina and the Columbia River in an area known as Columbia Point. Each of the hotel’s 82 rooms is dedicated to a local winery. The hotel offers wine tastings and the on-site Drumheller’s restaurant offers light snacks and pairings as well as an excellent dinner menu made with local produce. They list 82 of the region’s most acclaimed wines from the best AVAs that you can order by the glass.
Take a copy of Washington Wine and Food: A Cookbook by Julien Perry, a great resource for knowing which dishes to pair with your Washington wine. Forty winemakers are featured, including some from the Red Mountain AVA with recipes from some of Seattle’s best chefs. The recipes are designed for home cooks. And, for more Tri-Cities inspiration, think