You don’t have to go to France or California for your wine. The Inland Northwest region has many wineries making names for themselves, winning awards and competing favorably with their foreign and domestic cousins.
The best way to determine what type of wines you may like is to tour a winery and sample its products. Wine tasting is an educational process. Your host will gladly explain wine terms, the different varietals of grapes (chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, etc.) and the resulting differences in the final wine product.
The wide selection of vineyards around the Inland Northwest makes it easy to combine a wine tasting stop with other vacation plans.
Each vintner is a craftsman, so his or her wines will reflect the individual’s chosen recipe of grape characteristics. The vines’ history and the region’s soil, water and temperature conditions all combine to influence the flavor of a grape. This is why a white riesling at one winery may taste a little different from one coming from another vineyard.
Here are three regions where you’ll be able to satisfy your senses of sight, smell and taste. You can make up your own driving tour or follow the examples offered in literature available from local tourism agencies or wine grower associations. Be sure to have a designated driver, if you plan to stop are several vineyards!
Washington has been the fastest-growing wine region in the United States in recent years. Vineyards are sprouting up all over the state. Grapes are grown on both sides of the Cascade mountains, and every corner of the state has a wine-tasting adventure for the novice and experienced wine lover.
Washington has three officially recognized viticultural appellations, as classified by the federal government. The Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley appellations are located within the larger Columbia Valley appellation.
There are eight wine touring regions in the state, according to the Washington Wine Commission: Seattle Area, Puget Sound Area, Olympic Peninsula Loop, Southwest Washington & the Columbia Gorge, West End and East End of Yakima Valley, North and South Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley and Spokane Area.
A “Touring the Washington Wine Country” booklet is available free from the Washington Wine Commission. It provides information on how to taste a wine, general terminology and a complete listing of state wineries, with a locator map for each. Call (206) 728-2252.
The Yakima Valley Wine Growers Association offers a free guide detailing each winery, with a map for directions, listing of winery events and providing general tourism tidbits. Yakima Valley Wine Growers Association, P.O. Box 39, Grandview, WA 98930.
According to the Oregon Winegrowers’ Association, there are four winery regions in the state: North and South Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue. Wines coming from the regions reflect the individual qualities of each varietal grape as it is influenced by light, temperature, soil and water.
The Discover Oregon Wineries brochure is produced by the Oregon Winegrowers’ Association. For a free copy, call (503) 228-8403.
The Oregon Wine Newspaper publishes information on winery events and festivals. To receive a current copy, call (503) 232-7607.
Penticton’s wine country has been called the “Napa Valley of the North,” referring to California’s famous grape growing area. Okanagan’s grapes are described as being like the European varieties, dry and spicy.
There are over 20 wineries in the valley, which has three types of vineyards: estate, farmgate and commercial. Estate wineries must use 100 percent British Columbia-grown grapes, with a minimum of half the grapes grown in their own vineyards. Estate wineries are limited to a production of 40,000 gallons.
Farmgate wineries can produce up to 10,000 gallons of wine. They also must use 100 percent B.C.-grown grapes, with a minimum of 75 percent grown in their own vineyards. Most estate and farmgate wineries are family-owned and operated. Commercial wineries have fewer restrictions.
Although it will be too late to attend the Okanagan Valley’s spring wine festivals this year, mark your calender for May ‘96. The first half of May is filled with wine-related events, such as Wine and Dine Okanagan, Bacchanalia and Okanagan Wine Festival.
The fall Okanagan Wine Festival is a 10-day event, featuring dinners, tours, tasting and judging, scheduled for Sept. 22 to Oct. 1, 1995. (604) 490-8866.
For a copy of the pamphlet “Okanagan Wine Route” for the Okanagan Valley and Similkameen regions: Okanagan-Similkameen Tourism Association, (604) 860-5999.
For information on local wineries, golfing packages, other points of interest and accommodations in the Okanagan Valley: Penticton Tourist Information Centre, (604) 493-4055 or (800) 663-5052.