As the second-largest wine-producing state in the country, Washington has no shortage of options for the intrepid wine tourist. Many flock to well-known locales like Walla Walla or Woodinville, set just outside of Seattle. But there’s much more to the Evergreen State when it comes to all things fermented grapes.
A total of 19 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) dot the Washington map. It’s a remarkably diverse wine state, from the wet Puget Sound to the west to the much drier Yakima Valley to the east. Down along the scenic Columbia River, there are stunning appellations like the Columbia Gorge and Horse Heaven Hills. Red Mountain also has to be on the list of esteemed growing areas, a high-desert stretch near Tri-Cities that’s producing some of the state’s most exciting wines at the moment.
Most of the Washington wine scene occurs on the drier, eastern side of the Cascades. There, you’ll find grapes that take advantage of the arid climate, like Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, reds accounted for about 60% of the production in 2020. The leading white was Chardonnay, which thrives in some of the state’s cooler, higher-elevation areas. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Syrah, Riesling, and, increasingly, Pinot Noir.
Here are a handful of wineries to visit in the great state of Washington, plus a few suggestions on where to eat and stay. As always, chat up your local wine steward or person-in-the-know for additional suggestions on what to try and look out for within this expansive scene. Each one of the selections below really epitomizes the best of what’s happening in their respective appellations.
This Red Mountain label is a pioneering outfit of the area, arguably one of Washington’s most unique growing zones. The desert-like conditions here yield less rainfall per year than Phoenix gets, but that doesn’t mean the grapes don’t do well. Quite the opposite, as some truly stunning Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Malbec — even Lemberger — is coming out of Kiona’s estate. The label first planted in 1975, seeing the potential well before the masses. Today, the area outside of Benton City is making some of the most captivating wines of the Pacific Northwest.
Set in the town of Underwood in the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge, AniChe is quietly turning out some of the most interesting blends and sparkling in the region. They specialize in Rhone grapes especially, like Roussanne and Marsanne, but also other Euro-informed grapes like Sangiovese and Albariño. It’s beautifully situated, located right on the river with great views of Mt. Hood in the background and kite-surfers and cliffs in the foreground.
Amos Rome does its thing out of the beautiful Chelan region, set in central orchard country Washington. At the core is Lake Chelan, with the foothills occupied by dozens of wineries, cider houses, inns, and more. Among the best is Amos Lee, known more and more for its sparkling wine, clean Chardonnay, and impressive blends. Production is so small, typically, that it pays to go to the source to experience the full breadth of the winery and its estate vines. Moreover, the setting is stunning, with sprawling grounds, great views, and multiple patios for sipping.
Up in the land of hops otherwise known as the Yakima Valley, there’s a bustling wine community, too. Freehand Cellars has become a worthy stop on the wine trail, crafting elegant Pinot Gris, Cab Franc, Syrah, and more. There’s an accompanying food program if you’re hungry or just want to explore a good pairing and you can even stay there, which you should, as it’s hard to give up the wines, the sleek tasting room (perhaps to be expected from architect owners), as well as the arresting views of Mt. Adams and the nearby Rattlesnake Hills.
Routinely garnering 100-point scores from the top critics, Quilceda Creek has built quite the reputation. If you love smooth-as-silk red wines built for hearty fare like steak, this label is for you. Better, it’s right near Woodinville in Snohomish, although it pulls fruit from the eastern side of the state, like so many labels. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better Cabernet Sauvignon in America. Launched in 1978 with its first winemaking vintage the following year, it remains one of Washington’s oldest and most talked-about wineries.
In terms of lodging, there are many, many directions but we suggest picking a home base in the heart of one of the appellations and setting up shop there for a long weekend or week. The Lodge at Columbia Point is a great option for those looking to check out Red Mountain and the Yakima Valley especially. In the Gorge, Skamania Lodge is a great place to call home briefly, with many amenities and even tree houses you can cuddle up in. It’s close to tasting rooms along the Columbia and charming little towns like White Salmon where you can get fresh and vibrant eats at places like Henni’s Kitchen and Bar.
Up in Chelan, you can live the winery life at the guest house at Nefarious Cellars. There are also plenty of fine resorts and eateries, like Kelly’s Resort and the Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery. Look out for Andante if you like Italian-inspired fare and want to try out some more local wines or just a good cocktail. If you’re tired of wine, Washington is home to a colossal craft beer and cider scene. In Yakima, especially, you’ll find tons of options, like the esteemed Bale Breaker Brewing. Cheers!
- It’s official: Gen Z is not a fan of wine (and what that means for everyone else)
- The Walla Walla wine guide: It’s not just fun to say (there are great vineyards here, too)
- Argentiera’s newest wine vintage promises ‘balance and intensity’ from short-season harvest
- The 5 states with the most wineries (besides California)
- The ultimate wine club? Here’s what you should know about The Vines Global