Time to discover the birthplace of Washington wine
Prosser, Washington is a small town with a population of about 5,500 in the lower Yakima Valley. To the west, Mount Adams commands the horizon along with the Yakima River as it flows through Prosser to the Columbia River.
|Tree-lined streets of Prosser, Washington.|
|Morning walk in historic downtown Prosser, Washington.|
A quiet, friendly town, it is the county seat of Benton County with a vibrant agricultural based economy. I've always been struck by the small town vibe I feel walking along the tree-lined streets. It feels comfortable and familiar, a place to relax and unwind. My first memories of Prosser are warm and sunny, of sitting in the car as a child with my mother, listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. It is also where Washington Wine began. It's almost as if we grew up together.
|Pontin Del Roza apple orchard in Prosser, Washington.|
With 35 wineries plus one distillery, Prosser is surrounded by vineyards, apple and cherry orchards, hops, mint and row crops. Prosser is within the Yakima Valley AVA, the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington State. It is also bordered by the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. You will discover Prosser wineries with vineyards in both Viticultural Areas.
"Prosser is the living story of Washington wine." - William Pollard Jr.
|South of Prosser,wine country extends into the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.|
|Domanico Cabernet Sauvignon hanging from the vine, Prosser, Washington.|
This is Washington Wine Country. The birthplace of Washington wine. To truly understand Washington wine you must visit Prosser, Washington. Consider yourself invited.
*Note: Prosser is a 3 hour drive from Seattle. Or you can fly into the Pasco airport and the drive is only 30 minutes.
|Aromatic Prosser Hops.|
* Note: The Yakima Valley of Washington State is one of the most important hop growing regions in the world. Approximately two-thirds of the hops produced in the Yakima Valley are exported to countries all over the globe. Source USA Hops
|Prosser Valley, looking north from Daven Lore Winery.|
Have you visited Seattle, drank Washington wine at the restaurants and bars and wondered to yourself, “Where are the vineyards? Where are the grapes grown?” The answer is, the vineyards are in eastern Washington.
|Kestrel Vineyards Wente clone Chardonnay, planted in 1972.|
As I tell friends who have never visited Washington Wine Country, only the west side of the state is truly the “Evergreen” State of Washington. Protected from rain by the Cascade mountains, the east side is semi-arid desert steppe.
Q: How did Washington become acknowledged as a wine growing region? Who figured out that you could grow premium vinifera in the desert?
A: Dr. Walter Clore.
Dr. Walter Clore
Father of the Washington State Wine Industry
|Dr. Walter Clore|
In 1937 Dr. Walter Clore was hired as the fourth faculty member to staff the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research Extension Center in Prosser, Washington. It was there he would work for the next forty years, pursuing his interest in horticulture and cultivating a passion for growing vitis vinifera.
Dr. Clore began trials of grape varieties in Prosser and tested more than 250 American, European and hybrid varietals. In 1960, he partnered with WSU microbiologist and former Napa Valley resident Charles Nagel to test vines and determine what would grow where and under what conditions. Dr. Clore’s research was vital to establishing the Washington wine industry.
In 2003, the Washington State Legislature officially recognized Dr. Clore as the Father of the Washington State Wine Industry for his valuable research contribution to Washington viticulture.
|Walter Clore Reserve.|
*Note: In 2001 Columbia Crest winery introduced the Walter Clore Private Reserve Bordeaux style blend in his honor. The winery has continued to honor him with additional wines in this series. I particularly enjoyed the delicious 2008 and 2010 vintages.
Washington State Wine Facts
Washington state is the second largest premium wine producer in the country and it’s wine industry contributes in excess of $14.9 billion to the national economy and supports more than 27,000 jobs in Washington state. It all began with Dr. Walter Clore in Prosser, Washington.
Number of wine grape growers: 350+
Acres planted to vine: 2013 Approx. 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares)
Number of wineries: 2014 = 850+ wineries
Source: Washington State Wine
|Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, Prosser, Washington.|
The Walter Clore Center, Prosser
The Walter Clore Center is the culmination of a ten year effort to build a facility for telling the stories of Washington wine. This is a place where you are invited to experience a diversity of Washington wine and food products.
|Wine bar at the Clore Center.|
|Full kitchen on premise.|
As an educational facility, The Clore Center is equipped with conference rooms and a full kitchen is on premise for events, including wine and food classes. A large outdoor patio is perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine. A separate facility on-site is available to rent for events. I'm told it is quite popular, so book in advance.
|Outdoor patio at the Clore Center.|
|Event Center available to rent for events.|
Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center
2140 Wine Country Road
Prosser, Washington 99350
Located off Interstate 82 at Exit 82.
|A tantalizing selection of wines from Prosser Wine Country.|
The Wineries of Prosser Wine Country
While a small town, Prosser is home to an established winery producing 650,000 cases of wine annually. You will also find some of the newest family owned boutique wineries. Long established farming families like the Mercers and Andrews have been growing fruit and vegetables in the Prosser area for generations. Today they also make wine.
|Diversity of Prosser wines, from small family producers to the very large.|
The increasing importance of cultivating premium wine grapes, to meet the demand for Washington wine, has seen many of the Prosser farming families invest in vineyards. Over time, some of these growers have started making their own wines.
|Mural reflecting the western heritage of Prosser.|
With 35 wineries and counting, I cannot cover every single Prosser winery today. I will share with you some of the wonderful Prosser wineries and personalities I have personally visited. Quality of wines and friendly service are strong. Some of these wineries are only tasting rooms, some provide a full winery experience and some provide food and hospitality. They are all well worth visiting and a true testament to the living legacy of Dr. Clore.
|Mercer Wine Estates tasting room.|
Production: 60,000 cases.
Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvedre, Malbec, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Rhone style red and Grenache. Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris.
|Winemaker Jessica Munnell.|
Mercer Wine Estates is a fourth-generation, family-owned company. They have farmed the same land since 1886, two years before Washington became a state.
“Our highest priority is to preserve and protect these lands now and for future generations.” – Rob Mercer
They planted the first wine grapes in what is now the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Their Estate vineyards include: Dead Canyon, Big Teepee, Spice Cabinet, Zephyr Ridge, Brooks, Spring Creek, Cavalie and Block 93.
“Our goal is to make wines that are true to character by sourcing grapes from prime locations within each region.” - Jessica Munnell, Winemaker Mercer Estates.
Mercer Estates Winery
3100 Lee Road
Prosser WA 99350
(Exit 82 off Interstate 82, between Yakima and Tri-Cities)
- My review Mercer Estates 2013 Sadie Louise Rose'
- My review Mercer Estates 2012 Chardonnay
- My review Mercer Ranch 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Reserve Chardonnay
|Jason Domanico uses nets to protect his delicious Muscat from birds.|
Production: 1,200 cases.
Varieties: Carmenere, Bordeaux style red, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc Rose', and Syrah.
Domanico Cellars is a small family winery, owned and operated by Jason & Jill Domanico. They originally began making wine in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. They have recently moved next to their vineyard in North Prosser, where they will be opening their second winery and tasting room.
|Domanico Cellars red wines.|
|Domanico Muscat grapes.|
"Growing up in an Italian family, wine was always around. Dinners, special occasions, it was part of the experience."
- Jason Domanico, Domanico Cellars
24901 N. Crosby Rd.
Prosser, WA 99350
825 NW 49th Street
Seattle, WA 98107
|Scott Pontin, Winemaker Pontin Del Roza Winery.|
Production: 4,000 cases.
Varieties: Pinto Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Roza Sunset, Sangiovese, Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto, Merlot, Syrah.
|Scott Pontin grows apples and grapes and makes wine, Pontin Del Roza.|
|Chilling with Pontin Del Roza wines.|
Scott Pontin is winemaker for the venture and has proved himself with varietal wines including Pinot Gris, Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and others.
"I was the first one to make Pinot Gris in Washington." -Scott Pontin
|Outdoor seating at Pontin Del Roza.|
|Bocce Ball Court at Pontin Del Roza.|
Pontin family members are often on hand in the tasting room on Hinzerling Road north of Prosser to welcome visitors and pour samples of recent releases. Enjoy the comfortable outdoor seating area next to the Boce Ball court. I've played a game or two here, and won. Tasty wines and a fun place to hang out with friends. I'm going back!
|Scott Pontins Father.|
Pontin del Roza translates roughly in Italian to mean "Pontin (Ponteen) family on the Roza".
Pontin Del Roza
35502 North Hinzerling Road
Prosser, WA 99350
|Daven Lore Wines.|
Production: 1,400 cases.
Varieties: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Rhone style red, Malbec, Merlot, Durif, Petit Verdot, Port style. Riesling and Rose'.
|Gordon Taylor Winemaker.|
"We're yeast whisperers...We want long distance running yeast." Gordon Taylor, Daven Lore
Daven Lore Winery is perched on the Horse Heaven Hills above Washington's Yakima Valley. They specialize in red wines. Gordon emphasizes his passion with knowledge of the vineyard soils and micro-climates.
Gordon uses primarily new barrels, combining the use of French, American and Hungarian oaks with hand-harvested grapes. Limited production ensures a commitment to high quality wine.
In the photo of Gordon, he is holding a bottle of Recovery Red. It is a refillable bottle you purchase at the winery full of wine. The refills are discounted. A smart and greener way of selling wine.
If you know Gordon, then you probably know he likes to wear kilts. On the day I was visiting with him, he was not wearing a kilt. However, he was handing out a 2014 calendar of "Men of the Washington Wine Industry" and yes, he had a kilt on in those photos. The calendar was produced by WineStyle, owned by writer and photographer Kathy Kongelbak.
Gordon has a friendly, dynamic personality. During the summers I often see him at the Richland, Washington Farmers Market. The market is open June 5 - October 30, Fridays 9 am - 1 pm. You are invited.
*Note: Read Gordon's Blog - he's sharing his love for all Prosser wines and food.
|Tasting at Daven Lore Winery.|
|Daven Lore Winery.|
Daven Lore Winery
23103 S. Davlor PRSW Prosser, WA 99350
|Hogue Cellars Tasting Room.|
Production: 650,000 cases.
Varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Semillon, Rhone style white, Bordeaux style white. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Rhone style red, Barbera Rosato.
"The growers make the wine....The growers are fantastic." - Greg Winter, Hogue
My first visit to Hogue Cellars was in 1986. Yes, the winery has been around at least that long. It was one of the few family owned wineries in the area. They made very good wine too. A lot has changed since then. Today, only the tasting room resides where the winery used to be. They had to move and expand their production facility, they are now one of the larger wineries in Washington with an annual production of 650,000 cases a year!
|Hogue Terroir premium Washington Malbec.|
If you think you know Hogue wines, like I did, you are wrong. It was with surprise and appreciation to discover they have a premium tier of wine. Their "Terroir" series of wine. Their Terroir series of wines are limited production, using the finest fruit and utmost care. Proof that a company focused on producing a huge amount of wine, can also focus on special limited production bottles too. Terroir is only available through the tasting room and the Hogue Wine Club.
|Hogue Terroir 2013 Edelzwicker - wow!|
|Greg Winter, Director of Winemaking.|
|Kerry Norton, White Winemaker.|
*Note: Hogue Cellars is also well known for their significant research conducted between 2005 and 2010 that confirmed Saranex-lined screw caps as the ideal closure for preserving and aging Hogue Cellars wines. All of the Hogue Cellars wines have screw caps. Read the study.
Hogue Cellars Tasting Room
2800 Lee Road
Prosser WA, 99350
toll free (800) 565-9779 ext 3
tel. (509) 786-6108
|Kestrel Vintners, Prosser, Washington.|
Production: 35,000 cases.
Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Mourvedre and Sangiovese. Old Vine Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris. Red blends and port style wines are also produced. *Wild ferment Chardonnay limited bottling.
Food Service: Artisinal cheeses, meat and locally sourced seasonal vegetables and fruit.
I have a habit of drinking Kestrel wines and not reviewing them. Because they are that good! Winemaker Flint Nelson and his team at Kestrel wines use some of the best fruit grown in the Yakima Valley. Kestrel has a 126 acre estate vineyard, which includes their famous Kestrel Vineyards Wente clone Chardonnay, planted in 1972. Yes, I'm a fan of that fruit.
|Hand Sorting Syrah Grapes, Harvest at Kestrel Vintners.|
Their annual production is at 35,000 cases a year. They are predominantly a red wine producer: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Mourvedre and Sangiovese. And well known for their white wines they produce: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Pinot Gris.
|Lunch at Kestrel Winery, Prosser.|
|Kestrel Viognier at the Harvest Party.|
Kestrel Vintners Tasting Room
2890 Lee Road
Prosser, WA 99350
PHONE: (509) 786-2675
FAX: (509) 786-2679
|Chinook winery off exit 82 at corner of Wittkopf Loop and Wine Country Road.|
Production: 4,000 cases
Varieties: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and a Bordeaux style white. Cabernet Franc Rose', Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend.
A personal approach to winemaking exemplifies the philosophy of Chinook Wines. Tremendous value in these limited production Prosser wines. Since its first vintage 32 years ago, Chinook Wines has been a cornerstone of the Prosser wine community.
"We crush exclusively Yakima Valley fruit." - Kay Simon
|Winemaker Kay Simon sharing details of Chinook winemaking.|
In 1983, the married partner team of Kay Simon and Clay Mackey combined their extensive experience in winemaking and viticulture with the goal of creating Yakima Valley wines. Both Kay and Clay worked for Chateau Ste. Michelle in the late 1970's. Kay’s background in winemaking and Clay’s as a respected viticulturist, is the winemaking marriage to admire.
PO Box 387
Prosser, WA 99350
Desert Wind Winery
Production: 25,000 cases.
Varieties: Chardonnay, Fume' Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Semillon, Viognier, Rose', Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Bordeaux style red, Sangioves, Syrah and Tempranillo.
Accommodations: Four luxury rooms in Southwest decor, private balconies on premise. Spa services by appointment. Daily breakfast. Inquire here.
|Wine fermenting in barrel.|
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Yakima River, Desert Wind's Southwestern-style tasting room and gift shop offer daily tasting and great wine country gifts. Desert Wind also offers banquet/event facilities, cooking classes, and private dining options. Upstairs are four luxury guest rooms with kiva fireplaces and private balconies.
*Note: If you plan on staying at Desert Wind Winery - book a room well in advance.
|Tasting room wine bar.|
2258 Wine Country Rd.
Prosser, WA 99350
Just off I-82, exit 80, Prosser Vintner’s Village is an established 32-acre site with meandering trails leading you to 10 unique wineries. It is conveniently located off of the Interstate and is an easy walk to all 10 wineries. One stop wine tasting!
Today I'll share information about three of the wineries at Vintners Village: Martinez & Martinez, Milbrandt Vineyards and Bunnell Family Cellar/Wine o'clock.
- My post Spring Barrel Weekend in Yakima Valley includes notes about Airfield Estates, Willow Crest Wine Estates, Thurston Wolfe, Gamache Vintners and Milbrandt Vineyards.
Prosser Vintner’s Village
100 Merlot Drive
Prosser, WA, 99350
Martinez & Martinez Winery
Production: 1,000 cases.
Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Red blend, Rose', Roussanne, White blend, Pinot Grigio, Viognier.
|Dinner with Monica Martinez talking about her family wines.|
Family owned winery focusing primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. Currently the winery uses two vineyards from the AVA. The Martinez Estate Vineyard and Alder Ridge Vineyard located just a few miles from their estate location on an extremely steep Southern facing slope, overlooking the Columbia River. The River has a magnificent effect on this vineyard by moderating the extreme summer and winter temperatures.
2008 marked the release of their first two vintages from the 2005 grape harvest. Together Sergio, Kristy, Andrew and Monica Martinez own and operate the small winery located at The Winemakers Loft in Vintners Village in Prosser.
Martinz & Martinez
357 Port Ave, Suite C
Prosser, WA 99350
Production: 65,000 cases.
Varieties: Bordeaux style, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Grenache Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, Rose'.
The Milbrandt family planted their first vines in 1997 and today they farm 12 distinct estate vineyard sites totaling more than 2,500 acres. Their grapes are purchased by some of the best wineries in Washington.
They only began making wine from their grapes in 2005 and in June of 2007 they launched the Milbrandt Vineyards label. I first visited their tasting room in Prosser in 2010 during Spring Barrel Weekend and as recently as October 2014.
Milbrandt Vineyards Tasting Room
Prosser's Vintner's Village
508 Cabernet Court
Prosser, WA 99350
Phone: (509) 788-0030
- My review Milbrandt Vineyards 2012 Brothers Blend
Bunnell Family Cellar/Wine o'clock Bistro
Production: 3,500 cases.
Varieties: White blends, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Rose', Sangiovese, Syrah, Rhone and Bordeaux style reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah.
Amenities: Wine o'clock Wine Bar and Bistro.
|Lunch crowd at Wine o'clock in Vintners Village.|
|Delicious Bunnell Family Cellar wines.|
*Note: They also have a cozy gourmet Bistro. I was impressed when I ate lunch here in October last year. I advise making reservations.
*Note: Ron Bunnell has a soft spot for Syrah. Dark, rich, decadent Syrah my friends. My style!
|Amazing vertical tasting of Bunnel Syrah.|
|Lovely presentation, delicious wines and food.|
|Steak course at Wine o'clock Bistro.|
I had great difficulty editing photos for this section of the post. The wine and food photos from Wine o'clock Wine Bar and Bistro made me terribly hungry! You want to stop here and have lunch. Trust me on this.
|Pizza from the wood-fired oven.|
Wine o'clock Bistro
Wednesday and Thursday 12pm - 7pm
Friday and Saturday 12pm - 8pm
Sunday 12pm - 7pm
Bunnel Family Cellar
548 Cabernet Court
Prosser, WA 99350
|Meeting locals in downtown Prosser and the next star of "The Voice."|
Prosser at Night
Horse Heaven Saloon
What's recommended after a day of wine tasting? Delicious farm to table food. And beer, local, handcrafted small batch beer made from local grown Yakima valley hops. Owner and brew-master Gary Vegar opened Horse Heaven Saloon and his Horse Heaven Hills Brewery in 2013. I enjoyed an unexpected and wonderful dining experience here last year. The food was exceptional and the beer was abso-freeking excellent! Every town should be so lucky. I'm going back.
|Happy dinner crowd, plus great service.|
|Front door is ready for action at Horse Heaven Saloon.|
A western themed family owned business featuring farm to table culinary creations from Chef Laurie Kennedy paired with small batch hand crafted beer brewed by Gary Vegar from his Horse Heaven Hills Brewery. Do you need a better excuse to visit? Wonderful use for this historic building, which is more than 100 years old.
|Burger and sweet potato fries, nothing better.|
Delicious American food served in a cool western atmosphere combined with a rotating sampling of local Prosser wines. Fresh fruit hand crafted spirit libations by barman Sherman P. Clark. Horse Heaven Saloon offers the best of Prosser in a comfortable family friendly environment.
They serve: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
|Owner and Brew-master Gary Vegar. Well done.|
615 6th Street in Downtown Historic Prosser, WA 99350
Phone: (509) 781-6228
Not ready for bed?
Across the street from Horse Heaven Saloon, is Berns Tavern. A decidedly popular establishment with the locals. Patrons insist old ghosts roam the city from the underground that once existed and partially remains. I'm told a persistent lone cowboy and a sailor in an old uniform are often glimpsed.
The original antique back bar is housed in a building dating back to the early 1900's. Bern's Owned by Darren and Carla Dodgson, is a landmark. Of nearly a dozen saloons from the past, it is the only one left in Prosser.
Come for the live music, many entertainers pop in for the occasional hideaway gig. Bern's sells microbrews and your favorites, as well as Washington Wines. The crowd was friendly.
618 6th Street
Prosser, WA 99350
Prosser Wine Network Thank You
Along with a select group of wine writers and photographers, I was invited to attend a weekend in Prosser wine country via The Prosser Wine Network. The Prosser Wine Network is a new all volunteer organization focused on promoting Prosser wine. It is an advocacy group for member wineries. With a priority on fostering collaboration it is the point of contact for promoting and organizing networking opportunities for enhancing the Prosser wine community and guests' experiences.
My sincere thanks to the Prosser Wine Network and all the wineries, staff and the friendly community of Prosser, Washington. You have shared and shown me a Prosser I did not fully know or appreciate. I'll continue to get the word out.
|Domanico Muscat, tastes like candy.|
|Taking photos is essential on a media visit.|
Prosser is the living story of Washington wine. Come visit. You are invited.
#ProsserWine - @prosserwine
|Picking our apples in Prosser.|
*Note: Scott Pontin took us out to his family apple orchards. We picked apples from the trees and took some home. At home I made an Apple Crisp with some of these delicious fresh picked apples. I highly recommend Pontin apples and this delicious, yet simple Apple Crisp recipe. Thank you Scott.
|Apple Crisp with Ice Cream dessert, all smiles.|
The Apple Tart Recipe I used - tweaked by adding crumbled nuts.