Washington's Yakima Valley is known for its wine country that wine critics have compared to the growing regions of France. With over 120 wineries and five AVA's there are plenty of ways to day trip around the Valley and explore its tasting rooms and vineyards.
On a recent trip to Eastern Washington, I was honored to be a sparkling wine enthusiast at Treveri Cellars Premium Tour & Tasting, followed by a wine tasting at neighboring Owen Roe Winery. To wrap up my day, I took the advice of a local and visited Yakima's newest restaurant Crafted.
Yakima Valley Premium Tour with Treveri Cellars
Treveri Cellars is a unique winery in Washington for it focuses solely on sparking wine. On their Premium Tour and Tasting, you get to become a winemaker for the day and learn about the sparkling wine process, tour the facility, make your own bottle to take home and have a private wine tasting with the winemakers.
The day started with a glass of sparkling wine on the patio where I enjoyed the view of snow capped Mt. Adams. Once everyone arrived, we moved inside to meet father and son winemakers, Juergen and Christian Grieb.
Born and raised in Germany, which produces more sparkling wines than the Champagne region of France, Juergen developed a serious passion for sparkling wine. He studied under two of Germany's most decorated winemakers, and after earning his degrees and apprenticing, he came to Washington State to work in the wine industry. In 2010, his family opened Treveri Cellars in the Yakima Valley, and they now produce 15,000 cases a year.
Treveri Cellars Tour Highlights
There are many highlights to the tour, and getting to make your own bottle of sparkling wine is a top runner, as it shows you an integral part of the wine making process.
Each participant is given a bottle of wine that has already gone through the riddling. After it's signed, the bottle is turned upside down to collect the yeast and set inside a very cold freezer. Afterward, it is placed on the line to go through the disgorger machine that removes the cap and yeast, adds the sweetener and inserts the cork.
After a few hand shakes to mix the sweetener (which you get to do), the bottle is put back on the line, to air dry and make its way to the capsule machine and have the Treveri Cellars label put on.
Throughout this entire process you are involved in some way and with up to 16 bottles to watch, you have plenty of opportunities to see the process and ask questions. Once everyone's has gone through the entire process, both winemakers, sign your bottle.
Treveri Cellars Wine Tasting
After your bottle is made, it's time for an elegant sit-down tasting in a private room. The tasting includes five sparkling wines, the Brut Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay), the Brut Blanc de Noir (100% Pinot Noir ), the Brut Prestige (60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay), the Pinot Meunier (100% Pinot Vinoger ), which was their 5th-anniversary sparkling wine, and a very unusual 100% Syrah Brut.
This portion of the tour is very relaxed, and the winemakers are happy to answer questions about their life as a winemaker.
Afterward, I decided to continue with my Treveri Cellars experience and ordered a pear, mushroom and mozzarella flatbread with fig spread. The menu includes other savory items like the Seattle Salumi Plate, the Pacific Northwest Platter, and Baked Brie with a sweet or savory flavoring.
Treveri Cellars is open year round and in the winter months their lodge-style tasting room and cozy fireplace beckons. Sparkling wine tastings are complimentary and include up to four tastings. For groups of 10 or more, there is a $5 tasting fee.
Yakima Valley Owen Roe Winery
From Treveri Cellars, Owen Roe Winery is a short two-minute drive, and visiting both wineries in one day is very easy. If you have the time, I highly suggest experiencing both.
On my visit, David O'Reilly, one of the owners of Owen Roe, drove me through the property where they grow 10 acres of organic cherries and 32.1 acres of grapes.
A Tour Through the Vineyards & Wine Tasting
Along the way, David pointed out the varietals, such as Cab Franc (my favorite) and Cabernet Sauvignon, and how grapes like different temperatures, such as early ripening Merlot which likes deeper soil and cooler temperatures.
David explained that for their wines they are always shooting for the best balance between flavor and texture. “It's not all about the yield,” said David, “It's all about the flavor.”
One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the formation of rocky soils exposed at the top a vineyard hill. The various soils are from the Missoula Floods, which are one of the reasons the Yakima Valley is ideal for growing grapes.
The tasting room opened in 2014, and there are plans in the works to create a separate dining and tasting area and add a handful of luxury vineyard bungalows.
Presently, wine tastings take place inside the barrel room, and you can sip your wine, savor hand-picked cherries and gaze at barrels and barrels of wine. I tasted several of their wines, and since I'm partial to reds, I found the 2013 Union Gap, with a high percentage of Cabernet Franc, particularly pleasing. Wine tastings are $10, and if a bottle is purchased the fee is waived.
During the tasting, I learned about Crafted, a new restaurant in Yakima, whose chef made a mouth-watering octopus dish. Can you guess where I'm going for dinner?
Ride in a Pinzgauer at Owen Roe
For a one-of-a-kind vineyard experience, call ahead to arrange for a ride through the vineyards in the Swiss Army Pinzgauer. I had the opportunity to take a Pinzgauer vineyard ride a couple of years ago, and it truly is a unique experience.
Dinner at Crafted in the Yakima Valley
Unfortunately, the octopus wasn't on the menu that night, but there were plenty of other delicious items to choose from. I ordered the Corn and Tomato-stuffed Squash Blossoms with mascarpone and coconut curry ($13) and the Duck Pappardelle with summer squash, chervil, sun gold tomatoes and parsley ($19). The squash blossoms had a nice subtle heat, and the pasta dish had a rich, brothy flavor that soaked into the home-made noodles. Both I'd order again.
The menu is created with many shareable dishes, and I suggest ordering a few different items to pass around the table. For a more personalized experience, let the chef order for you and opt for the Chef's Menu ($55).
Want Your Own Day in the Yakima Valley Wine Country?
Treveri Cellars and Owen Roe are open year-round for tastings and their hours, which might change seasonally, are noted on their websites.
To sign up for a Premium Tour & Tasting with Treveri Cellars visit their website. There is one tour in June, July, and August, and each has a 16-person limit.
To arrange for a vineyard ride in the Pinzgaur, or for groups of six or more, contact Owen Roe Winery.
To make reservations at Crafted in Yakima visit their website.
Both wineries are located in Wapato and are an 11-minute drive from Yakima. For those traveling from nearby cities, Seattle, WA is just over a 2-hour drive, and Portland, Oregon and Spokane, WA are a 3-hour drive.
Read more on Wander about Washington Wines
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with the tour and tastings for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.