The secret is out! There are some great Columbia Gorge wine tasting experiences to be had on the Washington side of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. You can take a drive in the Gorge, go wine tasting and avoid all the traffic.
Woods and Views with Little Traffic
The drive to the eastern end of the Gorge for wine tasting was half the fun. We drove SR 14 on the Washington side of the river from Vancouver, Washington and encountered very little traffic. Meanwhile on the Oregon side, Multnomah Falls had more tourists and Hood River was bustling with Sunday day-trippers.
We enjoyed Gorge views and drove through the quaint town of Stevenson. Just before the Hood River Bridge we stopped to watch windsurfers and kite boarders picking up the winds and skimming the surface of the water with their brightly colored sails and kites.
Columbia Gorge Wine Tasting at the New Hawkins Cellars Tasting Room
We had been invited to a Columbia Gorge wine tasting event at Hawkins Cellars on Underwood Mountain. They were just opening their new tasting room across the river from Hood River, Oregon. Since we were already on the Washington side, we turned just before the bridge and drove up the mountain, stopping several times for amazing views of the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge and snow-capped Mt. Hood.
Hawkins Cellars is well known for their wines and have a tasting room in Dundee, Oregon. The new Underwood Mountain tasting room follows on the success of their popular Dundee, Oregon site, which was recently recognized by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the “Top Vineyards Around the US.”
Currently the new Washington tasting room features Mt. Hood vistas, an estate-grown Pinot Noir vineyard and award-winning wines from the Willamette Valley, Yakima Valley and Red Mountain. They are looking forward to harvesting the first acre of Pinot Noir grapes from the property this fall. As they explained at the tasting, the area is perfect for growing Pinot Noir grapes. They clearly saw the potential in the Underwood Mountain area.
The tasting took place on their grassy lawn shaded by fabric sails and large trees. It’s a great place to bring a picnic lunch and furry friends are also welcome. Their wines were perfect for a warm day…whites not too sweet and well balanced reds. We tasted a flight of six wines ranging from a summer-perfect 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris through to the 2015 Red Mountain Mourvedre.
In my typical blend-loving style, I selected the 2014 Caldera Red as my favorite. It was a red blend of 50% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 23% Syrah and 2% Viognier.
We were treated to tasty tacos from the local Huck Truck and enjoyed our time in the shade with a view of the vineyard and Mt. Hood beyond. They were having a “Summer Sipper Special,” offering three bottles of white or rosé for $55.
Columbia Gorge Wine Tasting at Aniche Cellars
My first experience, some time ago, on Underwood Mountain was a visit to the women-owned Aniche Cellars. It was there that I enjoyed a fresh locavore meal created by the daughter of the founder and winemaker, Rachel Horn. Rachel has a commitment to sustainability and sourcing locally. All of Aniche's grapes come from within a 150-mile radius of the winery on the mountain.
They are known for their blends, created in a European style. On this visit I tasted several red blends and chose Rachel’s Goat Boy 2013. Goat Boy 2013 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot from Rattlesnake Hills AVA and Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Goat Boy 2012 was awarded a Double Gold at the International Women’s Wine Competition.
There was lots of activity going on at the winery at this visit. While guests relaxed in wooden Adirondack chairs overlooking the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge, the Hood River tasting room (across the river) was being closed and supplies brought back. They said that the winery operations would be moving and the beautiful barrel room would again be available for wine tasting with more seating. They definitely had outgrown the small European look winery I had visited several years ago.
Aniche Cellars is worth a visit, their blends are amazing and the view… sublime.
When You Go Columbia Gorge Wine Tasting
Be sure and check the winery websites for the days and hours the tasting rooms are open. Consider bringing a lunch. Both wineries we visited had great places to relax and enjoy the view. Both wineries allowed dogs on leash.
Aniche Cellars in Underwood, Washington, 71 Little Buck Creek Rd.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 noon to 6 p.m.
Hawkins Cellars in Underwood, Washington, 10401 Cook Underwood Rd. Summer Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 12 noon to 6 p.m. Open seasonally through Thanksgiving weekend.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with wine tasting and meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.