May 082015

What methodology do you use to help you decide which wineries to visit when you are presented with a list of 42 wineries and you have two days? That was our dilemma last weekend when we decided to buy the Premier Pass for the Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting. In spite of Gary’s inclination to just go down the list and visit all the wineries, it really would not be feasible and it would not be fun to rush the experience.

So we read and reread the Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting website that described all the activities at all the participating wineries and decided that we were most interested in Owen Roe‘s “Hike the Hill”. First off, the activity was unique among those offered and it sounded fun and interesting, plus it started earlier in the morning than other wineries opened. To really clinch the deal, the weather was perfect – sunny with no wind.

Owen Roe Winery - 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

Owen Roe Winery – 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

We got a later start than we’d planned (no surprise) and arrived at the winery after the first group of hikers had already ascended the hill. To pass the time while we waited for them to return, Gary took a few photos, we sampled a couple of wines, and I chatted with co-owner Angelica O’Reilly. It was obvious that some of the children around the tasting room were hers and I found out we have a lot in common. She and David have 8 children, we have (only) 7, and they are homeschooling, which we also did for many years. Their main base of operation is in Oregon but they also spend a significant amount of time here in Washington. They also have the opportunity to travel now and then so homeschooling allows them to take school with them wherever they go.

Owen Roe Winery - 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

Owen Roe Winery – 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

At last David O’Reilly finished the first tour and was ready for the second. It was immediately clear that this guy really is passionate about the soil and geology of his vineyards. I think from the bottom to the top of the hill we were shown at least four distinct soil types, each one ideally suited to a certain variety of grape. Even a novice like me was able to see the changes in the ground as we ascended the hill, from mostly dirt at the bottom, to mostly rocky at the top. At two particular spots on the hike, the winery crew poured samples of wine that were produced from the grapes grown on that block of the vineyard. If you see that Owen Roe is giving vineyard tours in the future, I recommend you make the time to participate. It’s fascinating and informative.

Owen Roe Winery - 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

Owen Roe Winery – 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

After the hike, Gary and I continued through the tasting offerings in the tasting room. There must have been 8 or 9 wines offered for tasting that day, plus for the early birds they had coffee and pastries. Later they served up some deli meats and cheeses – yes, we hung around that long!

We enjoyed all the wines, but came home with two – 2012 Ex Umbris Syrah, and 2013 Malbec that I’m planning to keep in the cellar for awhile. I have great hopes that a little bit of age will do some nice things to it.

Owen Roe Winery - 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

Owen Roe Winery – 2015 Spring Barrel Tasting

Visiting Owen Roe was an excellent way to begin our Spring Barrel Tasting Weekend, and I would recommend you drop in when you are in the Yakima, Washington, area.

Apr 282015
Fidelitas Tasting Room Entrance - Photo Credit:

Fidelitas Tasting Room Entrance – Photo Credit:

Just up the hill from Kiona Winery, you’ll find a simple structure that houses the Fidelitas tasting room on Red Mountain. The southwest side of the building opens completely to the patio and views of adjacent vineyards. On this lovely spring day, the expanse was open allowing the inside and outside to become one beautiful, big space. The room was empty for the moment, so we had the complete attention of the two servers for quite awhile.

Fidelitas Winery Tasting Room

Fidelitas Winery Tasting Room – Photo Credit:

The tasting lineup for the day was limited to only four wines, all reds.

Fidelitas Winery Tasting Selection - Photo Credit:

Fidelitas Winery Tasting Selection – Photo Credit:

Four reds – a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, and two blends – each one was delicious. I would have liked to buy one of each, but the price point is a little bit high for our normal wine budget. However, if we were to want something really special for an occasion, I’d head straight to Fidelitas!

You can be sure we’ll visit the tasting room again because not only were the wines great, but the servers were friendly, chatty, informative and really fun. Our experience there was everything you want in a tasting.

Fidelitas Winery - Photo Credit:

Fidelitas Winery – Photo Credit:

Too bad we ran out of time or you can bet we would have bought a glass to enjoy on the patio!

Apr 262015

Apr 252015

Sent out a few tweets while we were out tasting today.

Apr 242015
Topping barrels at Knight Hill Winery

Topping barrels at Knight Hill Winery

We have read through Wine Yakima Valley’s Spring Barrel Tasting program a number of times and have picked out a few “must do” wineries for the weekend. We will leave the rest of our schedule open and see what recommendations we receive and what appeals to us as we drive through Washington Wine Country. Luckily we have two days to explore and we don’t have to do them all — We live here!

Planned Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting Winery Stops

These are the wineries we have highlighted for the weekend as well as what it was that caught our eye.

  • Owen Roe Winery – starting our day with their “Hike the Hill” event. After the hilltop tasting, join the staff in the winery for a pastry, some coffee, and a tour of our barrel hall.
  • Knight Hill – a “side by side” barrel tasting of 2012 Syrah in two different types of oak barrels, French and American
  • Masset Winery – classic cars will be on display but it primarily made our list because it is not on the Wine Yakima Valley maps.
  • Yakima Valley Vintners – Student winemakers will be providing complimentary facility tours with educational stations featuring food and wine pairings, aeration of wines, and a barrel tasting.
  • Kitzke Cellars – sent me a tweet: “stop by we have our 2012 Nebbiolo and 2010 Malbec ready!”

We are looking forward to a wonderful weekend.

Apr 232015
2015 Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting

2015 Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting

On Friday the 2015 Yakima Valley Spring Barrel Tasting begins! Von and I have decided to make the time to visit a number of the wineries between the Tri-Cities and Yakima over the weekend.

We have not (yet) figured out our complete game plan but plans are to visit Airfield Estates Winery Friday evening to pick up our Premier Passes for the weekend’s many tastings and, while we are there, possibly enjoy some Jazz by the Ben Macy Trio or visit a few other wineries that have extened their Friday night hours this weekend.

Saturday morning, we hope to make it out to Owen Roe Winery between 9 and 11 for their “Hike the Hill” event:

Start your winery weekend out right with an energizing hike up to the top of our “Pearl Block” vineyard. Panoramic views of the Yakima Valley are the perfect setting for an estate tasting of our 2012 Syrah and 2012 Bordeaux-styled blend from our estate Union Gap Vineyard.

Once you reach the top of the hill, meet Founder and Co-Owner, David O’Reilly, and learn about the unique style and history of Owen Roe wines.

After the hilltop tasting, join our staff in the winery for a pastry and coffee and a tour of our barrel hall. Wine tasting will be available to those that wish to get a head start on the Spring Barrel festivities.

From there? Who knows. The choices are almost overwhelming. We will be taking our time and taking lots of photos. Our picnic lunch will be enjoyed on the lawn of one of our stops (unless the available food entices us first). If you have any suggestions or “Don’t miss” recommendations, please let us know.

Spring Barrel Tasting Guides:

Two items to make note of from from the ykm509 tips file:

  • Be realistic: It’s not a marathon. Visit no more than five wineries per day. More than that and your taste pallet will grow numb.
  • Be prepared: Bring a cooler filled with bottled water and snacks. Pack a picnic, as many of the wineries have picnic grounds or plan on eating lunch at one of the wineries that serve food. Food helps you to regain your palate and provides a needed break. Also, if it is warm, consider a cooler for your purchased wines. Heat is bad for wine.

Any recommendations? Please feel free to let us know.

Apr 222015

Sunday afternoon was one of those perfect spring days in the Tri-Cities – warm, sunny, and absolutely no wind – a great day to visit Red Mountain. Our destination: Kiona Winery.

The Winery

They have a superb deck on which you can enjoy a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine overlooking acres of grape vines.

Grape Vines

It is still early spring. The vines have just barely begun to leaf.

Mountain View

The tasting room in large and inviting featuring walls of windows taking in the views. In the ell of the building you can enjoy the photography of John Clement, a favorite of ours.


Here was the lineup of wines available for tasting on April 19.


We started with the Chenin Blanc, and after the first sip, we both looked at each other with surprise – we really liked it! It’s not sweet, it is crisp and light and would be delightful after gardening or mowing the lawn. Moving on to the reds, we didn’t find any of them remarkable. Now we wouldn’t say they were bad at all, just not to our taste. The last bottle was the Late Harvest Riesling which of course was quite sweet and nice, perfect for dessert.

The traffic of tasters to the tasting room was light, but steady, and we exchanged comments with some, but no real conversation with anyone. We might have spent a little time on the deck if Kiona had some cheese in the cooler, but there wasn’t, and we didn’t think ahead to pack anything. Lesson learned!

Apr 212015

Gary & Von

Gary & Von

The kids are grown – all seven of them. So many obligations, school activities, sporting events are just about to end as our last child graduates from high school in June, leaving us with hours to fill. As Gary and I drove home from an impromptu weekend photography trip, we made a stop at Maryhill Winery when we realized there were no kids along to be bored.

We love Maryhill with its big deck that showcases expansive views of the Columbia River and Mt. Hood. The wine is good with 8 wines on the day’s tasting list – a great value for your $5 tasting fee. Since it was towards the end of the day on a Sunday, the tasting room was busy and a fella began a tasting next to us. Conversation began. He was from Twin Falls, Idaho, a Maryhill wine club member who freely shared some of his life experience which made our time at Maryhill very interesting and entertaining.

As we left, Gary joked that we should visit a winery every week. Not only would we get to enjoy some great wine, we could meet some fun people, and wineries often are beautiful places that are fun to photograph. At the pace of one winery a week, we wouldn’t even make a dent in the long list of wineries here in the Columbia Basin of Washington, also known as Washington’s wine country. There are 240 wineries a short drive to the east and west of our home in Kennewick, which includes grapes from the regional AVA’s of Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills and Naches Heights.

That’s just close to home. Throw in the hundreds more located throughout the rest of Washington State, plus Oregon and Idaho, well, we have blog post possibilities far out into the future.

We hope you’ll come along for the ride.