Where to do a wine tasting in Red Mountain and the Tri-Cities
NOTor questionâRed Mountain looks like a wine country. The small appellation has just over 4,000 acres in total, about half of which is planted with wine grapes. And yet, relatively few farms produce wine here; The main draw of Red Mountain is this agricultural charm.
Any visit should start with Kiona Vineyards and Vineyards, just outside of Benton City. Kiona was there at the start of Red Mountain’s wine journey, when John Williams and Jim Holmes planted the area’s first vineyard in 1975. (Holmes then planted the famous Heaven of the Horse Vineyard, while the Williams family became the a leading producer on Red Mountain, cultivating over 200 acres.) Today, Kiona is a multigenerational winery with an expansive tasting room, as well as plenty of outdoor space. Basically, however, this is the same family business as when John and Ann Williams poured wine in a tasting room in their basement. Make sure to taste the lemberger; Kiona was the first in the country to plant this rarely seen grape.
Just down the road at Fidelitas, winemaker Charlie Hoppes has over 30 years of experience in Washington and made wine at Chateau Ste. Michelle before founding her cellar. Hoppes’ experience in the state informs his current wines, which exude polish. The tasting room has a spacious patio that overlooks the Horse Heaven Hills and an interior space with glass walls and a roll-up door. As always on Red Mountain, vineyards surround you.
A short drive into town brings you to Upchurch Vineyard. Chris Upchurch spent decades crafting premium wines at DeLille Cellars before planting this vineyard and starting the winery with his wife, Theodora. The cellar and the tasting room occupy a beautiful building next to the estate’s vineyard. Here you can taste red wines that show the power but also the finesse of Red Mountain. Be sure to try the sauvignon blanc as well.
Finally, back in Richland, another multigenerational winery awaits you. Jerry Bookwalter planted and managed some of Washington’s most famous wineries before starting his own J. Bookwalter Winery in 1983. His son, John, is now at the helm and has made the company one of Washington’s most recognizable brands. The wines have literary themes – Protagonist, Suspense, Conflict – and fruit from the vineyards much appreciated by the state. A new production plant and tasting room have a range of indoor spaces and patios. Its nearby full-service restaurant, Fiction, has a long menu for lunch and dinner and a bar that serves beer and spirits, if you want a wine break. Or return to your accommodation (Richland is a logical base for visitors), take a quick nap, and meet up at Anthony’s in Columbia Point. The seafood-focused restaurant chain has a location in Richland that overlooks the Columbia River, with an extensive Washington wine list.