Resident admirers of Washington wines know there are enclaves where one may daytrip it with friends and partake in tastings from a cluster of wineries. The two major cities that fully embrace their “wine destination” status are Woodinville and Walla Walla, each with over a hundred wineries within and adjacent to their city limits. Then, there are the actual “tourist” locales where tasting rooms have sprouted to take advantage of the heavy foot traffic… why, that would be Leavenworth and nearby Lake Chelan! And sure, there are those that have tried (and not sustained success) but are still making an effort… calling Seattle and Snohomish here. Finally, there are the emerging wine meccas that are quietly but progressively growing their winery numbers, making their area a future “must stop” for those traveling winos. Common threads for these budding wine zones are that (1) they are situated close to a few existing wineries, (2) have cheap rental space, and, more often than not, (3) are located in the heart of wine country. You know a few of them: Yakima, Prosser, and perhaps the one area with the best opportunity for becoming the next premier “wine destination” due to its proximity to a large population, plenty of hotel space, and a distinguished regional culture– the Tri-Cities, representing Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco!
Let’s take a look at what each city offers.
Richland: Barnard Griffin Winery, Boulder Estates Winery, Cavallo di Ferro, Denhoed Wine Estates, F/W Wine, Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards & Winery, Hamilton Cellars, Holmes Family Winery, J. Bookwalter Winery, Kitzke Cellars, Lawrelin Wine Company, Market Vineyards, Pacific Rim Winemakers, Purple Star Wines, Sonoris Wines, Tagaris Winery, Terra Vinum, Thomas O’Neil Cellars, Vinaceus, Alexander The Grape (really? really?), and Gorgeous Wine Company (*facepalm* really??).
Pasco: Claar Cellars, Gordon Brothers Cellars, Preston Premium Wines, Vineyard View Marketplace.
Kennewick: Canyon’s Edge Winery, Farmhand Winery, Giant Wine Company, Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar, NW Vine Project, Powers Winery, Smasne Cellars, Thompson Hill Cellars (formerly 360 Cellars Estate), aaaaand this one.
Sun River Vintners. Just the name alone confuses many a Northwesterner with that resort town down south– Sunriver, Oregon. However, this is a very true Washington winery run by longtime electrical and plumbing experts, Daniel and Glenn Washam. While their construction-related company has stood since 1985, in the last few years, the Washams have nursed a winery on the property, purportedly as some homage to their favorite vacation retreat.
The Washams prefer to stay out of the wine-light and have brought in Kathleen Annette Dykes, 63, to be the “face” of the winery and handle the daily operations. “Kat” has extensive experience within the industry as she is also the “wine agent” for the Wines of Washington tasting rooms. The former Kathleen Cross married another wine-centric aficionado in Bob Dykes in 1998 before Bob succumbed to cancer on January 14, 2010.
Sun River’s winemaker is Gregory Steven Vogtritter, 50.
The winery produces approximately 2500 cases/year and wants to be known for using Le Grand Porto Pipe barrels. These monster-sized, 650 liter (110kg) barrels from Cognac, France, as you can imagine, pump a massive lot of toasty tannins to enhance a wine flavor’s profile. Each barrel holds about 72 cases of wine, three times the capacity of a “standard” barrel. Imagine racking and cleaning those bitches!
Sun River Vintner’s current lineup boasts a typical “I make what I like” set of wines: zinfandel, syrah, nebbiolo, merlot, chenin blanc, gewürztraminer, nebbiolo port, semillon/sauvignon blanc blend, and a cab/merlot/syrah blend. Prices top out at a reasonable $32 and feature a few single vineyard gems. Tastings by appointment only or on release/special event weekends.
To the wine…
Tasted at 60-64 degrees on the IR temp gun. Elegantly dressed in magenta with a ruby edge on dark mahogany, the wine’s Riedel-filling aromas overflow with Lambert cherry, raspberry sauce, and strawberry fields forever. Medium-bodied on the palate with a slight alcohol bite, this well-built sangiovese leaves enduring notes of plum, black cherry, and high-toned cupboard spices such as anise and cinnamon. Dense and active with fruit on stage and savory tannins behind the curtain. Give it 40 minutes to open up and for the tannins to become a red velvet carpet. Timeless sangiovese. Food pairing was quick-n-easy chili. Nice.
Alcohol: 15.3%. Boushey Vineyard. Yakima Valley AVA. Black waxed top. Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 3/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 92. Value: $35. Paid: $25. Music pairing: “Timeless” by The Airborne Toxic Event. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.