Washington Wines


Another chapter in my tasting adventures

Each time I visit Washington, I find a new exciting group of wineries in yet another region I previously knew little about. This time it’s the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Richland and Kennewick. With my daughter in college in Walla Walla, I found that travelling this route, which requires a shuttle or car rental from Pasco into Walla Walla, is a bit easier and more convenient. There are direct flights into Pasco from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and Las Vegas, among others.

My last piece on Washington wines covered wineries along the way from Seattle to Walla Walla for those who make the drive. I then covered Walla Walla entirely during the holiday barrel tasting weekend and now I’m covering this small area just outside of Walla Walla.

It’s a dry, sunny stretch with an average 300 days of sunshine, and it sits at the intersection of three rivers: Columbia, Snake and Yakima. For visitors that look for more than just a wine tasting trip, this is ideal. More ambitious activities include kayaking, fishing, sailing and even cycling. But, with only a short afternoon between my flight from Chicago and my dinner in Walla Walla, I devoted my time to a small stretch of wineries – Tulip Lane – only miles from the airport. There are over 150 wineries with a 50 mile radius of the Tri-Cities, making it a true center of the Washington wine region. But even in a short time frame, I had a lovely tasting experience and a good feel for this smaller area, with but a dozen or so wineries.

Our first stop right off the plan was for lunch and a tasting at Tagaris Tasting Bar and Restaurant (844 Tulip Lane, Richmond). This enormous place looked more like a mountain lodge, with a dark wooded feel and seats for hundreds. Fortunately, the outdoor patio was still open in October and while it was only in the 60s, the sun kept us nice and toasty for lunch. The Mediterranean menu is casual, with salads and sandwiches, but the array of wines was enormous. As per my other visits, the range of grape varietals planted in the state are broad and always surprising. Just in the whites, Tagaris offers a clean and crisp citrusy 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, fruity 2008 Rose, 2009 dry Riesling, 2009 Chenin Blanc, 2010 Gewurtztraminer, 2011 Muscat Canelli, 2011 Semillon, 2010 clean, acidic and green apple tinged Chardonnay and 2010 Pinot Gris. It’s hard to believe all of these varietals grow in the area but indeed they do.

Reds have an equal breadth from the 2006 Red Roan (79 percent Syrah) to a variety of Merlots, Cabernets and a Cabernet Franc, as well. Reds then move toward Italian varietals such as the 2009 Sangiovese and 2009 Barbera. We tasted about a half-dozen of the wines and they were delightful with the simple fare – uncomplicated wines of medium body and moderate extraction. The wines are made in a style that’s suitable for everyday drinking.

We had our first taste of Tulip Lane then wandered down the short road to stop two: Barnard Griffin Wines (878 Tulip Lane).

The family owned winery, opened in 1983 by Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard, initially has an incredibly small production of only 400 cases of Fume Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Now, 30 or so years later, Barnard Griffin has grown into a consistent and integral part of the Washington wine landscape. The tasting room features the beautiful blown glass artwork of Ms. Barnard. It’s open everyday from 10AM-5PM. Once again, there’s a mind-bending array of single varietal wines. We tasted an array of these wines and enjoyed the lovely unctuous Roussanne and one of the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignons. Others include whites such as Fume Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling and Merlot, and reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Non-Vintage Cab-Merlot and Syrah, among many others.

Our last stop on this short trip down Tulip Lane was to the Bookwalter Winery tasting room (894 Tulip Lane). Considered one of the ‘cult’ wines of Washington, with an active wine club or ‘Book Club’ as it’s called, Bookwalter wines features such beauties as the 2010 ForeShadow Cabernet and ForeShadow Merlot, 2010 Protagonist and Notebook table wines. These are finely crafted wines with bright fruit yet a good dose of elegance. We enjoyed tasting through these on our way out.

Watch more information on this family owned winery here on these videos. Stay tuned for more adventure in wine – from shops in Chicago to Napa Valley, with stops along the way to other wine regions like Washington. Please chime in on your wine adventures and lets start a conversation.


About Laura Levy Shatkin

Laura Levy Shatkin served for 10 years as food and wine critic for the Chicago Reader. Later, she became an Emmy-nominated executive producer for Taste, a 30-minute food and wine show on NBC-5 Chicago, which later merged into www.WineTasteTV.com, where Ms. Levy is a partner/owner. Today, she teaches private wine classes and hosts wine parties for consumers and firms, and continues to tell the video stories of wine, girlfriends and wine travel on her TCW blog, Wine…ing Women.