Yakima Valley tour takes in top vineyards

By on July 10, 2013
The Yakima Valley is the oldest viticultural area in Washington state.

The Yakima Valley celebrates its 30th anniversary as an American Viticultural Area this year. A tour July 27 will take wine enthusiasts through some of its most important vineyards. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Learn more about Washington’s oldest American Viticultural Area during its summer vineyard tour July 27.

Participants will view some of the Yakima Valley’s oldest and most prestigious vineyards and learn how grape growing is different in the region. They will meet with some of the state’s top grape growers and pioneers.

The tour includes transportation, wine, food and speakers. Lunch is provided by Jessica Smith, executive chef at Kestrel Vintners in Prosser. Tickets for the tour are $95 per person and available online at Wine Yakima Valley.

This tour will include DuBrul Vineyard, Kestrel View Estates and Kiona Vineyards.

“A tour like this is generally offered to buyers and members of the media,” said Kerry Shiels, winemaker at DuBrul’s Cote Bonneville. “The education, wines and opportunity to meet some of the state’s most highly regarded growers is rarely offered to the general public.”

The tour is part of the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley AVA’s approval by the federal government in 1983, making it the oldest AVA in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, the Yakima Valley’s grape growing and winemaking history goes back a century, and the development of the modern Washington wine industry began in the Yakima Valley with the work of Dr. Walter Clore at Washington State University’s research campus north of Prosser.

Here’s a look at the tour and the vineyards involved.

First stop: Kestrel

Kestrel View Vineyard is north of Prosser and was first planted in 1972.

Grapes await harvest at Kestrel View Vineyard north of Prosser. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

North of Prosser, Kestrel View Estate Vineyard is home to some of Washington’s oldest vines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay were planted in 1972 by Mike Wallace, who arrived from the Seattle area in the early 1970s. Mike still runs one of the state’s oldest wineries, Hinzerling, which he launched in 1976.

Some of the grapes go into Kestrel Vintners’ wines, while other winemakers around the state also have access to the precious fruit. The vineyard consists of two sites that total 120 acres of vineyards.

Second stop: DuBrul

Wade Wolfe is the owner and winemaker at Thurston Wolfe Winery in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser.

Wade Wolfe, a longtime viticulturist and winemaker in the Yakima Valley, helped design DuBrul Vineyard in the 1990s.

Hugh and Kathy Shiels planted DuBrul Vineyard in 1992 near Sunnyside, and it has become a favorite of winemakers across Washington, including Betz, Owen Roe, Soos Creek and Woodward Canyon.

The vineyard was designed by Wade Wolfe, a longtime Yakima Valley viticulturist and winemaker, and was developed by the late Stan Clarke, a legend in the Washington wine industry.

The Shiels family launched Cote Bonneville in 2001, and their daughter Kerry is the winemaker.

Third stop: Kiona

Scott Williams is the second-generation winemaker on Red Mountain in Washington state.

Scott Williams is the second-generation winemaker at Kiona Vineyards Winery on Washington’s Red Mountain. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

The Williams and Holmes families are the pioneers of Red Mountain. John Williams and Jim Holmes planted Kiona Vineyards beginning in 1975 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling. The next year, they added Merlot, Lemberger and Chenin Blanc.

Today, the Williams family runs Kiona Vineyards Winery, and Jim Holmes owns famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard just across Sunset Road. They remain the best of friends. John’s son Scott is the head winemaker and runs the winery’s day-to-day operation. And Scott’s son J.J. is heavily involved in the winery on the sales side, making Kiona a three-generation family winery.

The vineyard is 250 acres in size on Red Mountain, which is in the eastern-most corner of the Yakima Valley, between the towns of Benton City and West Richland.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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