Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Zillah Fruit Loop Detour

Janeen welcomes you to Piety Flats Winery
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Last week, I drove to Bellingham, Washington, and on the way back I took a quick tour of some Yakima wineries, both to see how the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail stacks up against the Snake River variety, and also because it was 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon: Time for some wine!

Unfortunately, it being in the middle of the week, there weren't a whole lot open. However, I got to sample at three very different, but quite nice, tasting rooms, which I'll combine into one posting.

My first stop was right off Route 82 at Exit 44. The Piety Flats Winery beckoned since it was within shouting distance of the interstate. Inside, there was a whole lot going on: General store with doodads and geegaws, gift shop with dolls and ribbony things, and the wine room. Janeen, the pourer, didn't know a whole lot of details about the winemaker and/or vineyard, but she was down-to-earth and friendly, and didn't charge a dime for some generous pours of 2010 Pinot Grigio, 2008 Syrah and some red blends that included varying proportions of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo and Cab Franc. My favorite was the NV Junkyard Red, which retails at about $14.
That's a windmill, not a cell tower, at Hyatt Vineyards
Photo by Meg McKenzie
But my hourlong detour was only beginning. From there, I headed east on Yakima Valley Highway and followed the signs up farmy Bella Terra Road to Gilbert Road, where I found the entrance to Hyatt Vineyards, which were set off by some pretty impressive topiary. Inside, the lovely Janet, who had the whitest teeth I have ever seen, greeted me behind a long bar. Although there was a $5 tasting fee, I got to sample some Reserve Riesling Ice Wine that was so sweet and concentrated, I almost hit the floor. Hyatt has won lots of awards, deservedly. Their 2008 Merlot was my favorite.
Rachel offers a sampling of Two Mountain wines
Photo by Meg McKenzie
With a lot of tasting rooms closed, including Bonair, Masset and Tanjuli, I was prepared to simply hit the road, when the sign for Two Mountain (named for Mount Rainier and Mount Adams) caught my eye. Frankly, their rustic corrugated barn was more my style than the upscale Hyatt edifice, and INXS was blasting from the radio as I entered. Matt Rawn, owner/winemaker, was pumping wine into barrels from tanks, and pourer Rachel quickly appeared to turn down the radio and offer me some (free!) tastes of their very pleasant Riesling, Syrah and Merlot. Of the three, the straightforward notes of the Syrah stayed with me almost all the way to Boise.

Piety Flats Winery
2560 Donald-Wapato Road
Wapato, WA 98951
(509) 877-3115;

☻☻☻ Points for having a cute, friendly pourer, though the owners need to fill Janeen in on some more details about their wines and operation. Also it's easy on, easy off the highway.

Hyatt Vineyards
2020 Gilbert Road
Zillah, WA 98953
(509) 829-6333;

☻☻☻☻It takes a good 10-15 minutes to get up to Hyatt Vineyards, and they seemed a little big and impersonal for my taste, and charged a tasting fee. But Janet was adorable, gave huge pours, seemed very knowledgeable, and the tasting room was cool and comfortable. Plus the wine was excellent. Plus it was open when others were not.

Two Mountain Winery
2151 Cheyne Road
Zillah, WA 98953
(509) 829-3900;

The outside of Two Mountain Winery near Yakima
Photo by Meg McKenzie

☻☻☻☻Out of the three wineries I visited in Yakima Valley, this was my favorite. Rachel was sweet and accommodating, and she seemed to know a lot about wine. Matt, the winemaker, was a little bit unfriendly, though; he lurked over the barrels in the background and never looked up or said hello, even as Rachel and I talked about what he was doing. 

But with the big yellow dog in the yard, the cool graphics on the barn, the short distance to the interstate, and the excellent wine -- with no fee -- I still left with a warm glow and a happy smile.

Ratings go from one grape for poor, five for excellent and are based on accessibility, ambiance, overall experience and, of course, the wines.

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