Ever since the time Ted surprised me with a trip to Venice for my birthday, he’s planned trips as my birthday presents more often than not – this works out well because I emphatically don’t need more stuff! and because organizing is his superpower. In recent years, we’ve been visiting some of the wine regions around here; we’d done Dundee and McMinnville in previous years, so this year we went further afield, to Yakima, WA, where they specialized in big red wines rather than our local Pinot Noirs. We took Friday off and started with a drive along the Columbia River Gorge, with a stop at the Gorge Interpretive Center’s nice little museum.

There’s supposed to be a good art museum along the way, but it doesn’t open for the year until March 15th; likewise the observatory we drove by as we headerd north turned out to be closed. Once we got to Yakima, we tried to stop at Wilridge Winery, just above town, and that was closed as well; I was beginning to wonder if this trip was going to be a total bust (also, we hadn’t eaten much, so I was definitely getting a bit grumpy). We checked into our hotel and, after a quick nap for Ted and some lunch for me, headed out to a couple of the downtown tasting rooms. Once there, things started looking up; we actually hated the wines at the first winery, which were very dry and had some off flavors, but it was a pleasant place to hang out, and the guy serving the tastings was friendly and gave us some good advice about other places to visit. (We didn’t tell him he hated his wines, of course!) The wines at the next place were much better, and we ended up buying two whites and two reds; the ones at the third place were decent, and we finished up with dinner at Cowiche Canyon restaurant, where the food was excellent though the noise level was uncomfortably high. Friday wineries: AntoLin, Gilbert, Kana.

There are actually four winetasting areas in the Yakima Valley, so on Saturday we headed further afield into the Prosser and Rattlesnake areas. It was a gorgeous day, with intense blue skies and temperatures that eventually got up into the sixties. We made a quick stop at the Teapot Dome gas station, then visited five different wineries, finishing up at our favorite of the whole trip, which specializes in sparkling wines. The tasting was free, and when we ordered a Mediterranean platter to go with it (hummus, tapenade, etc) the food proportions were very generous. The wines there are only $15-20, so I have no idea how they make their money unless it’s just volume; the place had lots of tables and was full, whereas at some of the other places it was just us and the person running the tasting room. Saturday wineries: Bonair, Two Mountain Winery, VanArnam Vineyards, Masset Winery and Treveri (the sparkling wine place).

On Sunday, since it was another beautiful warm day, we were able to take the northern route home (when we left Friday, there was snow on the ground at White Pass and traction tires were required, which was why we took the Gorge route that day). It was even more spectacular than the Gorge: towering cliff, clear streams, capped with a spectacular view of Mt Rainier.

After unpacking and a bit of erging at home (rowers don’t get weekends off!) we finished the weekend with a trip to one more winery – because we had to pick up our wine club shipment there! No wonder Ted looks a bit tired.