Washington State’s wine history truly began in the early 1970’s when Chateau Ste Michelle put Washington Riesling on the global wine map. Consistent expansion throughout the state over the last 50 years has now made Washington the 2nd largest producer of premium wine in the country. Along with this notoriety and abundance of world-class wineries, a market for destination wine tourism was created. Today, Washington state doesn’t have just one established wine country, but four. From Walla Walla to Woodinville, Washington has something for every type of wine lover.
Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four and half hours by car from Seattle, and just thirteen miles from the Oregon border. Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar made Walla Walla the first bonded winery in the city. In just a few short years, his 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon was named best Cabernet Sauvignon in the nation by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Walla Walla quickly became a place of prestige in the wine world. Today Walla Walla is home to over 140 wineries, tasting rooms, and wine bars, and hosts several large annual wine-tasting festivals.
An hour drive Northeast from Walla Walla will bring you to Tri-Cities Wine Country; anchored by the towns of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. The area lays claim to over 200 wineries, with many being world class. What makes Tri-Cities so attractive to visit is its arid climate. With just seven inches of rain a year, plus over 300 days of sunshine, combining wine tastings with outdoor activities is a common theme for vacationers.
Just 78 miles northeast from Tri-Cities will get you to Yakima Wine Country. Yakima is home to over 120 wineries but because it produces over half of Washington’s wine grapes, it is truly the hub of the state’s wine industry. No wine area is more diverse than Yakima as it can boast association with five different AVA’s: Yakima Valley, Snipes Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Horse Heaven Hills is especially noteworthy as it is the source of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd “100 point” wines in the State of Washington.
Fifteen miles outside of Seattle, Woodinville is just over a two-hour drive from Yakima. Located West of the Cascade Mountains, Woodinville wineries bring their grapes over from Eastern Washington. So instead of wine estates surrounded by vineyards, Woodinville offers clusters of wineries surrounded by restaurants, microbreweries, wine clubs, shopping centers, and hotels. This unique wine experience has brought wineries from all over the state to Woodinville through satellite tasting rooms. It has made Woodinville the ultimate wine destination showcasing the entire state from coast to coast.