On a recent trip to Portland, we stopped at the Columbia Gorge. I was eager to taste some local wines and ended up taking the drive to Prosser, Washington.
About an hour after we set out on our journey, we completed our drive through the luscious green mountains of the Columbia Gorge, and entered miles of dry, desolate desert. There were actually wild horses along the way and the type of beat up shacks that make you wonder ‘who the hell lived here?!’ Of course with miles and miles of nada, we were eager to find our destination. Some 3 hours and a speeding ticket later, we finally arrived at our destination.
About Prosser – I had visited this town before, and didn’t realize it until I saw Alexandria Nicole Cellars there. This was one of my favorite experiences during the Washington wine tour several years ago, but since on that trip we drove in from the Washington side, I didn’t notice at the time that there are essentially no vines in the town of Prosser. There are some fantastic wine tasting rooms…but not a single grape as far as the eye can see, which doesn’t quite feel like the wine tasting experience I have come to expect.
**MY RECOMMENDATION TO PROSSER WINERIES** Plant some vines!! Who cares if they are only decoys?! One of the key variables to any good wine country formula is oceans of vines. Buy as much surrounding land and empty nearby lots as possible and plant, plant, plant! This is your best bet to making Prosser a boutique winery destination, rather than a stop on the way up to Yakima, or Walla Walla.
Anyway, after 3 hours of driving, we didn’t have much tasting time since it was already 3:30 and the tasting rooms were due to close soon. Still, I managed to taste at 4 places:
Alexandria Nicole Cellars: One of my top recommendations for wineries to visit while in Prosser. I love their Viognier, but remember it being slightly less sweet in the past. Still, if you enjoy Viognier, I recommend this bottle. They also have a robust red, called Quarry Butte Red Table Wine, and a Cabernet Franc, which I enjoyed and purchased as well.
One new development that overwhelmed my brain was a draft beer blended with their silky Viognier – WOW! This was like a summer ale, reminiscent of Belgium or unfiltered wheat beer, with flowery notes on the palate. I am not a beer drinker, but I bought a bottle of Noble Rot – yes, that’s the name, but if I told you that in the beginning, you would have not believed the ‘floral’ part, right?
Thurston Wolfe Winery: The wine here just blew me away. I ended up buying half a case and am almost out. Highly recommend Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red. The tasting room was also very cute – it had an outdoor patio, and the main room had a fireplace and seating area (although it was not hot inside). The bar was inviting and the cute winery dog was also present. They should have named this Thirsty Wolfe because it makes me thirsty just thinking about it!
Hogue Winery: By the time I got to Hogue, it was almost closing time so I had to do a speed tasting. I think they do the best job with their whites. The reds are good too, but I particularly liked their Riesling from the flight. This is one of the more available wines from Washington, so it should be an easy find if you are interested.
Wine O’Clock / Bunnell Wines: We ended up lucking out and finding the final tasting room in the form of one of the only restaurants in town. Since it was serving dinner, I was able to extend my wine drinking time beyond 5pm. The food was good and the wine was as well. The staff was also extremely friendly and accommodating. I recommend eating here if you are ever in Prosser.
Final Thoughts: I love what Prosser wineries are doing to offer a wine country experience for visitors. Each tasting room has something unique to offer. I do however, stand by my original recommendation, to use every square inch possible to plant as many vines as possible. I think that will really set this area apart as a boutique wine destination. Hopefully any Prosser wineries reading this won’t take my feedback personally – I really want to see you all flourish and succeed!