A few years back we started taking extended trips driving to wine country. While wine country was the draw, the fact is that to get to wine country, you often have the opportunity to drive through some beautiful places. We planned our travel on the scenic highways and byways along the way, allowing us to soak in some beautiful scenery.
In 2018 we attended the Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla and did a Pre-Conference Excursion to the Yakima Valley. We met Barbara Glover who runs Wine Yakima Valley and she introduced us to many of the local winemakers.
The visit was just enough to whet our appetite, and we made a plan to return.
Here began “The Scenic Route”.
The Scenic Route Day 1
We headed North through the starkly beautiful Death Valley, up Hwy 395, past Mono Lake and the East entrance to Yosemite, before finding our way to Lake Tahoe to stay for the night.
The Scenic Route Day 2
took us past Lassen Volcano, Mt. Shasta (when it had snow on the top), and finally to our first wine region of the trip, the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon.
Our first stop was Wooldridge Creek winery and creamery, where we met some of the locals. They not only make wine, at Wooldridge Creek, they also make cheese.
Then it was on to Red Lily where you can taste their wines on the banks of the Applegate River.
The Scenic Route Day 3
Our 3rd day began our winemaker interviews, with Bill Steele the founder of Cowhorn Winery, who owned this Biodynamic vineyard at the time.
We then headed North to the Umpqua Valley and spoke with Marc Giradet who has taken over his father’s historic winery. His father was the first to plant Baco Noir in this region.
The Scenic Route Day 4
After spending the night in nearby Roseburg, we bypassed Portland and Mt. Hood and headed through the Stunning Columbia Gorge taking in some of the waterfalls and doing a bit of early morning hiking, before crossing the Gorge to the Washington side and visiting Syncline Winery.
Owner & Winemaker James Mantone walked us to the vineyard, where the grapes have a stunning view of the magnificent Gorge.
The afternoon took us to the Eastern end of the Yakima Valley to Kitske Cellars near Candy Mountain.
After a fascinating vineyard walk with winemaker Seth Kitske, we were off to the other end of the Yakima Valley to visit the iconic Red Willow Vineyard where we took in the sunset while speaking with owner Mike Sauer and his son Jonathan, who filled us in on the history of the Yakima Valley wine region.
The Scenic Route Day 5
Day 5 had us up early to catch the sunrise at Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA just west of the city of Yakima.
After a quick breakfast, we met Justin Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars to speak about his Cabernets at JB Neufeld.
We met Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley at Stems Wine shop in Yakima to catch up on what was happening in Yakima Wine.
Lunch took us to Los Hernandez for their prized tamales. This unassuming cinderblock building south of Yakima was honored by the James Beard Foundation in 2018 as one of a handful of “American Classics”.
We stopped at nearby Treveri Cellars for some sparkling wine, before heading to a sit-down tasting at Owen Roe.
The Scenic Route Day 6
Day 6 had us visiting 3 AVAs and covering over 100 miles.
We began with a trip to Roskamp Vineyards in the Snipes Mountain AVA where we took a vineyard tour with Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars.
Co pointed out the geology of the Yakima Valley, the folds in the earth, and the granite boulders that were pulled into the valley through the Missoula Floods.
Our 2nd AVA of the Day was Red Mountain where we took in the stunning French Style Chateau and met with Sarah Hedges Goodhart at Hedges Family Estate. Sarah was converting the family vineyards to biodynamic.
Our day was not over…now was the longer drive East to Walla Walla, where we met with Tim Armstrong and his wife Jennifer on their Valley Grove Vineyard and discussed what brought him to winemaking.
The Scenic Route Day 7
Day 7 began with a side trip to Spain in the Walla Walla Valley with Valdemar.
This Rioja-based Winery decided to set down some new roots in the Walla Walla Valley and explore what this region had to offer.
We spoke with Kaleigh the Valdemar Estate Hospitality Director and toured their winery before meeting with Assistant Winemaker Devyani Gupta.
We spent the afternoon wandering in charming downtown Walla Walla where they have over 30 tasting rooms.
We finished the day picking up dinner in a gas station. Not just any gas station, this, at the time, was home to Andres Kitchen Andre Bopp has an amazing resume as a chef, but here he keeps it delicious and real with dishes like poutine, and tacos. He has since moved to a downtown location.
The Scenic Route Day 8
Day 8 had us up early to drive back to the Yakima Valley to meet with Kerry Shiels of Cote Bonneville and visit their estate vineyard Du Brul in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.
We headed back through the Columbia Gorge to Hood River to visit Hiyu Wine Farm. With vineyard views of Mt. Hood, Hiyu farm grows more than just grapes, they raise ducks, goats, cattle, and have wild and beautiful gardens filled with produce and herbs.
After a tour of the property, we did a seated tasting and pairing, featuring chef-created bites that were seasonal from the property.
As we made our way to the Willamette Valley, we took in the sites of the Majestic Mt. Hood.
The Scenic Route Day 9
Day 9 took us to the Van Duzer Corridor AVA in the Willamette Valley.
We met with Jack at Johan Vineyards where they work with biodynamics and natural style winemaking. Jack showed us some newly grafted over vines, and where they are inoculating old oak stumps to grow mushrooms. We tasted through their wines and learned about the Piquette he was working on.
Our afternoon took us to the ocean. From where we were in the Van Duzer Corridor it was a little more than an hour’s drive to Lincoln City on the coast, where we took in the beach and had dinner on the water.
The Scenic Route Day 10
Day 10 took us back to the Applegate Valley to meet with Herb Quady of Quady North.
We discussed sustainable packaging and walked his vineyard before heading into the quaint town of Jacksonville to visit their tasting room.
The Scenic Route Day 11
Day 11 was our drive back south, past Mt. Shasta and into the beauty of Yosemite, from the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls to the towering Giant Sequoias of Mariposa Grove. Immersing yourself in this natural beauty is the perfect way to end a road trip.