The majority of the 120 wineries in the Yakima Valley are family-owned and operated. Most are smaller, boutique wineries, which means you often get a chance to talk to the owners and winemakers when visiting. There are numerous stories of how the winemakers began their craft of making fine wines, but here are a few of the Yakima Valley winery owner’s stories: how they got started, and their winemaking philosophy. Get to know them and you will understand their commitment to the quality of the handcrafted product they produce. There are young entrepreneurs born to the farm life, seasoned farmers, and others whose dream of operating a world-class winery has finally come to fruition.
Antolin Cellars – Tony and Linda Haralson were home winemakers for ten years, sourcing grapes from their five acre estate vineyards, working day jobs as a pharmacist and nurse in Yakima. In 2007, their dream of owning a winery was realized. The couples Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah from their vineyard, and other select sites in the Yakima and Columbia Valleys, produce award winning wines. They will tell you, “Our passion is winemaking and our dream is to share the fruits of our passion. Here’s to making friends, one glass at a time.”
Cultura Winery – Winemakers Tad and Sarah Fewel grew up in the Yakima Valley. Sarah has been hands on in every part of the wine business from tasting room manager, cellar rat, vineyard worker, fruit sampler, blending, crushing and bottling for other wineries. Tad has his hands in the soil, planting the vineyard with Cabernet Franc and experimenting with old-world pruning techniques. They are producing 600 cases and as Sarah says; “We don’t want to get too big,” Sarah says. “We want to be able to continue doing it all ourselves.” This hands-on, old world approach is reflected in every bottle of Cultura Wine.
Two Mountain Winery – Patrick and Matthew Rawn started out as summer workers, or “the help” on the farm; driving the tractor, operating the forklift, fetching lunch, etc. Summers on the farm eventually became “life on the farm”. When fate provided them the opportunity to purchase the winery from the family in 2006, the brothers jumped at the chance. Now, 12 years later, they continue to produce award-winning wines that showcase the skills the brothers have learned over the years.
Coyote Canyon Winery started as a dry plot of land restored from being a World War II bomb-test site, yielding meager dry land wheat. 20 years after the first well was drilled, the farm was growing irrigated wheat and prize Hereford cattle. In 1994, the first 20-acre plot of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards was planted, and in 2006 Mike Andrews started Coyote Canyon Winery. Then in 2009, HH Estates Reserve Estate Wines were created as a tribute to the Andrews family history, the Horse Heaven Hills terroir and the award-winning fruit and wines produced.
Desert Wind Winery – Run by two generations of a Northwest farming family, Desert Wind Winery is a close-knit family operation. Lifelong farmers Doug and Jo Ann Fries and family settled in the Northwest in the early 1980’s. In 1984, they planted a small 13-acre vineyard with the hope of producing a few hundred cases of their own wine in Dundee Oregon, which became Duck Pond Cellars, one of the leading producers of Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. In 1992, they acquired a 540-acre parcel of land on Eastern Washington’s Wahluke Slope, an area particularly suited to growing hot-climate varietals. The Desert Wind Vineyard was planted with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and a handful of other varieties. In 2001, they launched the Desert Wind brand to showcase their handcrafted wines from these vineyard sites. The Desert Wind facility in Prosser is a destination unto itself, with well-appointed rooms for overnight stays and an exceptional gift shop.
Hightower Cellars – “Get the best grapes and don’t screw them up.” This is the wine making philosophy of co-winemakers and husband and wife, Tim & Kelly Hightower. Wanting the best grapes for the best wine, the search for the best growing area for a world class winery led them to Red Mountain, where they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc on a 15 acre, southwest sloping parcel. They now handcraft highly acclaimed, food friendly red wines of elegance, depth and complexity.
Every winery in the Yakima Valley has a unique story, so grab your favorite tasting glass and get out there and talk to the winemakers and find out what makes them special!