So you want to make an excursion to Washington wine country? There are a few things you may want to do before setting out.
Pick Your Region
First, which Washington winery region would you like to visit? Keep in mind that Washington wine country is quite vast and spread apart. If your overnight accommodations are in Seattle and you want to stay in western Washington, the Seattle or Woodinville wineries are within a half-hour drive. You will not likely find vineyards in the Seattle/ Woodinville areas. There are some western Washington wine grape growers, but they are not in Seattle and only one is in Woodinville- see Puget Sound winery region for Western Washington vineyards.
You can make a day-trip to the Yakima Valley (Yakima, Rattlesnake Hills, Zillah) and Leavenworth wineries, but you will be driving for several hours. For the lower Yakima Valley (Prosser, Grandview, Sunnyside), Red Mountain and beyond, I would recommend getting hotel accommodations in your target wine country. Although I have definitely gone there and back in one day, it makes for one LONG day.
Once you choose your Winery Region, pick the wineries within that area. I have tried to provide information about each winery including wines offered and their prices, the atmosphere and the people pouring wine, to help you decide which are best for you. Check to see if you need to call the winery ahead of time and if there are tasting fees so you can be prepared. Check the winery website for tasting room hours so you don’t show up to a closed winery.
Plan Dining In Wine Country
The next step to think about what type of dining experience you would like to have. It’s easy to find great places to dine in Seattle and Woodinville, but once you head over to the Yakima Valley, things may not be as simple. My suggestion is to decide what dining experience you want and then plan for it. There are places to dine in wine country, but you may not stumble upon your perfect scenario and end up eating fast food (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
If you’re feeling spontaneous, bring a cooler and a picnic basket in your car and eat wherever you would like. In hot weather, you can replace the food in the cooler with wine. Summertime temperatures in eastern Washington reach 90+ regularly, so you may want to consider bringing an extra cooler for wines you buy along the way or have them shipped after hot weather has passed. No self-respecting winery will ship your precious wine during 80-90+ degree weather anyway! Click here to read our Wine Touring Tips.
In eastern Washington the Walla Walla, Leavenworth, Tri-Cities and Lake Chelan areas offer more robust dining options. Others can be hit or miss due to the sheer size of the region or the lack of a local population that support the restaurants and hotels during the off-season.
Make Hotel Accommodations
Plan ahead on this one if you are attending one of the many wine festivals or events- also during prime touring season. If you see the words “Spring Barrel”, “New Release”, “Holiday Barrel” or “Passport” in conjuction with “winery” and “weekend”, – It’s going to be busy! Some areas only have one or two nice hotels in proximity. You may get stuck traveling a bit to visit desired wineries or pay a lot more money for lower budget hotels.