Columbia Gorge Winery Region
Established in 2004, this wine grape growing region straddles the Oregon/ Washington border running along the Columbia River (and down into Oregon) covering about 300 square miles. This area includes both Washington and Oregon, with about 500 acres of vineyard and partially lays within the Columbia Valley. There are more than 20 wineries that call the Columbia Gorge home (don’t confuse it with the Gorge, located several hundred miles north which is also on the Columbia River). The climate from one end to the other within this area ranges drastically creating micro unique microclimates. Annual rain fall averages from 10 to 40 inches, altitudes vary from sea level to 2,000 feet, soils range widely as well as the variety of grapes grown here such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and Barbera on the hot Eastern side to Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling on the cool climate marine influenced side. Other interesting varieties growing in this region are Albarino, Tempranillo, Barbara and Nebbiolo.
Driving back from Walla Walla along the Columbia Gorge, instead of going through the Tri-Cities and Yakima Valley, drive through the Wallula Gap and down along Highway 14 is longer, but it’s incredibly scenic and rugged and the Columbia River is stunning.
Along Highway 14 there are several wineries on the side of the road, and a few you have to drive up into the hills to get to. The road is curvy and sometimes high on a cliff, so be mindful of how much wine you consume, or better yet, designate a driver. Highway 14 takes you to I-5 for the quickest trip back to Seattle. Or, just past where the White Salmon River meets the Columbia River, there is a bridge to the Oregon side of the Columbia that I like to take to the Willamette Valley for even more wine tasting.
If you’re heading back to Seattle, you can take I-205 northbound back into Washington. If you’re coming back on a Sunday, be prepared for heavy traffic all the way up I-5. Make this area your destination and do other fun stuff on the river like wind surfing.