Congressman Doc Hastings listens as Côte Bonneville winery owner Hugh Shiels provides a tour of the Sunnyside-area winery.
Visits to the Côte Bonneville Winery near Sunnyside are by appointment only.
Last Friday owners Hugh and Kathy Shiels had a special guest as Congressman Doc Hastings stopped by.
The Pasco Republican has a connection with the couple beyond Friday's visit. In 2001, Hastings appointed their son Richard to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Hastings made a brief stop for a tour of the winery on his way to Yakima for a private meeting there.
"This has been a very successful winery," he said, praising Côte Bonneville for the national and international accolades bestowed on it.
Côte Bonneville produces approximately 2,000 cases of wine each year, Mr. Shiels noted.
The couple's DuBrul Vineyard - the state's vineyard of the year twice in the last six years - is situated on a steep, rocky slope on top of the Roza.
The winery exports to markets as far away as Denmark and Hong Kong.
Hastings said Washington and Yakima Valley wines are popular in Washington D.C. He noted on a routine trip with his wife to a local market there he saw the store's featured wine for that week was from a Prosser winery.
Hastings said one of the attributes that sets Washington's winemakers apart from those in California is a trend to more of a team effort.
"It's a competitive environment in California," Hastings said.
By contrast, he noted, Washington wineries have been known to sell grapes to other wineries in this state facing a harvest shortage, ensuring the other wineries are able to produce that year.
Noting plans underway for the Clore Center in nearby Prosser and WSU's involvement there, the Shiels feel Yakima Valley's wine presence and cooperative spirit is set for decades to come.
"Part of the salvation of the Valley is the wine industry and tourism," Mrs. Shiels noted.