by Frances Potts
Nothing is sweeter on the air than the fruity aroma of grapes hanging ripe and heavy on the vine. And that's a perfume that is October's gift to us here in the Yakima Valley.
From those grapes grown on more than 11,000 acres come Washington's premium wines, which are making the Yakima Valley known as Wine Country nation-wide.
The valley is home to more than 54 wineries and more than a third of the state's vineyards. Its ultra sunny days and desert-cool evenings, along with the slopes of the Yakima Valley foothills, give birth to intensely flavored, balanced and complex wines. Included among them are Riesling, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The wine-growing country extends from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the Kiona Hills near Richland.
When four of the wineries in the Sunnyside area were asked to choose a favorite wine from their cellars for Daily Sun News readers, they stepped forward to offer the following suggestions.
Joel Tefft, owner of Tefft Cellars at 1320 Independence Road, Sunnyside: "We have a 2003 Merlot that goes well with lamb, if you have a good lamb recipe. Our 2002 Merlot just won a gold medal at the Central Washington State Fair. We sold out, so now we are into the 2003, which is similar."
Randy Tucker, owner of Tucker Cellars, 70 Ray Road, Sunnyside: "We've been here 25 years and our flagship wine that has come to be known and appreciated is our Gewurztraminer, which is a white wine that has a spicy, zesty character that goes well with food, but has enough residual sugar to be enjoyed by itself. We suggest serving it with turkey, of course since Thanksgiving is coming, ham, Thai food and curries."
JoAnn Stear, owner of Eaton Hill Winery, 530 Gurley Road, Grandview: "We specialize in Cabernets and sweet whites," said Stear. When asked specifically what wine might go well with a salad, Stear's advice was to "be specific, because there are so many different kinds of salad.
"If you're serving a salad for brunch with leftover chicken or pork with a nice mix of greens and-let's see, I don't want any tomato in that-maybe some onion, then my Semillon would go well. Yes, the 2001 cold ferment that never sees a barrel, just the wine.
"If you were serving a Caesar salad with a little ham in it, it would go very nicely with a dry white Semillon or a nice dry Fume Blanc. We don't have the Fume Blanc here, but many wineries in the area do."
Stear added another hint: "If you're having a fruit salad, mix a little bit of sweet Riesling with the fruit the night before and let it soak up. I'd suggest our Sweet Bisbee, and then serve a glass of it with the salad."
Melissa Gamache, tasting room manager, Apex Cellars, 111 East Lincoln Avenue, Sunnyside: "For a real fudgy, chocolately mousse or cake, we have a Port, a 1992 vintage Tawny Port, that goes very well. It's the first and only Port we've ever made. For a fruit and cheese dessert-a really good cheese-an ice wine is nice."
This writer's choice: "The Gewurztraminer Ice at Apex Cellars."