Prosser – The Birthplace of Washington Wine
Washington’s south-central city of Prosser, endearingly known as the state’s birthplace of wine, is within the American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Yakima Valley. This AVA, established in 1983, was the very first AVA to be recognized in Washington state. Later recognized sub AVAs, Red Mountain (2001), Rattlesnake Hills (2006) and Snipes Mountain (2009), and are contained within the Yakima Valley AVA.
Nearby Horse Heaven Hills AVA (awarded the first 100-point rating for a Washington wine), established in 2005, sits just south of Yakima Valley and North of the Columbia River. North of the Yakima Valley AVA you’ll find the Wahluke Slope AVA (gaining AVA designation in 2006), one of the warmest regions in the state. Further north in the central part of the state is the Ancient Lakes AVA (established in 2012), one of the cooler Washington wine growing regions. The Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Ancient Lakes AVAs (along with Walla Walla Valley, Lake Chelan and Naches Heights AVAs) are entirely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA (established in 1984).
Three additional AVAs (wholly or partly) located in Washington are Puget Sound (located west of the Cascade Mountains, established in 1995), Columbia Gorge (located in a National Scenic Area east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, established in 2004), and Lewis-Clark Valley (situated on the border of Washington and Idaho, established in 2016).
The knowledgeable guides for Prosser Wine Network’s recent media tour created an informative excursion through this growing wine region. Vintners, grapegrowers and winemakers exuded passion as they led us through vineyards and barrel rooms, sharing history, experiences and fine examples of their crafts. Among noteworthy wines, my favorites included:
Daven Lore Winery 2013 Tempranillo; Snipes Mountain, Washington: Aromas of blackberry and crème de cassis pave the way for this well-balanced Tempranillo. Dense black fruits unwind on the palate with accents of allspice, saddle leather and hints of fresh tobacco. Plush and tasty, it warms you right up! SRP: $28.50 www.davenlore.com
Daven Lore Winery 2012 Newhouse Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Snipes Mountain, Washington: Oodles of black cherries on the nose entwine with Damson plums, wild berries, black currants, roasted coffee bean, and savory spice, creating a cornucopia of flavors on the palate. Beautifully textured with silky tannins and sweet oak nuances peeking through on the finish. SRP: $40 www.davenlore.com
Domanico Cellars 2013 Carmenere; Yakima Valley, Washington: This expressive Carmenere opens with aromas of wild berries and spice. Rich and savory on entry, it gains momentum on the palate as scrumptious flavors of clove, pepper spice and hints of toast join the lush blackberry, blueberry and red berry fruits. Mouth filling and well balanced through the persistent aftertaste. SRP: $40 www.domanicocellars.com
Domanico Cellars 2013 Lemberger; Yakima Valley, Washington: Deep, dark and delicious is this spunky, full flavored Lemberger. Generous layers of huckleberries, marionberries, fresh boysenberry jam, savory spice and shades of oak interlace and richly coat the palate. The fine balance and smooth tannins carry the wine to a long, satisfying finish. SRP: $21 www.domanicocellars.com
WIT Cellars 2015 Chardonnay; Ancient Lakes, Washington: Beautiful expression of the variety; purity of fruit in the glass! This elegant Chardonnay is fermented in stainless steel and aged ~8 months in neutral oak. Showcasing crisp green apple, mineral notes, lemon curd, and fresh pea shoots, it is juicy on the palate with a lovely mouth feel and vibrant finish. SRP: $22 www.witcellars.com
WIT Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; 98% Rattlesnake Hills/2% Wahluke Slope, Washington: This nicely structured Cabernet (blended with 2% Petit Verdot) opens with enticing aromatics and packs a punch on the palate. Deep and complex, with focused flavors of cassis, black plum, tobacco spice, black cherry and hints of earth melding in harmony. Approachable now with refined tannins, and promises years of ageability ahead, too. SRP: $50 www.witcellars.com
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Shepherds Mark; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: This well composed blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne and 20% Viognier opens with a beckoning scent of white flowers and stone fruit. Wildly expressive on the palate with nectarine and crisp pears, lemon blossom and a striking thread of minerality. Vibrant and refreshing with spot on acids, it finishes long, with a kick of lime zest. SRP: $24 www.alexandrianicolecellars.com
Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2014 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Jet Black Syrah; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: Scents of earthiness and cherry cordial drive you into the glass. Fully engaging on the palate with layer upon layer of black cherry, loganberry, cocoa bean, anise, black pepper and dried herbs. The underlying oak (35% new French/65% one year French barrels) adds complexity as the wine makes its way to the extended finish. SRP: $28 www.alexandrianicolecellars.com
Mercer Estates 2015 Culloden Vineyard Viognier; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: Alluring tropical fruit aromas lure you into the glass. Juicy and bright on the palate as flavors of cantaloupe, ripe plantains, summer melon and citrus highlights are unveiled across the palate. A heavenly satin texture, nice acids and glorious freshness wrap up the delicious package. SRP: $15 www.mercerwine.com
Chinook Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Yakima Valley, Washington: Citrus and fragrant floral scents pave the way to a refreshing mouthful of grapefruit and tropical melon. Racy acids keep this gem lively, and a pretty stream of fresh picked lemon verbena creates a complementary herbaceous accent across the palate. Sleek and zesty, with an unforgettable, mouthwatering finish. SRP: $18.99 www.chinookwines.com
Chinook Wines 2013 Cabernet Franc; Yakima Valley, Washington: A radiant hue and perfumed aroma of violets and wild berries engage the senses. On the palate, well defined flavors of black cherry, red currant, spiced raspberry chutney and an understated note of roasted bell pepper paint a masterpiece on the palate. Vivid and pure with a smooth texture, impeccable balance, and long-lasting finish. SRP: $24.99 www.chinookwines.com
Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Traditions Sweet Katherine; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is an expressive Riesling that captures the essence of this noble grape in a sweet style (4.2% RS) without being cloying. A generous level of acidity is ever present, keeping the wine uplifted. Honeysuckle, juicy sweet peaches and nectarines drive the flavor profile, with a pinch of lemongrass adding a nice accent on the snappy finish. SRP: $12.99 www.milbrandtvineyards.com
Milbrandt Vineyards 2012 Vineyard Series Reserve Malbec; Wahluke Slope, Washington: This powerful Malbec, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak, opens with captivating berry aromas. Meaty notes interlace with black plums, blueberries, anise seed and savory spice. Full flavored and complex, the firm tannins and nice acids are in perfect balance with the core of deep fruit. The underlying oak is well placed and the aftertaste lingers forever; drink now or cellar if you can wait. SRP: $50 www.milbrandtvineyards.com
Gamache Vintners 2011 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington: Engaging floral notes waft from the glass. This lush, well-structured Merlot is chock full of blueberry and boysenberry fruit, milk chocolate and cinnamon spice dazzling the palate from start to finish. Rich with a beautiful velour-like texture and silky tannins; simply yummy. SRP: $25 www.gamachevintners.com
Gamache Vineyards 2011 Heritage Collection Nicholas; Columbia Valley, Washington: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec is deep, dense and delectable. Fruit driven with black cherry, blueberry and plum at the core, it builds on the palate with added elements of fresh tobacco, cassis, vanilla bean notes. Velvety in texture with a backbone of firm tannins, lively acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste. SRP: $40 www.gamachevintners.com
Martinez & Martinez Winery 2015 May Mae Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: The jewel toned color is dazzling, and as you raise the glass a lovely scent of fresh roses demands your attention. Juicy raspberries, sweet strawberries, a hint of watermelon and tangerine notes are wrapped around a brisk spine of acidity. Pristinely balanced, this Rose simply dances on the tongue. SRP: $20 www.martinezwine.com
Martinez & Martinez Winery 2011 Dominio de Martinez Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: A brilliant hue catches the eye, and dark fruit aromas entice as this well-crafted Cabernet approaches the nose. Cassis, wild bramble berry and black plums entwine with tobacco, a touch of herbs and minerality. This gem is intense yet elegant, precise in balance, and the oak is nicely understated. Approachable now, and cellarworthy, too. SRP: $45 www.martinezwine.com
Chateau St. Michelle 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington: This robust Cabernet Sauvignon displays aromas of dark berries and leather on the nose. Intensely flavored and complex with Bing cherries, olive tapenade, black currant, mocha and blackberries framed by firm tannins. Muscular yet lively and expressive on the lingering, toffee scented finish. SRP: $32 www.ste-michelle.com
Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Wine o’Clock Gewurztraminer; Lake Chelan, Washington: This delectable and varietally spot on dry Gewurz steals the show with its rose petal and tropical fruit aroma! Bright and perfectly balanced, it electrifies the palate. Brimming with lychee, hints of grapefruit and passion fruit, and buoyed by a stream of bracing acidity; an irresistible quaff. SRP: $18 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com
Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 BDX Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon that shows off aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherry, dark plum, tinges of earth, worn leather and tobacco spice. Multi-faceted with loads of charm, a firm structure, polished tannins and impressive length. Drink now or hold for future enjoyment. SRP: $48 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com
The state of Washington ranks second amidst the highest wine producing states in the USA. There is much more than what I captured here for me (and you) to explore in Prosser. Although time did not allow the chance to meet with all the vintners in this region, the personalities I met with, properties I visited, and the wines I tasted gave me ample reason to schedule another visit, and you should treat yourself to the same delightful opportunity!