SPONSORED — When it comes to food and drink, Washington has every reason to “wine.” In fact, the state is the second largest premium wine producer in the country, boasting more than 900 wineries according to Washington State Wine. But if you’re tired of the same-old grape, it might be time to catch a ride off the beaten path. These Eastern Washington wineries offer the perfect reason to indulge in a day trip — just make sure you’re not behind the wheel.
Northstar Winery, Walla Walla
Merlot, anyone? If a dark red is your cup of, well, wine, you’ll feel right at home at Northstar winery Winery in Walla Walla. Founded in the early 1990s, Northstar has a rich history that includes celebrated California winemaker Jed Steele at the helm. Today, Northstar has access to the top 2 percent of Columbia and Walla Walla Valley’s finest merlot grapes. A visit to the Northstar tasting room is one you’ll remember, and it’s available seven days a week. If merlot isn’t your thing, you’ll also find a good assortment of cabernets and red and white blends. For more information, check out Northstar Winery.
Wine novices, take note: L’Ecole is happy to have you in school. In fact, the Lowden winery is as charming to look at as its wine is to taste, thanks to its iconic schoolhouse. Now the home of the bustling winery, the historic Frenchtown School located just west of Walla Walla is the focal point of L’Ecole’s wine labels. Following in the French tradition, L’Ecole prides itself on creating “reliable, superior quality wines that are crafted for richness and complexity, vintage after vintage” according to the winery’s website. Stop by to taste wines from the Walla Walla and Columbia valleys, including chardonnay, cabernet, Semillon and Malbec. For more information, visit L’Ecole’s website.
Badger Mountain Vineyard, Kennewick
Environmentally conscious wine enthusiasts, take note: Badger Mountain Vineyard offers great wine that both you and the earth will love. The first certified organic winegrape vineyard in Washington State, Badger Mountain Wines has been producing high-quality, organic wines since before it was trendy. The 80-acre estate owes its volcanic soil and an ideal climate to its line of rich and diverse wines. Your tasting might include anything from Riesling to chardonnay to pinot noir, cabernet or merlot. The tasting menu changes monthly, so there’s always something new and interesting (and of course, organic) to try. Find out more at Badger Mountain Vineyard.
Bookwalter Wines, Richland
Need some entertainment with that wine? Bookwalter Winery might just become your happy place. Complemented by live music on weekend evenings, a trip to the Bookwalter tasting room means enjoying a wide assortment of wines, including reds, whites and rosés – in an award-winning environment. In fact, the winery’s flagship tasting room in Richland was named one of the best tasting rooms in the United States by Sunset Magazine. One of Washington’s oldest wineries, you’ll want to grab a couple bottles of this boutique wine to enjoy at home. For more information, check out Bookwalter Wines.
A skip over the cascades to the wine-rich country of Eastern Washington is no sweat — when you’re not driving. Stay safe and keep the fun (and wine) flowing with an easy ride from Shuttle Express. Offering full coach service for groups of 14 to 55, or private, comfortable black car service for smaller parties, there’s no easier way to enjoy Washington’s premier wine country. Find out more at shuttleexpress.com.