"I only have a day, what wineries should I hit?" - I hear this a lot. And living in wine country with so many great options, it is hard for even me to give a fast solid answer. How do you choose? But of course, that's my job - I choose from all the great selections and put together a package that I think would best please my customer.
Recently I had a customer who had never been to the Red Mountain AVA area and they wanted to see what it was all about. I thought I would share with you the itinerary I put together for them - and if you're heading this way, you could use it for a day trip also.
The three things I look for when selecting a winery for a package are (1) the wine - of course!, (2) the views - having a beautiful view (or atmosphere if inside) makes a big impact on the experience, and (3) customer service - I only work with wineries, restaurants, and tour operators that provide exceptional customer service.
Stop #1 - Oh That View!
Hightower Cellars, 19418 E 583 PR NE, Benton City, WA 99320
These customers had never been to Red Mountain, so I wanted to start them off at the top of the hill and show them sights. The Hightower Cellars tasting room is designed perfectly to take advantage of these majestic views. Tim and Kelly Hightower grow 10 acres of Bordeaux varietals. They focus on sustainable farming and are involved in every step of the winemaking process. This results in a beautifully well-balanced wine that showcases the bold red mountain fruit. Their Red Mountain Reserve is one of my favorites.
Stop #2 - The French château
Hedges Family Estate, 53511 N Sunset Rd, Benton City, WA 99320
Anne-Marie Hedges grew up in France and wanted to replicate her home experience here. This winery has was built to resemble a French château. When you make your stop here be sure to plan for a little extra time to take in the views of the property because it is spectacular.
What really sold me on Hedges is when I learned about their biodynamic farming and biodynamic wine. The winemakers do not use any artificial additives - they work with exactly what mother earth has provided and from that deliver a wine that unfolds flavors developed by the weather and mother earth. The Syrahs from this vineyard are amazing!
Stop #3 - 40 Years in the Making
Fidélitas, 51810 N Sunset Road, Benton City, WA 99320
Again with those spectacular views right?! Fidélitas has a beautiful tasting room and patio positioned perfectly to take in the views of the expansive vineyards.
Charlie Hoppes sources all the grapes for his wines from his Red Mountain estate. Charlie is somewhat of a legend on Red Mountain as he has helped several other wineries get their start and you can taste his influence in them.
Fidélitas wines are top quality - but that is not the only reason I selected them for this one-day adventure. My other reason is their focus and attention to customer service. They have surprised me more than once with small details that elevate my experience.
Stop #4 - Red Mountain Originals
Kiona, 44612 N Sunset Rd Benton City, WA 99320
Kiona Winery really is the Red Mountain original. When John Williams and Jim Holmes purchased land on the mountain in 1972 with the vision of planting vineyards, everyone thought they were crazy.
The first vineyard was planted in 1975, and in 1978 they sold their first fruit to Preston Winery, making a positive and impactful change on the opinion of Washington State as a source of top-quality red wine. "The depth of color and fruit intensity was definitely a revelation as to the potential for Washington Merlots and Cabernets." -
Rob Griffin (1978 winemaker for Preston Winery)
In 1980 the first vintage under the Kiona name was produced - a Lemberger - which was also the first commercial Lemberger in the United States
In the years since Kiona has expanded to produce several vintages, with Lemberger remaining one of the top sought-after wines. Its medium-bodied fruit pairs well with a number of foods and it is one of my favorites. While you are there, pick up a bottle of Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon - this wine is from that original 1975 planting, the one that started it all. It's the wine I pick up for special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, and that day we can finally throw away those face masks! (Yes...that bottle is labeled and waiting in my wine storage)
Stop #5 - With the flip of a coin
Frichette, 39412 N Sunset Road, Benton City, WA 99320
Greg and Shea Frichette wanted to move closer to family, either in South Carolina or Washington State - and with a flip of a coin their destiny was determined.
I was first introduced to Red Mountain wine by a visit to Frichette several years ago. I fell in love not only with their wine but with the relaxed atmosphere. Both Greg and Shea will regularly wander the tasting area and grounds to chat with guests, see how your visit is going, and maybe even take you on an impromptu tour of the winery.
I recommend pairing a glass of Sashay Rosé with their charcuterie and the "magic cheeseball" - I'm addicted. And if you are a BBQ lover, pick up a bottle of Punctual to pair with your next BBQ grilled chicken or cheeseburger.
Stop #6 - A Sunset Wagon ride and firepits
Red Mountain Trails, 27314 Ambassador PR NE, Benton City, WA 99320
The perfect way to close out a full day on Red Mountain is with a wagon ride tour of the vineyards. Teresa and Jeff Owen have partnered with the vineyard owners to provide these one-of-a-kind tours of the AVA that take you through several vineyards. You will learn about the farming techniques, the history, and get a glimpse behind the scenes of the winemaking process.
After your tour, relax by a fire pit with a flight from their very own winery and watch the sunset over the hills. Make sure you try the Merlot, I get a bottle every time I am there!
Visiting Red Mountain
So there you have it - a sample itinerary that you could use if you would like to organize your own trip to Red Mountain.
So what exactly does Experience 46 Degrees do? We are the tour agency that can put together the full package for you - we make all the reservations, pre-pay for the wine tastings, and then send you the itinerary, map, and driving directions so that all the work is done for you. Check out the Red Mountain AVA Experience on our Events page for more information.
If you're coming from out of town and looking for more things to do, perhaps one day of wine tasting, then a yacht tour of the Columbia River, and an afternoon of paddleboarding in the sunshine? We've got you covered! Our weekend excursion packages are exactly that, and they include 2 nights in a river-view room at our area's 4-Star Property. Check out the package deals available from our home page. We would love to create the perfect weekend for you!