April 25 and 26 was Jame's birthday weekend, as well as the NFL draft weekend. The latter was not particularly important to me, but it was to the former and shaping the weekend around the former was to me, important. So on Saturday while James attended to the NFL draft Mary, Ada and I went wine tasting in the Southern Yakima Valley, in the vicinity of Prosser. James stayed home with his friend John Rainier to watch the draft activities and have some beers.
We visited 6 (or 7) wineries on Saturday - Kestrel, Mercer, Hogue, Dessert Wind, Snoqualmie and Hinzerling. If there was a 7th it certainly wasn't memorable. The big name in this area and indeed one of the big guys in Washington State is Hogue Cellars; they have been around for a long time and their operation is as big as the name. Across the street from Hogue is Mercer Estates, a new comer with some of the same folks who supported Hogue Cellars early on.
The visit to Mercer Estates was a guided tour through a good sized up and coming operation, but the high point was when I was introduced to Mike Hogue by his son in law (who was our tour guide). Mike Hogue grows much (maybe all) of the fruit for Mercer Estates and still grows around 40% of the fruit for Hogue Cellars where he used to be more involved along with his brother who is still there (I think I got that right). Like my name Hoag, the name Hogue is also Scottish and as Mary watched us talking she said she saw lots of similarities in our features and mannerisms. Here we are in the reception area of Mercer estates - Mike and Mike.
The most interesting winery of the trip was one of the valley’s oldest, Hinzerling. We got there at closing time, after driving a couple of miles past it and then turning around, but they welcomed us in to there 3 stages of tasting - 14 total tastes. These included tasting some library Cabs as old as 1979. We picked up a 1983 for James (his birth year) and the 1994 (it was the best of the lot and very good). They also did a sherry, several ports and some other desert wines all commendable. The presentation in a beat up old building that look like a 1950’s garage/gas station was unique and well done with some good food pairings (tastes) with the desert wines. Keep your ear to the ground for special events or call ahead, Hinzerling is worth the trip.
We got back to Ellensburg about 7:30 Saturday evening and found a sleepy James - he worked the doughnut shift a Safeway that morning so it was bedtime. Mary and I left him and Ada and we went and check-in to our hotel and then found some dinner at the Dakota Cafe. The fare was very good.
On Sunday we met James and Ada for a hardy breakfast at the Palace. They make a great breakfast that will get you started for just about any activity including wine tasting. We then headed south to Zillah, I82 exit 52. Stops for the day included Claar (tasting 14 wines not counting the barrels), 2 Mountains, Hyatt (They had some great music and a great view so we had lunch here and literally broke out James' birthday cake). Heading into the hills we found Porteus where we found a very good Zinfandel and then headed via the hillsides (or Steppes) to find Steppe Cellars. We enjoyed some great conversation at Steppe and look forward to a future trip or at least finding Steppe wines locally.
Here are some shots from Hyatt where we had birthday cake. I won't tell you the story about dropping the cooler and having the cake plop out on the grass. Hyatt has a great view of Mt. Adams and Mount Rainier!
Home in Federal Way with the bounty:
We had a great time celebrating James' 26th birthday and meeting lots of new people who love wine like we do.