Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Hills are Alive...

...with the sound of rattlesnakes?!? Actually, it was more like the sound of grapes growing, or maybe wine glasses clinking. Over the long Presidents' Day weekend, Jon and I crossed over to the eastern side of the state to Rattlesnake Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) to sample some wine. We took the scenic route to get there, driving through an area Jon named the "Wa-zarks" for its similarity to the Missouri Ozarks. Use your imagination.
Actually, the Rattlesnake Hills area near Yakima reminded me a lot of Hermann, Missouri, a favorite destination of mine. Like Hermann, there is a small community feel with lots of surrounding farmland. There are several wineries in close proximity who work together to host a variety of events throughout the year. The big difference is that while Hermann has some hills, Zillah (the town closest to the hills) is surrounded by mountains.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we didn't arrive until late afternoon on Sunday. This still afforded us enough time to visit a few wineries, though. The first couple of stops were okay, but we were content to taste and move on. However, things changed when we arrived at Paradisos del Sol Winery.
This winery, located in a house, had a different feel to it (vague description, I know, but I'll try to do better). For starters, we had to move around the tasting room in order to sample each type of wine. All of the wines were paired with a different type of food, such as homemade tortillas and mole sauce. In fact, one of the dessert wines was paired with mini marshmallows that had to be toasted with the flame of a tealight candle. The place had personality...and attracted some interesting personalities, including the guy with a scarf, "old man hat," and purple teeth (from tasting wine all day) who was chatting us up about our respective jobs.
It should come as no surprise that we decided to buy a couple of bottles of wine (including the one that went with the marshmallows) to take home. As if he were Nostradamus, the proprietor also gave us a box to hold any additional wine we purchased the following day.
Wineries close fairly early, so we booked a room at the illustrious Comfort Inn (it was comfortable) of Zillah. Honestly, the highlight of our evening was watching Flight of the Conchords on HBO. I used to laugh when a friend told me that she loved staying in hotels for the cable TV...now, with our approximately 6 channels, I totally understand where she's coming from.
Taking full advantage of our day off of work, we slept in on Monday and leisurely got ready for a day of more wine tasting. It's an upside-down world when I have the responsibility of being the navigator, but I doggedly did my best and we successfully located several more wineries (it helped that everything was ridiculously close to each other and nearly all of the locations were clearly labeled).

By successful, I mean that we continued to purchase more wine as the day progressed. Typically we taste the wine as I very awkwardly try to figure out the most polite way to leave without buying anything (I'm cheap and indecisive...big deal). However, this time, the wine was so good and fairly inexpensive that we couldn't pass it up...and to be perfectly honest, our pocketbooks definitely loosened up the more wine we tasted. Plus, the majority of the wines we tried aren't available anywhere but the wineries, which was a definite selling point.
Even though we triumphantly returned to western Washington with over a case of wine in the trunk (including the half-case of Lemberger we split with some random woman), we only visited about half the wineries. I think that's a sign we'll have to go back one of these days...

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