Both of us had almost locked ourselves out of the house while visiting with the cats and chickens, but we got it together and made it where we were going with plenty of time to spare before the wine bus pulled out of the parking lot.
Our vineyard tour started with each of us being handed a Wine Yakima Valley branded wine glass and a drive to Elephant Mountain vineyard where we met the head wine grower.
We tasted pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, sangiovese, and many many more. Each varietal's leaves hung off the vine differently, and each grape's flavor and color varied significantly from the sweetest of sweet to spit out bitter.
It was very hot outside and there was no shade. I kicked myself for not packing a parasol.
Meanwhile, a large group of folks melted into the small bits of shade the vines provided and the vineyard dogs began to join us.
Eventually our education transformed into lunch on a shaded peak in the middle of the vineyard with multiple bottles of wine made from the grapes we just walked through.
I was so hungry I forgot to take pictures of my lengua tacos from our lunch taco truck. But they went swimmingly with the Cultura Rose brought in by the winemaker.
After lunch we got back into the wine van and headed to Owen Roe vineyard and wine maker where we were greeted with glorious air conditioning and an invitation to go back out into the fields.
This time we got to take a mini truck up the steep side of a hill to look out over the valley and learn about soil and ancient river beds and the difference they make when choosing to plant particular varietals. Only the strong grape varietals can survive in the rocky soils of the originalYakima river bed of the valley.
But it takes them a long time to grow. The vines in this picture are the same age as the vines in the picture above it. The difference is the soil they are planted in. Heat also plays a factor in the varietal's progression from year to year. This is a Cab Franc – very finicky grape in the heat. It will be the last to turn red, if it does at all.
Soil, heat, barrels and blending also eventually affect the taste of the wine you drink. After our tour of the vineyard Owen Roe tasting room manager had us sample wines from nuetral barrels from different soils, and the finished product. Every wine from different soil tasted different – a clear education in the importance that growing conditions play in the flavor fo the grapes.
Then our vineyard education came to an end. As the wine van drove us back to the original hotel parking lot everyone chatted and sang along to Neil Diamond – a little wine, a lot of sun, and we were all a lot less quiet then we started in the morning.
Post vineyard tour we decided it was still too soon for dinner, but not too early for dessert and more wine tasting. So we headed to Dairy Queen and followed it up with Kana Winery in downtown Yakima.
I may have offended the tasting room manager by asking why Jerry Garcia was on their bottle of Tempranillo. She didn't answer. My friend told me it was because it was a Spanish guitar player, not the dead lead singer of the Grateful Dead that I was looking at. Could have fooled me.
Obviously it was time for dinner. This time we took the recommendation of one of our fellow vineyard tourists and went to Gasperetti's an old time stand-by of Yakima Italian food. It was also an older crowd, based on the amount of grey hair in the establishment.
I ordered the gazpacho and a side of meatballs just to mix it up a bit. Both were very good and unsurprising from presentation to finish. But after a long day of steeping in the hot sun and tasting wine, simplicity can be quite the nice alternative to complexity.