The Yakima Valley grows all kinds of stuff: It’s famous for its apples, its cherries, its pears, mint, asparagus, apricots, plums — all kinds of stuff — but it also grows beer and wine, so who cares about plums?
That’s right. Not only is the Yakima Valley one of the great agricultural centers of the Northwest, it’s also an acclaimed viticultural region and one of the world’s leading hops producers. (Take that, apricots!)
There are limitless ways to take advantage of this. You can buy local beer and wine at grocery stores and restaurants. You can attend the annual Craft Beverage Walk through downtown Yakima each fall. But the best way to go is to actually head out and visit wineries and beer tasting rooms.
The options for wine are virtually limitless, with dozens of tasting rooms from Naches to Prosser. And the options for beer are getting better every year, with new breweries opening and established breweries offering new flavors. You can do your own research with sites like www.visityakima.com/yakima-valley-craft-brew-spots.asp, www.wineyakimavalley.org and www.rattlesnakehills.org. But if you want our recommendations, here are a few spots we love and the reasons we love them.
• Bale Breaker Brewing Company, 1801 Birchfield Road in Moxee, www.balebreaker.com
What you’re having: Bottomcutter Imperial IPA
Why you’re having that: While the Topcutter IPA and Field 41 Pale Ale are the flagship beers at this brewery’s bucolic hop-field taproom, the Bottomcutter is the best way to get the most big-hop flavor the Northwest is famous for. It’s 8.2 percent alcohol by volume and an even 100 IBUs (international bittering units), so maybe just have one. But have one.
What else you’ll find there: A range of hoppy beers and seasonal releases, plus live music, food and events on weekends.
• Hop Nation Brewing Company, 31 N. First Ave., www.hopnation.us
What you’re having: Cream On! oat infused cream ale
Why you’re having that: The whole Hop Nation lineup is solid, but the cream ale is different than anything else you’re going to get around here. Yes, it’s hoppier than a standard cream ale — this is Yakima, and Yakima is hop country — but it’s still very well balanced and drinkably smooth. Plus, at only 4.5 percent ABV and 28 IBUs, Cream On! is a beer you can order more than one of.
What else you’ll find there: An excellent and authentic German hefeweizen, a lineup of great seasonal brews and frequent live-music nights.
• Yakima Craft Brewing, 2920 River Road, www.yakimacraftbrewing.com
What you’re having: Vern IPA
Why you’re having that: Yakima Craft was established in 2007, making it the reigning dean of Yakima breweries, and it has created a huge array of seasonal releases and truly unique beers in the decade since. But despite the stellar cassette-tape themed label of its 1982 amber ale, the best of its regular offerings is its classic Northwest IPA, Vern. It’s loaded with hop flavor at 88 IBUs with an ABV of 6.6 percent.
What else you’ll find there: An adventurous range of beers, some better than others but all worth a taste. Plus, the Yakima Craft brewing facility is home to the original boil kettle used by craft brewing legend Bert Grant.
• Snipes Mountain Brewery and Restaurant, 905 Yakima Valley Highway in Sunnyside, www.snipesmountain.com
What you’re having: Snipes Mountain Porter
Why you’re having that: It’s the best dark beer made in the Yakima Valley and winner of a gold medal at the 2004 Great American Beer Festival. At 52 IBUs and 6.3 percent ABV, it’s not messing around. But it’s got plenty of subtlety with notes of smoke and chocolate.
What else you’ll find there: Five other excellent beers including Dos Borrachos, a Northwest take on Mexican lagers. There’s also a full menu of stick-to-your-ribs American-classic food served in a rustic setting.
• Some other favorites: Bron Yr Aur Brewing Co., 12160 US Highway 12 in Naches, www.bronyraurbrewing.com; Cowiche Creek Brewing Company, 514 Thompson Road in Cowiche, www.cowichecreekbrewing.com; Whitstran Brewing Company, 1427 Wine Country Road in Prosser, www.whitstranbrewing.com
• Gilbert Cellars, 5 N. Front St., www.gilbertcellars.com
What you’re having: 2016 Rosé
Why you’re having that: Because it’s summer time in the Yakima Valley, and drinking Gilbert rosé is what you do during summer time in the Yakima Valley. It’s crisp, dry and perfect.
What else you’ll find there: Great patio seating and a full range of whites and reds, which you can taste for a fee. There’s also sometimes live music in the tastefully appointed basement.
• Treveri Cellars, 71 Gangl Road in Wapato, www.trevericellars.com
What you’re having: Sparkling syrah brut
Why you’re having that: Because a sparkling red, while novel, is no mere novelty at this place; it’s delicious. Try a glass first if you must, but understand that once you try it you’ll probably be buying a bottle.
What else you’ll find there: A stellar range of sparklers, some of which have been featured at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York. This is the Valley’s only sparkling wine specialist and the only one it needs, selling top-shelf bubbles for about half what something of this quality usually costs.
• J Bell Cellars, 73 Knight Hill Road in Zillah, www.jbellcellars.com
What you’re having: 2013 Cabernet Frank
Why you’re having that: Because it’s a big, bold red bursting with fruit and pepper. Made from 100 percent cabernet franc grapes, this is a fine representation of a Yakima Valley red that’s not just another merlot or cabernet sauvignon (though we do those REALLY well here, too).
What else you’ll find there: An upscale version of Valley-standard reds plus an excellent malbec and two less common but delicious whites, grenache blanc and viognier. Plus there’s a summer-long jazz series that runs every other Saturday and includes sets by some of the region’s top players.
• Airfield Estates Winery, 560 Merlot Drive in Prosser, www.airfieldwines.com
What you’re having: 2015 Flygirl White
Why you’re having that: It’s a roussanne-heavy white blend that is crisp and perfect for the Yakima summer. It’s easily drinkable enough for the novice tasters in your group but with enough layered nuance for the old pros.
What else you’ll find there: An outstanding selection of both reds and whites, with most reds priced under $25 and most whites right around $15. The list includes all of the standards plus some excellent blends and outliers for the region such as barbera, moscato and viognier.
• Some other favorites: VanArnam Vineyards, 1305 Gilbert Road in Zillah, www.vanarnamvineyards.com; Bonair Winery, 500 S. Bonair Road in Zillah, www.bonairwine.com; Naches Heights Vineyard, 1857 Weikel Road in Yakima, www.nhvwines.com; Alexandria Nicole Cellars, 2880 Lee Road in Prosser, www.alexandrianicolecellars.com