The Yakima Valley is a place that makes things. And one of the best things about living in a place that makes things is that you can give those things as gifts. That way all your friends will know you live in a supercool place and will be jealous because they don’t live in a place nearly as cool. And that’s how you win Christmas.
Wait. Check that. I’m being told Christmas isn’t about winning and losing. It’s apparently about, uh, sharing love and joy.
Well, either way, locally made gifts from the Yakima Valley will do the trick. And there are plenty to choose from. We make basically every kind of craft beverage here, for instance. And we have a thriving arts-and-letters scene. And, of course, we put on a lot of shows, and tickets are always a good gift.
With that in mind, I present SCENE’s annual local holiday gift guide. The following are just a few of our favorites; there are many, many more.
I’ve been giving out-of-town family and friends Yakima Valley wine for more than a decade now, and it has never once been met with anything other than excitement. Living in one of the nation’s premier wine growing regions has its advantages. There are a few local bottles with which you can never go wrong — Gilbert Cellars rosé (www.gilbertcellars.com), Treveri Cellars blanc de blancs (www.trevericellars.com), and anything by Owen Roe (www.owenroe.com) — but some of the newer wineries have really been killing it lately. I recommend the 2016 Red Wine from Narratif (www.nwwinecollaborative.com), which retails for around $40 and is sourced from the legendary DuBrul Vineyard. And I recommend any of the single-vineyard wines from Co Dinn Cellars (www.codinncellars.com), which start around $45.
Beer & cider
With Yakima growing roughly three-quarters of the domestic hop crop each year, beer fans on your list should be easy enough to please. Bale Breaker Brewing Co. (www.balebreaker.com), by far the Valley’s biggest brewer, is also its most consistently excellent and your safest bet for reliably impressive gifts. You can find cans and variety packs in stores, or stop by the tap room at 1801 Birchfield Road to buy a 60-ounce growler. I also unreservedly recommend Single Hill Brewing (www.singlehillbrewing.com), which sells 32-ounce crowlers as well as growlers. You can even get kegs for $85 to $185, for the not-messing-around beer fan on your list. Varietal Beer (www.varietalbeer.com), Cowiche Creek Brewing Co. (www.cowichecreekbrewing.com) and Wandering Hop Brewery (www.wanderinghop.com) are also making great stuff, though some of it is a little more idiosyncratic. So taste it before buying. Taste a lot of it.
As for cider, my clear favorite this year is the new Harrison Hard Cider from Tieton Cider Works (www.tietonciderworks.com). The second in the cidery’s single-varietal series, it’s a crisp, semi-dry cider made solely from Harrison apples. A half-liter bottle retails for $8.
This is a relatively new category on the local craft beverage scene, but there are already some fine offerings. Just last year, Wilridge Distillery, an offshoot of Wilridge Winery (www.wilridgewinery.com), started selling several varieties of brandy. There’s the young stuff, 2018 apple and pear brandies as well as a 2018 grappa, which goes for $35 per 375 milliliter bottle, and the aged stuff, a 2010 grape brandy and 2014 pear brandy, which go for $45. That’s steep, but good brandy always is.
There’s also Swede Hill Distilling, which started out with cherry and apple moonshines but more recently started selling a whiskey. The whiskey is the pick at $40 a bottle. I made Manhattans with the stuff for a month straight earlier this year.
Speaking of whiskey, Irish distiller Jameson teamed with Bale Breaker this year for a whiskey aged in IPA barrels. The result is an incredibly mellow, almost fruity whiskey that’s perfect for sipping neat or on ice. You can find bottles on store shelves around here starting at about $35.
Coffee & sweets
With apologies to North Town Coffeehouse and Mak Daddy Coffee Roasters, both of which are outstanding companies worthy of your patronage, the best cup of coffee I had this year came from Collaboration Coffee, the retail arm of Basalt Coffee Roasters (www.basaltroasters.com). You can get Basalt beans there and a few other places in town, or you can order them online, with 12-ounce bags ranging from $16 to $20. I’m drinking the El Salvador Orange Bourbon right now, and it’s everything I want in a coffee.
When I have good coffee, I want good sweets. So consider pairing that coffee gift with something from Copper Pot Caramels (www.copperpotcaramels.com). I like the chocolate-covered salted caramels, which retail for $7.
Washington state voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. So here in 2019, I’m finally including it in the local gift guide. There are plenty of local growers. All you have to do is walk into your favorite weed store and ask what they have from this area; they’ll almost certainly have something. Moxee-based Orgrow (www.orgrow.org), for instance, is available at The Slow Burn in Yakima and Union Gap and at The Bake Shop in Prosser. A 3.5-gram package costs $25 at The Slow Burn, making it a great value for the quality.
The No. 1 local book on my list this Christmas wasn’t written by a local at all. David Guterson is a Seattle guy, born and raised. But his new book, “Turn Around Time,” is illustrated by one of my favorite Central Washington artists, Justin Gibbens of Ellensburg (www.justingibbens.com). It retails for $21.95, and you can find it at Inklings Bookshop here in Yakima.
Inklings also stocks a book I recommend that actually IS by a local author. “A Parent’s Guide to Intuitive Eating” by Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster translates some of what Cazorla-Lancaster has done through her local pediatrics practice, Nourish Wellness (www.nourish yakima.com), into practical advice for parents. It retails for $15.95.
Bart Roderick, the Yakima Valley’s first-call pianist and all-around music-scene guy, put out an album earlier this year that features a murderer’s row of local musicians. It’s difficult to describe, except to say it’s eclectic and seems to have no regard for standard genre boundaries. Also: It’s good music. You can get the album, appropriately titled “Under the Sun” (as in, this album includes every musical style under the sun), as a digital download at www.bartroderick.bandcamp.com for $7 or as a physical CD through www.store.cdbaby.com/cd/bartley roderick for $12.97. Or you can cut out the middle man and message Roderick through www.facebook.com/bartroderickunderthesun; he’d be glad to sell you a copy.
My other local album recommendation this year is BARELY a local album. It wasn’t made here, and the guy who made it didn’t live here yet. But bluesman Brett Benton (www.brettbentonmusic.com) has since moved from the Seattle area to Ellensburg, which is close enough for me. And his album, “You Got to Pray,” is worth every penny of the $14.99 it costs on CD or the $8.99 it costs as a download.
Giving art is tricky, because it’s so personal. But if you really know the person you’re shopping for and you get it just right, it can be a gift they treasure forever. You’ll find a few nice options at the ongoing holiday art show at Oak Hollow Gallery (www.oakhollowframes.com), and you’ll find some outstanding work at the “Gifted” exhibit at Ellensburg’s 420 Loft Gallery (www.facebook.com/420LoftArtGallery). That exhibit, which opens Friday, specifically features work by local artists for less than $100 each. The roster includes Gibbens, Renee Adams, Justin Beckman, Lorraine Barlow, Sarah Haven, Sam Fisher and other cream-of-the-crop members of the Central Washington arts scene.
The Seasons Performance Hall (www.theseasonsyakima.com), Warehouse Theatre Company (www.warehousetheatrecompany.org) and Capitol Theatre (www.capitoltheatre.org) all have outstanding shows coming up. And if you buy someone a pair of tickets, they might even take you with them.