The best thing about the Yakima Valley wine industry (besides, of course, the wine) is its proprietors’ willingness to connect to customers in meaningful ways.
That goes beyond pouring wine or selling bottles. It even goes beyond shop-talk between winemakers and customers in tasting rooms. The real engagement — the stuff that gives wine drinkers something they can’t get at Johnny’s Wine Warehouse or wherever — is the stuff that lets them interact with the winemaking process itself. Spring Barrel Tasting every April, for instance, gives wine fans an early taste of unfinished wines, adding to their knowledge of the process.
Catch the Crush, which dozens of local wineries will participate in this weekend, is another great example. It’s grape harvest time right now, and that means it’s the beginning of wine production time, too. So there are opportunities to peek behind the curtain and see the combination of art and science that produces this valley’s wines.
Different wineries will have different experiences to offer. Some will take visitors into the vineyard and let them taste grapes straight from the vine. Others will demonstrate how juice is extracted on their crush pads. Still others will allow visitors to get in on the action, stomping grapes the old fashioned way.
To decide which wineries you want to visit (and you’ll probably want to hit no more than four or five in a day) you can check with leading local industry group Wine Yakima Valley. Its website, www.wineyakimavalley.org, is a great resource. The smaller Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail group, which focuses on wineries around Zillah, and Yakima Valley Tourism’s wine page are also good resources (www.rattlesnakehills.org and www.yakimavalleywinecountry.com, respectively).
So plan ahead, then get out there and learn a little something about wine.