On a sunny spring weekend, the Winers decided to make a trip to Yakima to visit Naches Heights, which is both a new winery (www.nachesheights.com) and Washington state’s latest American Viticultural Area (AVA).
What is an AVA you ask? An AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Naches Heights was officially recognized in January of 2012 and is Washington state’s 12th AVA. Currently just over 37 acres of wine grapes are planted in the new AVA, making it the smallest planted wine region in the state.
Both the winery and the AVA were created by Phil and Barbara Cline. Phil (aka “The Big Kahuna”) was born and raised on the Heights, and his family had always farmed the land around his home. Barbara has been Phil’s better half now for over 25 years, also coming from Yakima. Barbara is the architect responsible for the striking Naches Heights tasting room.
The first thing you notice when approaching Naches heights is the “green” theme, on which Phil passionately educated us. Naches Heights is located on an elevated geologic formation, made of rich volcanic soil, which reduces winter damage to vineyards and is ideal for sustainable farming. All seven vineyards in Naches Heights grow their grapes using organic, biodynamic or LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certification program practices, making Naches Heights Washington state’s first exclusively sustainable AVA. In addition, the winery building that Barbara designed is green- certified with specifications such as radiant floors and solar/wind energy.
Phil started us off with three white wines, which we were especially interested in tasting as they were recommended by our favorite Woodinville winemaker before the trip.
Naches makes a Pinot Gris, a Riesling and a white blend called Can Can. Our favorite was the Riesling, which was not overly sweet and had aromas of lime, jasmine and green apple.
We then moved on to the Reds, including a Cabernet Franc, a Syrah and a red blend called Two Dancers (what is with the dancing theme anyway?). Our favorite of the reds was the Syrah (their fifth release) which had dark berry flavors combined with a hint of spicy pepper.
After buying some wine, we took in the incredible surroundings of Naches heights from the pergola near the vineyard and listened to the sounds of four onsite waterfalls. Views of the rolling hills surrounding the area are incredible and we recommend that you consider making this a picnic stop if you are ever in the area. Naches Heights would also make a great location for an event and hosts many weddings throughout the year.
On a side note, if you are a golfer, consider making a stop at Apple Tree Resort (www.appletreeresort.com) as well.
We played this course the following day and feel compelled to mention its striking landscaping carved out of apple and cherry orchards. You can’t get much better than a sunny weekend of wine tasting and golf.
Our experience at Naches Heights was the best in the Yakima area. The wines, the people and the tasting room are all very inviting. Prices range from $13 to $28. The tasting room is open from Thursday through Monday and on Tuesday/Wednesday by appointment.