It's been almost a year since I first visited Washington's wine country. My father-in-law had moved to an Eastern Washington city that I'd never heard of. I had always associated Washington with Seattle, which I have visited several times. Everything I had experienced of the state was the rainy Western portion, home of Nirvana and according to popular movies, the only place in the US where vampires can walk around in broad daylight. So when my wife told me that her dad was living in the high desert of Kennewick, I responded with something like, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?" I don't usually make a habit of calling my wife Willis, but the situation seemed to demand it.
The Tri-Cities area of Washington, where I am currently residing, is made up of the cities of Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco. The population of the entire Tri-Cities area is somewhere just short of 250,000. This is indeed the desert, with the average rainfall only reaching 7-8 inches a year. For all of the people who made comments about me moving to a wetter location, the average rainfall in my old hometown of Lubbock is somewhere more in the 16 inches area. I have moved from one desert to another. The Tri-Cities are situated among the Yakima, Columbia, and Snake rivers, which means I will finally be close to some good fishing locations.
There are over 20 different wineries in the Tri-Cities, and it is just a short trip to a host of other wine producing areas, including Walla Walla and Prosser. The Tri-Cities are located in the Columbia Valley AVA, with the Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain, Yakima, and Walla Walla AVAs all being a short distance away as well. The location makes a good hub for trips to South Eastern Washington wineries, as well as being a reasonable distance for a weekend trip to Oregon's Willamette Valley. You will find a wide range of different varieties being produced here, including Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet. Washington State University also has a campus in the Tri-Cities, where they offer a Viticulture and Enology program.
While this area is not as well known as some areas of the state, some of the pioneering wineries in the state were founded in this area. Wineries such as J Bookwalter and Barnard Griffin have been producing wine in the area since the early '80s, and Jerry Bookwalter has been involved in the wine industry in Washington since the mid '70s.
I am excited to be starting my Washington wine journey in the Tri-Cities. The area gives me a really great opportunity to explore several regions of the state easily, and I have great access to some of the best wines being produced in Washington state. I look forward to sharing them with you.