It isn't often that you get a truly unique experience at a retail wine establishment. Sure, there are lots of stores that I have their niches, but for the most part you always come away with an experience that you have had a thousand times before in other shops. Last week I visited AVA Wine Rooms, a local wine room that really felt like it had a personality all its own.
AVA Wine Rooms is owned by Dean and Whitney Maldonado, and is located in the South Ridge area of Kennewick. The shop focuses exclusively on small production wineries from around Washington state. Whitney Maldonado told me that she likes to find the wineries with production in the 4000 cases a year or less range, the places that often have no tasting room and are in the middle of nowhere, and focus on those. The feel of the store is very open, with none of the clutter that you sometimes find in wineshops. Much more tasting room than retail store, the decor is tastefully modern, but inviting.
In addition to the local focus, one of the other elements that makes AVA feel unique, is the personality of owner Whitney Maldonado. A quick conversation with her about the wines that she caries will demonstrate the advantages of such a focused inventory. Madonado is able to exclusively carry products from producers that she really believes in, and the excitement that she has about those wines really shows. When you hear her talk about a Sheridan Vineyard Cabernet, it's like listening to an illicit account of a romantic affair. Maldonado is also passionate about educating her customers on the wines that she carries. Twice a month AVA hosts a blind tasting and a separate guided tour of some of the wines that they stock. Both of these are great opportunities for visitors to learn more about wine in general, and specifically about the wines and different terroirs of Washington.
If you are in the Tri-Cities area and would like to experience some of the great small production wines from around the state, a visit to AVA Wine Rooms is definitely a must. They offer wines by the glass and by the bottle. The Tasting Blind and Guided Wine Tour events take place on Saturdays, twice a month. The cost for these guided tastings is $20 (refundable with bottle purchase) and requires a reservation. You can contact AVA Wine Rooms for dates and to make reservations. For more information, visit their website.
Images taken from AVA Wine Rooms website