26 May, 2017
A Day in Downtown ProsserComments : 8 Posted in : Bars and Tasting Rooms, Breweries in Prosser - WA, Dining in Prosser - WA, Restaurants, Tasting Rooms in Prosser - WA, Travel, Travel Guide for Prosser, WA on by : The Gourmez
Disclaimer: Everything I’m writing about in this downtown Prosser blog post was free to me as part of a media trip sponsored by the Prosser Wine Network.
Last time I wrote about Prosser, I wrote about the best wines in the region, many of which can be found in the Vintner’s Village in town or at tasting rooms surrounding the Prosser Wine & Food Park, a short few miles up Wine Country Road. But there are few tasting rooms in the downtown proper, which is surprising for a city so tied to the grape.
But there are those few! And there are great activities to be found throughout the downtown area, as I learned on a tour led by Andrea Schutt, executive director of Historic Downtown Prosser.
A Downtown Prosser Historic Buildings Ramble
You may not get a personally guided tour from Andrea, but talking a walk through the interesting blocks around the 6th St and Meade Avenue intersection is worth it regardless to learn a little history about this central Washington frontier town.
The 1910 Finn Building, pictured above, used to be an opium den! It currently houses a Mexican restaurant and a tavern. Rumor has it that the upper floors, once part of the Palace Hotel, are going to be revamped and reopened again—here’s hoping that’s true!
Just down 6th St a block is the 1906 Mercer Building, which was quite lively during Prohibition days; the second floor drew people from all-around for dances.
The space is currently an event center for the city. The Mercer Building also houses Brewminatti, a coffee shop that hosts rather large music gets for a town of Prosser’s size. That’s thanks to co-owner Marty Taylor, who’s also a concert promoter. How lucky for Prosser’s citizens and visitors! Check the event calendar to see if there’s a show scheduled during your trip.
Downtown Prosser Tasting Room Stop #1
Around either corner of Meade Ave from 6th St, you’ll find those few tasting rooms. Sidle up to Bacchus, the first built in town, for some shopping mixed in with your wine.
I loved the feel of this store, with the tasting bar right up front and a parlor couch, lounger, and display cases in back. I also loved the Vine Heart Whitney Alyssa ‘92 Port, pictured in this shot.
Aged 92 months, it was golden amber with ink blots of deeper color and tasted like a nougaty walnut liqueur combined with toffee-encased fruit and caramelized maraschino cherries. Get a glass of it or another wine while browsing the displays.
Ramble Along for More Prosser History
After wine, why not go a little deeper into Prosser’s history at the Benton County Museum? You’ll enjoy a nice eight-block stroll through tree-lined streets to City Park. The Museum resides on the corner.
For a small space, a lot of economic history is packed into it! Beginning with the American Indians who fished the nearby waterways and onto the Homestead Act, the onset of trains, the Reclamation Act, sheepherding and the modern age, this museum touches on it all. In addition to that history, the museum houses a collection of period clothing and furniture from the area—
–and taxidermized local wildlife.
But the biggest jewel in this museum is probably Alys Means, its curator. She gathered us round for storytelling about the area and charmed us all right back into kindergarten, wishing for nap rolls to cuddle up on.
Every museum needs an Alys in it! We learned from her that the Newhouse family were the first to plant wine grapes in the area, up in the Snipes Mountain appellation, and that the science of Walter Clore and others helped the farmers in the region move the wine industry forward, pinpointing the best grapes and soil conditions for the area. Still, though, it’s the Concord grape, your average table grape, that has the longest history in Prosser.
Downtown Prosser Tasting Room Stop #2
After taking in your fill of history—I could have used an extra 30 minutes or so myself, as media tours are always run on a hurried schedule—you’ll probably need another drink! So backtrack, and pick the opposite corner of Meade Ave to go down to find Bill’s.
This is a tasting room with personality in spades! And a shuffleboard table and jukebox in the small room in back. Winemaker Bill Jenkin is now a Washington State representative. The winery only makes 1,500 cases a year, so take the opportunity to compare their oaked and unoaked Little White Lie blends while you can. What I liked more than the wine in this spot, however, was the insight into the Prosser wine community from tasting room manager Dana Hobbs.
Dana shared how tight-knit of a wine community Prosser enjoys, with the people in it always willing to help each other out through harvest or any time of year. Per Dana, there’s no backstabbing here; they all want each other to succeed.
Before continuing your ramble, take in the restored Princess Theater. The Valley Theater Company may very well be putting on a show for your evening entertainment.
Dinner and Beer Time!
But first, you’ll want some dinner after that last tasting flight. Walk up a block on 6th St to find the Horse Heaven Saloon. You’ll know you’re at the right place by its distinctive door handles!
It’s a casual restaurant, one of only a handful downtown, that boasts a classic Old West vibe. We didn’t actually eat there, so I can’t vouch for the food. But I can vouch for the easy-to-miss brewery located right behind it. Wine tasting requires a palate refresher from time to time, so hop on down to let the hops do that!
Horse Heaven Hills Brewery is a locals’ favorite, and it’s the passion of owner and brewmaster Gary Vegar, who also owns the Saloon. In addition to a flight of five beers, Gary guided us through the journey his seven-barrel copper brewery equipment had taken. Originally made in the Czech Republic, these beauties made their way overseas to Alabama, where they lived for decades before Gary snapped them up.
He’s also planning to add hotel rooms on top of the Saloon, which I think is a fantastic idea: soon, visitors to Prosser won’t need to leave the downtown area at all!
Of all the beers we tried, the Buck Off!, made with Yakima Valley hops, impressed me most. And I swear it wasn’t just that fun name. Aloe vera notes and a buttery plunge tickled my taste buds. The Mustang Red, made even more locally with Prosser-area hops, also left an impression with its deep color, full flavor, and bacon-like finish.
That’s a pretty full day for a vacation in the Prosser area! Sadly, downtown Prosser doesn’t yet have those hotel rooms refinished, or you might consider rolling right into one after your trek. But there are options close by! Including the 7 Gables Inn Pensione, located just a mile away across the Yakima River.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous bed and breakfast that we were delighted to stay in overnight. But that’s all I’m going to share about the Inn for now, as I still have one more blog post coming up on Prosser Wine Country, and the Inn will feature in that one too. Why? Because it’s in easy walking distance of the Vintner’s Village, the jewel of this area for wine tourists.
More on that soon…
Visited 6-8 October 2017.