30 May, 2017
A Vintner’s Village Vacation in Prosser Wine CountryComments : 3 Posted in : Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dining in Prosser - WA, Other White Blends, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Tasting Rooms in Prosser - WA, Travel Guide for Prosser, WA, White Wine, Wine on by : The Gourmez
Disclaimer: My experiences at the Vintner’s Village in Prosser were free to me as a member of a media trip sponsored by the Prosser Wine Network.
A surefire way to enjoy a visit to Prosser Wine Country, the central Washington region I’ve been writing about since visiting last fall, is to make the Vintner’s Village your primary destination.
This absolute gem of a location is spread out over 32 acres and home to 10 tasting rooms linked by easy walking trails and streets named Merlot, Port, and Cabernet. In short, it’s the lazy man’s wine destination, and as someone who knows that relaxing and imbibing is the aim of most sane people’s vacations (Note: I do not regularly qualify as one of those people), it’s sure to appeal to many wine lovers.
The Winemakers Loft
That picture is of the patio out front of the Winemakers Loft at the Vintner’s Village. It’s an incubator for smaller wineries (no more than 1,000 cases/year) with strong ties to the agriculture in the region. It also offers one of the prettiest fountains in the area, for sure. I stopped in to grab a bottle of the Martinez & Martinez May Mae Rosé for my mother on the way out of town. This sweet pink is their absolute best-selling wine, and you can bet lots of patrons were enjoying it on that patio on a warm afternoon. Especially since they use it in their slushie rosé ritas, too!
There are currently four tasting rooms in the Winemakers Studio section of the Vintner’s Village, but once you’re ready to stretch your legs – or head in aim of a meal – stroll down Cabernet Court to where the big boys play. Enjoy sweeping views of the Yakima River Valley as you go.
Cabernet Court at the Vintner’s Village
I say big boys in jest, because the wineries here are still small ones that operate primarily out of Prosser and sell most their wines directly to consumers onsite. Barrel production per year is closer to 40,000 cases than the 2 million cases shipped by nearby 14 Hands. But these winemakers take great pride in their wares, and they take pride in handing down those wares through the generations. I especially enjoyed that sense of legacy when speaking with Jessica Gamache, general manager for her family’s Gamache Vintners.
Jessica was very knowledgeable of all the details that go into their wine, of which I enjoyed quite a few. The elegant 2012 Gamache Vintners Cabernet Franc offered licorice, berry candy, and a backbone of rose leaves.
Nearly as notable is their 2012 Gamache Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon that demands a good bolognese sauce to eat with its meaty and sautéed bell pepper notes.
Wine Lover Side Quests
If you’re still going strong after those first few tastes, then a visit to the Walter Clore Center Wine and Culinary Center might be a good idea, though be forewarned – at 2.5 miles away and across the Yakima River, you will likely need a car. But it’s a great destination, if you’d like to go a little deeper into what’s in your glass.
Dr. Walter Clore is a legendary figure in Washington wine history, progressing the science of grape growing in the state greatly over the last half century. The Center hosts exhibits on the man, the history of Washington wine, and a variety of educational tastings for an affordable $20-$30 for person. It also has a tasting room featuring wine from all over the state that’s open until 5 pm. And the sunlight that fills it makes for beautiful lighting.
Closer to your easy, peasy, Vintner’s Village vacation is the Yellow Rose Nursery, at the corner of Port Ave and Merlot Dr and directly across from the Village’s Apex Cellars. Take a gander at its 10 acres of plants and water features for sale, and maybe take one home, too.
But if that feels too far afield for your wine-filled legs, our next destination has plenty of floral beauty itself.
Food O’Clock at Wine O’Clock
I mentioned a meal, remember? If your appetite is on the lighter side, sidle up to Milbrandt’s tasting room for their Flights and Bites pairings, which I covered in my Best Wines of Prosser post. Their tasting room is right across the road from Gamache’s. But after a good afternoon of wine tasting, you’ll likely be ready for something of more substance. Luckily, the Bunnell Family’s Wine O’Clock tasting room and wine bar is also just a skip and a hop away. No jumping required.
With a wood oven prominently featured in the dining room, you know you’re in for a delightful meal the moment you step inside – if the absolutely gorgeous decorations don’t set the stage.
The wine bar’s produce comes largely from farmers’ markets and the family’s gardens. The regular menu, which changes weekly, recommends flights to order with each item, though we enjoyed a full pairing lunch on our media trip. The autumn squash soup with blue cheese and a seductive sage scent made for a great starter to our meal. Just the right amount of crème fraiche pulled all the flavors together, and squash bits in the soup gave it great texture.
Paired with the 2013 Bunnell Family Cellar Helene that reminded me of a lemon-lime spritzer with strong green grape and green apple and a great acidic finish, the soup raised my expectations for the rest of the meal. And it delivered.
The dill and shaved gold beets of this bay scallop salad refreshed, while the pear, bacon, and white cheddar pizzetta dove into savoriness.
An American kobe steak came next, featuring flavors just as bright as its plating.
An accompanying sangiovese sauce brought out the berry in the 2013 Bunnell Family Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. The beet purée was exceptional, especially with a green peppercorn glaze.
A cheese and fruit plate featured gorgonzola dulce and Beecher’s flagship semi-hard cheese. It also introduced me to the one and only treatment of olives I have liked in this world.
Baked into sable cookies that crumble on first bite, the olives were edible for me—and that’s great praise from me for olives! I loved the use of herbs throughout the platter. And I loved what could be called our second dessert nearly as much.
That is a slice of winemaker’s cake, a fully moist pound cake made with semolina flour. Grenache grapes are baked inside for a crunch of seed and burst of fruit. I loved it. And I think you’ll love pretty much anything you get from Wine O’Clock’s menu as well.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…in Walking Distance
After a full day of wine tasting, few things are better than a cozy place to lay one’s head. And 7 Gables Pensione Bed and Breakfast offers that at only a five-minute walk from the Vintner’s Village.
This beautiful, 1900s-era farmhouse will welcome you with a downtown Prosser happy hour at Bacchus, if you’d like, and serve up a tasty breakfast in the morning. Our group was quite impressed with the egg casserole.
For $150/night, 7 Gables is a great option for resting your weary head in any of their six bedrooms or in the onsite cottage. The whole home can also be rented out if needed for only $625/night, though breakfast and a cleaning fee are additional costs. Proprietor Debbie Augustavo also owns the Bacchus tasting room and gift store, which you can read about in my Downtown Prosser guide. Next door to the Gables is her mercantile store with plenty of treasures to find just past the charming trailer and through the barn doors.
Did I mention you’ll also get a resident pet? Few things are more appealing to me than a day of wine tasting, great food, walks, and a cat asleep on my bed.
Visiting the Vintner’s Village in Prosser will make a great vacation anytime of the year. I hope you plot just the right course for your own relaxed wine adventuring.
Visited 6-9 October 2017.