Insider's Guide to the Gorge
Wineries Worth Visiting in the Gorge
Five Gorge tasting rooms worth a visit
The Dalles; sunshinemill.com
Don’t worry if the eclectic interior of this former flour mill—chandeliers hanging from a 100-year-old pulley system and bar stools crafted out of wine barrels—leaves you with your mouth hanging open. Tasting room pourers will soon fill it with sips of The Dalles winery Quenett’s chardonnays, pinot gris, and fruit-forward reds. The Dalles natives James and Molli Martin began renovating the 1908 mill (where flour for Cheez-Its was once milled) in 2009 into a tasting room for Quenett and a bottling facility for the couple’s single-serving wines they call Copa Di Vino. Enjoy a glass of either as you marvel over the restored mill, or delight in a game of bocce ball just outside.
Drink in what may well be one of our favorite views of the Gorge, along with award-winning syrahs and zinfandels, at Washington’s Maryhill Winery. Perched on the eastern edge of the national scenic area, just 13 miles south of Goldendale, Maryhill’s tasting room looks out on a wide, flat Columbia carving its way through sunburnt stone, and a 4,000-person amphitheater where the winery hosts summer concerts by the likes of Chris Isaak, Alison Krauss, and Earth, Wind, and Fire (tickets available online). And this month, Maryhill debuts yet another spot to savor the view with its new reserve tasting room.
PHELPS CREEK VINEYARDS
Hood River; phelpscreekvineyards.com
Nothing improves your golf game—or at least your temperament—like a good wine tasting session. Nestled right next to the Hood River Golf Course’s clubhouse, Phelps Creek’s tiny tasting room is the prime place to test this theory. Owner Bob Morus planted the first of his 30 acres in 1990, collaborating with a Hood River winemaker and a fourth-generation vigneron from Burgundy to produce solid representations of that region’s Old World pinots. The 2009 Cuvée Alexandrine pinot is a pleasant surprise among a sea of excellent chardonnays, and the lively tasting room banter (often improved by stories from the owner himself)—well, that’s just par for the course.
Climb north from the Columbia River into the golden, windswept hills of Lyle, and you’ll find an idyllic piece of farmland. This is Syncline Winery, where the rustic tasting room and the adjacent vineyards might just be the best picnic spot in the Gorge. Owners James and Poppie Mantone focus on Rhône wines like syrah, roussanne, and viognier, while mixing in rarer finds like the spicy, Old World–style mourvèdre, and produce some of the region’s most critically acclaimed bottles. You’ll want to snag at least one for your picnic.
THE GORGE WHITE HOUSE
Hood River;? thegorgewhitehouse.com
Consider this stately 1910 Dutch Colonial house a one-stop shop for all things Gorge. Longtime residents Camille Hukari and Jerry Tausend converted their appropriately named “White House”—set on 31 acres of U-cut flower fields and pear and heirloom apple orchards—into a Gorge wine-tasting hub six years ago. The couple pours tastes from 40 of the region’s wineries and sips from two of its microbreweries amid a veritable Gorge art gallery brimming with local painters’ and photographers’ work. If you’re still hankering for more vino after circumnavigating the sprawling property, head around back and check out the tasting room serving exclusively Viento wines. Consider it dessert.