Who Knew? The Wonderful yet Weirdly Named “Tri-Cities” Area (Washington) & their Wonderful Wines

Before I get going on one of my favorite subjects, Wine and Wine Tasting and buying Wine (Wine in general) – what is this place they call the Tri-Cities?  Huh?  Why not just give it one name and get on with it?  What gives?

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Our fellow RVer friend Lloyd “the Toddfather” talked a lot about this unknown (to us) place as somewhere that he loved!  We had never heard of it – and I am so glad we checked it out.  Lloyd is sometimes not to be trusted so we had to see for ourselves – and besides, he and his lovely wife Donna-Lou were there!  Hang on for some factoids:

 

The Tri-Cities is a mid-sized metropolitan area in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Washington, consisting of three neighboring cities: Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. The cities are located at the confluence (yep, you read that right) of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers in the semi-arid region of Southeastern Washington. A fourth neighboring city, West Richland, is generally included as part of the Tri-City area and region.  Here, one might ask why not call it the Quad cities, but they probably already printed signs and flags and all that stuff.

 

In 2010, Kiplinger rated the Tri-Cities among the Top 10 best places to raise a family, and CNN/Money ranked the Tri-Cities one of the top 10 best bets for gains in housing value, due to its relatively stable economic conditions since the early 2000s.   Getting even better!

 

Donald kept pointing the new construction in the area (schools, retail, etc.)  And this was the only place in the United States where I found a winery in the five mile drive between Wal-Mart and our great campground – Columbia Sun RV Resort   What more could you ask for?

Tri-Cities Grapes

And, of course, still more great wineries here in Wasington State!  We visited the Tri-cities area, specifically the Red Mountain AVA – since many Walla Walla wines are sourced using Red Mountain grapes.  We kept hearing references to Red Mountain as we were tasting in Walla – Walla.  Over 130 wineries here in the Quad – I mean Tri Cities.

 

So we had to visit.  And oh my goodness – I am so glad we did.  The wines are GREAT, the tasting rooms friendly and intimate and the tastings are very reasonable.  $5.00 compared to $15.00 in Santa Barbara & $10.00 – 20.00 in the Willamette Valley.  Wow!

C’mon let’s go taste Wine already!

Red Mountain is great for visiting a few wineries in a small area – many within a short distance.   We started at a well known winery and – based on recommendations from folks at the tasting rooms – we found some great wines.  

We were only able do a day of tasting as we were lucky to spend a day with the Toddfathers.  Our tasting included:

 

First Stop:  Kiona Wineries

and the most popular winery in Washington State, according to eater.com.  The winery had a great view perched on a hillside overlooking grape vines and hills, again in the Red Mountain area.  We tasted three whites and four reds.  Whites were a little too sweet for us but the reds were good and we picked up a few bottles to drink during the week.  The winery is a popular stop for groups as a a large party visited the winery to taste.  We forgot it was a Saturday – when we try to stay out of the way of working folks!  We discussed other great tasting spaces with the ladies of Kiona and they had some great suggestions, all on Red Mountain.  We carried on up Red Mountain.

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Second Stop: Fidelitas

Fidelitas tasting room and the best wines of the day – owned & managed by wine rock star Charles Hoppes.  We tasted four reds – all very good.  We were continually surprised by the Merlots & Malbacs here.  The price of Fidelitas wine is slightly higher than the other wineries in the area and well worth it. Their wines and complex and smooth as the winery is owned by Mr. Charles Hoppes. IMG_3442

Mr. Hoppes, acclaimed Columbia Valley vintner whose first crush here was in 1988 and spent a decade with Chateau Ste. Michelle, first as Assistant Winemaker, then the Head Red Winemaker during the 1990’s.  Today, Fidelitas led by Mr. Hoppes, creates 7000 cases under the Fidelitas label in addition to serving as a consulting winemaker for a number of smaller Washington wineries. 2012 marked Charlie’s 25th harvest in Washington State.

The Fidelitas wines we now own are:

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Malbac shines a deep purple in the glass with of plum, dark cherry, licorice, clove, and white pepper flavors are confirmed with bright cherry tones.

Cab Sav has deep fruit aromas blackberry and cedar.  Dried herbs, tobacco and fruit tones are on the palate.

Merlot has deep aromas of dark cherry, plum, anise with herbal, dark fruit and velvety tannins

Third Stop of this great wine day:  HighTower

…again on Red Mountain.  Kelly & Tim Hightower formerly of Seattle started blended wines in Woodinville while working full-time in the corporate world.  For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting the area, Woodinville is outside of Seattle & has over 130 wineries.  What?  Another spot where I have to find a hosting job?  OK!

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The Hightowers started producing 220 cases per year increasing to 1200 annually.   Case production increased from 220 to 1200 cases over the next six years, along with a purchase of real estate on Red Mountain (!), complete with water rights-a rare & unusual find within the Red Mountain AVA..

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Welcome to Hightower

The Hightowers retrofitted an existing barn as a working winery and transforming most of the acreage into rows of classic Bordeaux varietals.  Their tasting room is small and lovely, tucked into the top of Red Mountain.

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HIghtower Tastes

Another winery, another purchase was necessary.  I swear!

Cabernet Sauvignon opens with hints of violets, black plum and cassis.  This is a big wine, meaning it is concentrated with intense dark fruit aromas on top of big chewy tannins. This is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Merlot to soften it, and Petit Verdot.

Merlot from one of the coolest years on record – some call it the winemakers vintage because it is more difficult to make a great wine in a really cool year.  This wine brings out the best of the vintage – sultry dark color, bright, beautiful, bold dried cherry flavors of Merlot supported by the healthy acid structure of the vintage and by the dark berry, herbal, back bone of the Cabernet Sauvignon, the spice of the Cabernet Franc and touch of Malbec all built the minerality of Red Mountain fruit.  Rumor has it that excellent food wine that tastes even better the day after it is opened.  Don’t know if we will ever experience that as leftover wine is never an issue for us.

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Frichette – our favorite stop of the day. 

 

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Greg, Shae & Jay Frichette with some Tall Dude

 

Our last stop of our Red Mountain Day was Frichette Winery.  Opened only last year by Shae and Greg Frichette, it is a small, charming winery that should be included in any wine tour of the area.  The Frichettes were working in Los Angeles – had an epiphany – and decided to return to Greg’s roots and family in the Tri-Cities area.  Knocking on doors and inquiring about potential property for sale proved a worthwhile effort.  They opened their winery doors in 2013 and are now offering their first vintage from 2011!

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A bonus is Greg’s Dad is a great photographer and has been working at the winery alongside his son and daughter in law.  His photos are on display at the winery and I have copied one here so you can see what I mean by his wonderful pictures.

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Great Photo of Frichette Vineyards by Jay Frichette

Their 2011 vintage features a limited quantity of our Reserve Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Red Table Wine and Semillon.

We carted the following jewels home with us-

Merlot with lots of plum, cane berries finished with oak. earthy/smoke. A medium finish brings the wine home!

The Reserve presents more cane fruit flavors with vanilla undertones. Another smoky wine with a long finish.

The Frichettes also presented a reasonably priced red blend that will make a great casual night wine – more cane fruit with cherry notes. Black pepper on the back end with an oaky finish.

Finally we purchased the CABSAV – of course because the CABSAV are so good here – very different than those found in Napa Valley – more versatile and better to pair with more foods.  The Frichette CABSAV presents Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, baked berry cobbler. Middle note of lighter wood with oak & cedar followed with a rich chewy finish.

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We wish the Frichettes much luck with their fabulous venture & hope they continue to succeed.  This was our favorite winery of our visit and we hope to return.  Frichette will be the next winery we join as members – see their Frichette Cru Wine club.

Perhaps Shae & Greg will agree to give us an RV parking space – maybe we have a future hosting gig in the great Tri-Cities area!

 

We love the weirdly-named Tri-Cities area and will certainly return. 

My internet searches are working on a future camp hosting site. 

Maybe at Camp Frichette. 

 

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