Spending a Weekend at Red Mountain


By Nancy Croisier

The first time my husband and I ventured to Red Mountain many years ago, we found ourselves pulling up to a house. Signs guided us through a sliding door and we ended up wine tasting in the basement of someone’s home. Things sure have changed since then.

In 2001, the region became a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA). What was formerly barren land is now the site of some of the state’s most prestigious vineyards growing grapes that result in extremely sought after wines.

Red Mountain Winery Hedges Family Estates

Though the region has become highly renowned, it’s not unusual to encounter winemakers and meet proprietors during a winery visit. Not to mention, the tasting rooms offer intimate and inviting experiences for everyone from the casual wine drinker to the serious collector.

As Amy Johnson of Purple Star Winery explains, “We love to have guests visit us at our Benton City winery for a behind the scenes look at what happens daily at a winery. They will be sipping wine and watching topping of barrels, racking (transference of wine from one vessel to another), destemming grapes or even punch downs during fermentation depending on the time of year.”

Here are some of the top boutique and family owned wineries in the AVA, places to eat, and intriguing places to stay.

Red Mountain Wineries

Kiona Vineyards


This is the OG winery on Red Mountain where once upon a time visitors were hosted in the Williams’ family home. Back in 1975, folks must have thought this family was absurd to plant vines in what was a barren dessert at the time. Yet, it turns out they laid the groundwork for what is now a world class wine region.In 2007 the family opened an impressive eco-friendly facility with a spacious tasting room and outdoor seating.

Try the Estate Lemberger, a one-of-a-kind hedonistic red wine the family has been bottling for over 40 years. It remains priced under $20 making it one of Red Mountain’s top values.

Located at 44612 N Sunset Rd
Benton City, WA 99320

Hedges Family Estate


Go for the French ambience and eco-friendly wines.

If you’d like to imagine you’re in France, a visit to the stunning Hedges Family Estate is a must. Vineyards surround the estate’s charming French inspired chateau and courtyard fountain.

Hedges Family Estates Courtyard on Red Mountain

However, Hedges isn’t just style without substance. The vineyards are certified organic AND biodynamic, garnering recognition from the Slow Wine Guide USA. Most importantly, talented winemaker Sarah Goedhart crafts complex and dynamic wines that speak to the beauty of the place.

Located at 53511 N Sunset Rd
Benton City, WA 99320

Avennia


This Woodinville based operation known for luxe wines expanded in 2022 when owner Marty Taucher acquired a Red Mountain vineyard. The property includes a tasting room and guest house. A patio provides a picturesque setting for tasting adjacent to the vines.

The hospitality, wine, and setting are all superb.

Located at 20206 E 583 PR NE
Benton City, WA 99320

Hightower Cellars

Tim and Kelly Hightower with wine

Find the energy efficient Hightower Cellarshttps://www.hightowercellars.com tasting room and winery atop Red Mountain just past Avennia. Charming husband and wife team Tim and Kelly Hightower recently celebrated twenty-five vintages.

The wines are full of energy and fruity lushness and the site rewards guests with sweeping vineyard views.

Located at 19418 E 583 Pr NE
Benton City, WA 99320

Purple Star Winery

Red Mountain Winery Purple Star Winery covered seating area

For a behind the scenes look at a working winery, be sure Purple Star is on your itinerary. Proprietors Kyle and Amy Johnson are gracious hosts who aim to keep wine approachable. Plus, they have multiple brands under one roof which enables guests to choose from a number of wine tasting flights. From refreshing white wines (Picpoul anyone?) to concentrated reds, there’s something for everyone. For those in need of a bite to eat, diverse food options include cheese as well as tinned fish.

Flight of wines at Purple Star Winery on Red Mountain

The property, a little off the beaten path but well worth the effort to seek out, offers a variety of seating options for tasting inside the production facility or out. According to Amy, “We also offer fun experiences like our Sunset Sipping where during extended hours our guests sit on our crush pad with live music and wine while watching the summer sunsets turn the Horse Heaven Hills beautiful shades of yellow, pink and orange. It’s a moment not to be missed!”

56504 NE Roza Rd
Benton City, WA 99320

Frichette Winery


On our visit, dynamic proprietor Shae Frichette was making the rounds among guests, ensuring a welcoming experience for all levels of wine lovers. She and her husband, Greg, moved to the area as the result of a coin toss and opened the winery together. That gamble has paid off in their delectably bold yet approachable wines.

For something a little different try the mystery tasting. Better yet, pair it with one of their ample charcuterie platters.

Located at 39412 N Sunset Road
Benton City, WA, United States, Washington

Places to Eat Near Red Mountain

If you want something more substantial to eat beyond the charcuterie and cheese available at Frichette or Purple Star, there are some nice winery owned restaurants.

Tagaris Taverna


A taverna is a small Greek restaurant. Tagaris is more than that, with an attached wine production facility where winemaker Frank Roth produces over 10,000 cases annually. Many of the grapes for the wines come from organic vineyards. In fact, the winery was enlisted by Cameron Diaz’s Avaline wine project to craft the brand’s Chardonnay.

The kitchen prepares Mediterranean inspired dishes with ingredients sourced from local farms. On a nice sunny day, head to the patio and order the wildly craveable garlic fries. Be sure to pair them with the Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine made with organically grown grapes.

Located at 844 Tulip Lane
Richland, WA 99352

Fiction at J. Bookwalter

Hubby and I had plans to dine at this restaurant, an extension of J. Bookwalter winery. Sadly, we received an emergency call about our beloved cat staging a hunger strike at home in our absence. So, we did what any good pet parents would do and canceled our reservation, packed up the car and high tailed it back home to Seattle. However, we’ve heard fantastic things about this restaurant and its seasonal menu and plan to visit on our next trip to the area.

Located at 894 Tulip Lane
Richland, WA 99352

Places to Stay on Red Mountain

When spending time in the Red Mountain region, we usually book a hotel in the Tri-Cities area. However, some wineries have lodging available for those who want to escape city life and experience a relaxing stay surrounded by vines and territorial views. Find more information on each winery’s website.

Avennia Guesthouse


Adjacent to the Avennia tasting room, this retreat for 2-4 guests includes a soothing hot tub and swim spa as well as a firepit.

Tinte Red Mountain Retreat


The folks at Tinte Cellars offer a four bedroom refuge with a fully equipped kitchen situated among the estate’s five acres of vineyards.

Know Before You Go

Wine tastings generally range from $20 to $50. Check directly with each tasting room for hours as they vary by tasting room. Most are open 5-7 days per week. Wineries offer club memberships with various perks that typically include waived tasting fees and special savings on wine purchases, something to consider if you plan on buying a number of bottles to take home.

Pro tip: pack a cooler for wines purchased during an outing. Better yet, when going from one winery to another bring wines inside the tasting room to keep them in a temperature-controlled environment. The robust wines coming from this region are a byproduct of the desert climate. Since there isn’t much in the way of covered parking available, the interior of a car can quickly feel like an inferno. That intense heat can spoil a good bottle of wine in a very short amount of time.

Nearby

Visit Washington’s first organic winery.
https://explorewashingtonstate.com/washingtons-first-organic-winery/

Or explore hiking trails in the Tri-Cities.
https://explorewashingtonstate.com/hiking-trails-in-the-tri-cities/

Avatar photo

Nancy Croisier

Nancy Croisier, a Seattle native, is a graduate of the Northwest Wine Academy, a Certified Specialist of Wine, and founder of VinoSocial. She is on a mission to get every winery on social media and a bottle of wine on every dinner table. Read more of Nancy’s writing in the Slow Wine Guide USA, Washington Tasting Room Magazine and on the VinoSocial.wine site. For more wine and food discoveries, follow @VinoSocialNancy on Instagram.

5 Comments

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