Is this the Southwest or the Northwest?
You thought you were in the town of Prosser, Washington, but now you’re wondering if you time-traveled from the Yakima Valley to New Mexico when you pulled off Interstate 82 onto Wine Country Road, passed banks of lavender and riotous baskets of brightly-colored annuals and parked in front of the striking adobe-style building that houses Desert Wind Winery.
Staying in one of the winery’s luxuriously appointed guest rooms (acclaimed by Travel + Leisure magazine) is the perfect way to explore nearby wineries as well. There are just four rooms located on a private, secure floor over the winery, so you’ll want to begin planning your getaway now and book early.
Southwest Style Lodging
The tasteful guest rooms are named after early-American explorers: Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste, Charbonneau, Lewis and Clark. The Southwestern desert theme is thoughtfully carried into every detail from the furnishings to wall décor. Deluxe amenities include a sitting area, large flatscreen satellite television, Bose sound system with CD player, mini-bar, even plush his-and-her guest robes.
If the drive to the winery has left you a little thirsty, the first thing that may attract your attention is the welcome complimentary bottle of wine waiting in the room, complete with corkscrew and crystal wine glasses. It’s tempting to settle into the comfy chairs on your private balcony and sip your wine as the sun sets over the Yakima River below. If it’s a bit chilly outside, curl up on the soft sofa in front of the kiva-style fireplace.
Wake up the next morning to an ample European-style Continental breakfast basket of fresh fruit, artisan cheese, bakery goods, fruit juice, milk and French-press coffee delivered to your room.
Wine Tasting & Lunch
Downstairs in the high-ceilinged tasting room, a gift boutique overflowing with fine art and classy kitchen items leads the way to the roomy tasting bar.
Here you can taste their lineup of wines from Chardonnay to Tempranillo to Port-style La Puerta. Desert Wind’s popular signature blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is called Ruah. In keeping with the winery’s setting and theme, Ruah translates to “breath of God” or “wind” in Hebrew.
Stroll to the opposite side of the cavernous winery to enjoy lunch at Mojave by Picazo, a Southwest-
inspired restaurant, focusing on casual wine country cuisine, paired with Desert Wind wines. Set with elegant table seating and oak wine barrels racked halfway up the wall, it’s open for lunch from Thursday to Saturday, or by appointment for private groups.
To attend a Desert Wind cooking class, or one of their many food and wine events, check out the winery’s website.
Ties To Duck Pond Cellars
Christened for the area’s hot, dry weather, Desert Wind opened in 2007, joining 30 or so wineries in the small town of Prosser (population 5,500) at the southeast end of the Yakima Valley. Growing with every vintage, the winery now produces in excess of 25,000 cases of wine a year.
Owner Greg Fries and his wife Amber oversee all aspects of the vineyards, the tasting room, four-room inn, restaurant and meeting space.
Amber, originally from Chelan, Washington, met Greg when she was attending Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and working at Duck Pond Cellars.
“I was looking for a summer job and the winery sounded fun,” Amber says. “Then I got interested in wine and got certified at the International Sommelier Guild. In the process, Greg and I fell in love and eventually got married.” Her love of food, and knack for creating recipes comes in useful when planning wine dinner menus or themes for the monthly cooking classes offered at the winery.
Greg thinks of himself as a vintner more than a winemaker. Sure, he deals with the chemistry and magic that turns grapes into ambrosia, but not before he’s spent hours tromping around vineyards checking on grapes or conferring with family members about blends and crush.
The 38-year-old grew up on a California farm where his family grew cotton and tomatoes. In the 1980s, his family moved to Oregon, started raising hazelnuts and planted a small vineyard. Greg attended University of California at Davis, graduating with a degree in fermentation science with an emphasis in enology.
Meanwhile, the family planted an additional 480 acres of wine grapes on the Wahluke Slope above the Yakima Valley. By 1993, the Oregon vineyard was getting its own legs and the Fries family opened Duck Pond Cellars between Dundee and Newberg.
Combine Greg’s ease in the vineyards and Amber’s communication and marketing skills, coupled by the family’s commitment to producing quality wines, and an Eastern Washington sister winery was a natural.
Written by Linda Hagen Miller