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A Washington Wine Crush

Join the crush on a visit to Washington State this fall. Take part in premier winemaking or just watch, sample and delight.

Autumn is the best time to trace wine to its sources—the vineyards bursting with grapes and the wineries transforming the fruit into fine wine. In fall workers, vintners and estate owners come together to harvest and crush the grapes—a process simply referred to as “the crush.”

Situated on about the same latitude as France’s renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, Washington boasts a climate that is ideal for wine-growing, and the quality of the wine has certainly proven that. Check out our suggested destinations, but be sure to check with individual wineries before you go because harvest dates and policies may change.

Nestled in a valley a half hour northeast of downtown Seattle, this wine region is home to more than 40 wineries, including two of the state’s largest wine producers—Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Columbia Winery. While it’s easy to see this area in a day trip from Seattle, the area’s top-notch hotel accommodations and renowned restaurants make it a worthwhile overnight destination too.

Visit the state’s oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which was named American Winery of the Year 2004 by Wine Enthusiast magazine and 2005 Winery of the Year by Restaurant Wine magazine. Here, you can take in a choice of tours, browse the wine and gift shops and enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds of the early 20th-century estate.

At Columbia Winery, you can sample wines at one of the largest wine-tasting rooms in Washington. The winery holds events throughout the year. One of the most popular is the Wine Education Program. On November 7-8, the winery hosts a Taste of Red Event—unique and current reds from Columbia Winery with food by top Northwest vendors.

From downtown Seattle, a 2½-hour drive over the Cascade Mountains takes you to the Yakima Valley and more than 12,000 acres of vineyards. The area is home to over 80 wineries, including the well-known Covey Run and Hogue Cellars and smaller boutique wineries.

For inspiring views over the Yakima Valley during the crush, head to the Hedges Family Estate winery, in the Red Mountain viticultural area. The charming Bordeaux-style chateau houses a fully functioning winery and tasting room on its first floor.

Claar Cellars in Zillah hosts the Stomp the Grape festival on October 3 with grape stomping and wine-bottle filling competitions.

For hands-on involvement in the harvest, consider taking a detour to Cave B, a winery/resort near Quincy, northeast of Yakima. Here, you can stay in a guesthouse overlooking the Columbia River and choose a customized package that helps you experience the crush.

In the Columbia Valley you’ll have your choice of over 100 wineries. On September 26-27, select Columbia Valley wineries celebrate the harvest with Catch the Crush, an annual festival with music, specialty arts and crafts, live entertainment and other celebratory events. Visitors also will have a chance to sample gourmet wines, tour winery estates and witness as grapes are picked, tumbled into a hopper and crushed into juice.

Kick off the crush experience at Preston Premium Wines, owned by one of the pioneering families in the Washington wine industry. During the Catch the Crush event, you can view the picking and crushing from the deck of the winery. You can also sample a previous vintage wine of the same variety of grapes that are being picked.

Spend an afternoon at Columbia Crest winery overlooking the Columbia River. Sample the wines in the tasting room of the 16th-century style French chateau. Then watch the truckloads of grapes being dumped into hoppers, where they’re crushed and conveyed to the massive presses.

Visit to learn more about Washington’s wine-growing regions and events.

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