150 miles SE of Seattle, 92 miles NW of Richland, 195 miles SW of Spokane

Considering the fact that Washington is well known for its plentiful rainfall, it may seem hard to believe that eastern Washington's Yakima Valley receives only about 8 inches of rain per year. Located 3 hours from Seattle, Yakima is in another world -- the sunny side of the Cascades. Despite the lack of rainfall, the area has become one of Washington's main apple-growing regions. Hops, used in making beer, are another important crop in the Yakima Valley, but it is grapes and the wines produced from those grapes that have been bringing the valley international attention for many years.

The city of Yakima lies at the western end of the Yakima Valley winery region, while at the eastern end is the Tri-Cities area comprising Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. Although the Tri-Cities area has its share of wineries, it is best known for the Hanford Site, the huge military reservation where the first nuclear bomb was developed. Today, Hanford is notorious for its many nuclear contamination sites, which luckily are well removed from any towns or vineyards, so there's no need to worry about glow-in-the-dark wine.

Despite the many wineries in the Yakima Valley, the region has never really caught on as a wine-touring destination and it has very few B&Bs or memorable restaurants. This is due to several factors. First, the wineries begin more than 20 miles away from Yakima, and so the city isn't exactly an ideal base for exploring this wine country. Also, the small towns scattered along the length of the Yakima Valley are basically farm towns and not what you would call quaint. In fact, Sunnyside has stockyards and their stench permeates the town. Vineyards are just part of the picture here, and you'll have to drive through a lot of unattractive scenery to reach the wineries. Nevertheless, a visit to the Yakima Valley is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with Washington wine.