Have you ever attended a school auction? Have ever felt compelled to "help" the live bidding portion of auction night by starting bids and upping them to get others to bid higher? No? Just me? The copious amounts of wine my friends kept pouring into my glass certainly didn't hurt my enthusiastic bidding.
Well, it turns out, sometimes when you're trying to help bid an item up... you end up winning that item.
Luckily for me, it was an item that I really wanted. My enthusiastic bid won a private wine tasting and tour for up to eight people at Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard in Benton City, Washington.
Washington Wine Country: Tri-Cities and Red Mountain AVA
Where is Benton City, WA? That's what I spent the next couple of months trying to figure out. Turns out, it's part of a gorgeous, sprawling wine country in eastern Washington. The Red Mountain AVA (American Viticulture Area) is simply stunning. Consisting of about a couple dozen wineries & vineyards throughout the Red Mountains, and spanning just around 4,000 acres, the Red Mountain AVA is currently the smallest AVA in the state of Washington.
I've tasted a lot of Washington wine, and I have to say, I'm highly impressed with the wines produced in this AVA.
In 1992, Keith and ReNae Pilgrim purchased their first parcels of land. In 1993 they began building the foundations of what is now the 300-acre Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard. If you are traveling through the Tri-Cities area, you must schedule a tour & tasting at Terra Blanca. Trust me: it's an experience you won't forget.
Road trip from Portland, Oregon to Tri-Cities, Washington
My husband was about to turn 40, so we decided to use our auction win at Terra Blanca by celebrating a wine country weekend road trip to the Tri-Cities area. Thanks to Drive STI, we were outfitted with a stylish, roomy, and comfortable 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD Crossover for our road trip. Our friends Jeff & Amoreena, and Mark & Amy were our travel companions.
I have to say: it was so wonderful to get away for a weekend with just friends, and for our kids to have a weekend with the grandparents. A nice little vacation for all of us!
We spent two nights in Richland, Washington and spent one day as our main wine tasting day. We saved the best for last, with our limo tour ending at Terra Blanca.
Terra Blanca Winery
The 55,000 square foot villa at Terra Blanca is stunning in and of itself. Overlooking the vineyards and Horse Heaven Hills, its beauty only exemplifies the richness of the wines.
Our first stop on the tour was the private tasting room, which is pretty much something similar to my dreams of the perfect home wine pantry.
During the tour, our wonderful guide Don took us out onto the vineyards and shared the estate's history...
and took us through the handling & pressing operations, as well as into the impressive barrel caves.
I could seriously live in those caves. They were so beautiful, and there might be enough wine to last a year or two... ;)
In all honesty, I got a little wine happy toward the end of our tour. We stayed longer than planned and when you're as petite as I am, surrounded by good friends, beautiful scenery, and someone just keeps pouring you delicious wine after delicious wine... well, I left very happy, that's all I can say.
We also left with (much) lighter wallets, but it was decidedly a worthy investment. In addition to the magnums that were included as part of our auction win, my husband and I picked up a few bottles of our favorites from the tasting. While some were better than others, I truly loved the diversity of all of the Terra Blanca wines. The detailed care they put into the growing, harvesting, barreling, blending and bottling of their wines shows: each of their wines stands strongly on its own, with a distinctly divine taste.
Here are some of our favorite Terra Blanca wines. In Portland, Oregon, we are starting to see more and more of the Red Mountain AVA wines being served in restaurants. At a recent dinner at Ringside Fish House (one of our fave restaurants), we noticed most of our favorite Terra Blanca signature wines & their Arch Terrace wines. You can purchase several of their wines online.
2005 Terra Blanca Reserve Syrah ($63)
Maybe it was the magic of the barrel caves that surrounded us when we tasted the 2005 Terra Blanca Block 8 Reserve Syrah, but this luscious dark fruity wine hooked me in from the first sip. Rich with hints of dark plum, fig, and huckleberry, I found this wine absolutely delicious.
2009 ONYX ($55)
This was without a doubt one of our group's favorite wines of the weekend. Keith Pilgrim's signature Bordeaux blend has amazing depth, with waves of dark chocolate, marionberry, and cassis.
2008 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) and the 2008 Signature Series Merlot ($40)
Both have interesting layers of cherry, black fruits, clove, plum, and soft tannins.
Want to see what my hefty auction package included? This beautiful set of four magnums: a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2008 Arch Terrace Merlot ($25), and two 2009 Arch Terrace Syrahs.
Travel to the Red Mountain AVA
If you haven't visited the Red Mountain AVA, I highly recommend making the trip. There isn't much else in the area except for agriculture, so if you do go, know that you are there to taste and enjoy some of the most luscious wines in the Northwest. As I said before, I've never been a big Washington state wine fan, but now find myself seeking out the wines from the Red Mountain AVA when out & about.
NEXT WEEK FOR WINE WEDNESDAY: I'll share our experiences at the tasting rooms at the vineyards of Col Solare. Hightower Cellars, Kiona, and Badger Mountain, as well as our experience dining at J. Bookwalter Winery.