Drive east across southeastern Washington to where the rolling Columbia River meets the Snake and Yakima rivers and you’ll find my latest delicious destination. Tri-Cities has been on my radar for years, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to dig any deeper than making a quick stop in the past. I gave the sage folks at Visit Tri-Cities carte blanche to plan my three-day trip, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at how much the area had to offer. Tri-Cities hits on all of the elements I love: Cocktails and food, biking and hiking, wine tasting and breweries – with a healthy dose of bright eastern Washington sunshine thrown in for good measure.
The trip began with an easy, COVID-safe check-in at The Lodge at Columbia Point – a stunning property sitting a stone’s throw from the banks of the Columbia River within the city of Richland. Each room is aptly named for one of the dozens of world-class wineries located in the area. Mine was the ‘Tamarak Cellars’ room – an apt spot for me, as they’re highly acclaimed for their big, juicy red wines. Accommodations include an array of delicious house-made breakfast items in the morning, restaurant facilities, outdoor fire pits, a pool and spa, and a comfortable inside/outside bar just off the far side of the lobby.
The “delicious” part of this destination showed itself within minutes – as I walked around the corner to Lu Lu Craft Bar + Kitchen for my first dinner. It’d be hard to get more local than what’s offered here, as everything is made in-house and they’re sourcing locally whenever possible – a seriously amazing bounty comes from this heavily agricultural part of the state. Lu Lu’s spicy chicken sandwiches were as large as they were delicious, and paired perfectly with one of their signature barrel-aged Manhattan’s. Not a cocktail fan? With over 80 local wines on their list, they’ve got you covered! Insider tip: Try the ‘Pig Bacon’ – a delicious candied bacon treat!
My second night in Richland featured a more unusual, yet equally delicious, menu at Dovetail Joint. Featuring a quirky mix with dishes from Greece, Italy, North Africa, Spain, and Asia – nearly all would be fun for tapas-style sharing (which allowed me some delicious bites of my dining partner’s savory mushroom toast along with my Peanut Curry). Cocktails? Definitely on-point – with a specialty cocktail list heavy on locally-distilled favorites (and options for regional beer, tea, wine and kombucha). Their stripmall location shouldn’t sway you into thinking they’re anything other than fabulous! 🙂
Tagaris Winery (& Taverna) is just minutes from downtown Richland, but feels a million miles away! With stucco walls, and a warm aesthetic from both their fireplace and wood-fired oven, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a trip to the Mediterranean (and chef Josh DuQuist’s has infused that feel throughout their extensive menu!). Their wine list is impressive, making this a destination for both food and wine lovers. With upcoming music nights on Fridays and Saturdays, and special coursed-dinners on the horizon, a trip to Tri-Cities could be centered around just this restaurant alone!
I’d be remiss not to mention my lunches in Tri-Cities. At J.Bookwalter’s Fiction bistro, I found a sun-soaked spot on their patio to sip a bright rose, and to enjoy their new, springy interpretation of a steak salad – bursting with fresh greens, pickled veggies, and a luscious Wagyu bavette – all dressed in a tangy mustard sauce. This stop easily could have been my hangout through the end of the day with a good book and a few more glasses of rose. 😉
Ice Harbor Brewing was more casual, yet still provided fabulous service and a welcome break in the day at their Clover Island location (just off the Sacajawea Bike Trail along the Columbia River). Their fish tacos paired nicely with their refreshing Tangerine Hefeweisen on the shady outdoor patio. With over 12 beer selections, there’s something to sate every brew desire.
Bowswer tip: Their patio is dog-friendly!
Although they don’t have their own kitchen, Moonshot Brewery instead welcomes local food trucks and/or outside food. With a unique menu of creative craft beers brewed in uber-small batches, you’re likely to find many options here that you’ve never seen the likes of elsewhere. Their tasting boards were the perfect way to sip through their menu – enjoying everything from their “Makin’ Brekkie” – an oatmeal stout made with maple syrup and beans from local Rockabilly Roasting, to their new-style Cold Side of the Moon IPA. Bonus points for being pug-friendly and for carrying a personal favorite: San Juan Seltzer!
The Tri-Cities area is abundant with opportunities for wine tasting – from those with jaw-dropping vistas and wide open spaces, to cozy spots just off the banks of the Columbia River. Spending an afternoon with the tasting room manager at Cave B Winery was not only educational, but hearing their plans for tasting experiences (with food pairings and customized options) will definitely bring their tastings to a new level. Sip on their back deck while overlooking a riverside marsh teeming with waterfowl, birds and maybe even an elusive fox!
Goose Ridge Winery sits high above Richland’s foothills and isn’t just a great spot for wine tasting. They’ve made their patio so comfy you’ll want to spend an afternoon in the sunshine just outside their tasting room doors. With oodles of patio tables (all well-spaced for social-distancing), it’d be easy to order a few glasses of their sparkling rose, a charcuterie board, and sip the afternoon away!
Bonus points: Along with being the largest of Washington’s estate wineries, they’re also home to Vido spirits – producing vodka that’d be a welcome addition to a spicy Moscow mule!
Terra Blanca feels like a step right into the Tuscan countryside as their perch on Red Mountain opens to views of a man-made lake, their rolling vineyards, and the town of Benton City beyond. Their estate wines feature Signature, Onyx, and Arch Terrace series wines giving plenty of tasting options for wine lovers of every level. Tastings can be as casual or as formal as you prefer, with or without a private (pre-arranged) tour of the winery).
Bonus points: If you have a larger group, Terra Blanca’s 10,000+ square feet of space gives lots of room for social distancing, small weddings, or group events.
Further up Red Mountain, with aerie-like views spanning to the south, east and west, Col Solare’s team was the friendliest I found on my trip through the area. They’re quick to share stories of the marriage between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori and our local Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. They proudly produce bold cabernets and offer vertical tastings. With a dog-friendly patio, and a love of red wine, Col Solare will be high on my list for a return visit!
Just down Antinori Road from Col Solare is where I found Fidelitas. Latin for faithful, loyal and true they’re strongly faithful to their commitment to their Cabernet Sauvignon and traditional Bordeaux winemaking methods. My tasting was comfortable – even though I was solo – and set at a pace where I could sink into their custom-made winebarrel Adirondack chairs, swirl and savor their wines, and listen to the stories behind each vintage at my own pace.
Undoubtedly, you’re wondering how I managed to eat and drink my way through the Tri-Cities without waddling back home, right? Fortunately, the area has an abundance of outdoor activities with with dozens of miles to be ridden on the Sacajawea Trail, and a wealth of hiking trails on nearby Candy Mountain, I’d like to think I worked-off just as many pounds as I likely packed-on during my three-day stay.
Tip: Country Mercantile sits just up the road from the Candy Mountain trailhead and offers a full-on candy-making facility, bakery, and veggie mart – ideal for grab-and-go items for both hiking and biking!
I’m already planning a trip back – hinging on when the Manhattan Project National Historic Park (hopefully) reopens later this year. I’ll pack my stretchy pants and focus more on the craft cocktails in this beautiful spot in the heart of Washington wine country. There’s simply too much for me to see in just one trip!