Twisted Tasting Rooms in Washington Wine Country

From literary-inspired vintages to an auto-repair facility turned wine-tasting locale, there's no shortage of unusual tasting rooms in Washington wine country.
Charles Smith Wines
Charles Smith Wines
  1. Catch a Sunset Cabernet
    Few places dress to impress like Benton City's Col Solare, a partnership between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle. The deck yields impressive views of the vines, the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance and a startling blue sky. The tasting room is open by appointment and to the public on Saturdays, May through September.
  2. Get Lit(erary)
    Sure, there are the literary-themed reds—the Antagonist and Protaganist, for example—and the allure of bocce courts amid a swath of plush green grass, but the real reason to stop at J. Bookwalter Winery in Richland has to be the lighting. From the sun-dappled terrace out back, which leads to a small garden, to the full sunshine patio out front, this is the place to go if you’re short on vitamin D. Plus, when the sun goes down, the live music tunes up, attracting tourists and locals alike.
  3. Go Where Wine Geeks Out
    The big barn of a tasting room at Rasa Vineyards in Walla Walla mixes the laws of motion, mathematical principles and world-class Washington wines. A geekily good Principia syrah, sourced from the likes of Les Collines, Seven Hills and other vineyards, is named for Sir Isaac Newton’s work on the laws of motion. Sip on the single-vineyard syrah Occam’s Razor while the tasting-room staff schools you on how this concept rules Rasa’s winemaking process. Open by appointment.
  4. Learn to Drink in a Man Cave
    That “self-portrait” of Greg Harrington hanging on the wall isn’t actually Walla Walla's Gramercy Cellars vintner (and master sommelier), but rather an 1843 painting by American portraitist Robert Street. With huge, stuffed leather chairs; old-fashioned, swiveling metal-and-wood stools; and a dartboard by the door, men and women alike will want to bring their A game—and linger over a syrah—at this self-proclaimed “man cave” tasting room. 
  5. Shift Into Overdrive
    At Charles Smith Wines, a former auto-repair facility in downtown Walla Walla that is now a tasting room, expansive bay doors open onto a streetside table space, while music pulses out of the sound system (punk, reportedly, when Smith himself is in the house). If you’re lucky, you’ll get a story out of charming, loquacious tasting-room attendant Marcus Mejia while he pours something vintage from the K Vintners library.
  6. Wax Funkadelic
    Some days this place sounds more like a college dorm room than a winery. That’s because winemaker Trey Busch has lined the vermilion walls of his Walla Walla tasting room, Sleight of Hand Cellars, with a jukebox and old-fashioned vinyl LPs. More than 650 albums sit on a shelf waiting to be cued up on the turntable, just steps away from a custom concrete tasting bar where they’re pouring Funkadelic Walla Walla Valley syrah (47) or the Columbia Valley red blend the Illusionist (92). Luckily, Busch takes requests and doesn’t mind when tasters want to put another dime in the jukebox, baby. Open Thursday through Sunday and by appointment, April through December.

Find more wineries and tasting rooms in Washington wine country.

Check out Grape Expectations in Washington wine country.

—Julie H. Case