Lindsey Brammer, running the tasting room, pours samples: A crisp, intensely fruity sauvignon blanc ($18), a lean and tannic cabernet sauvignon ($20) and a generous, licorice-scented syrah ($42) from 87 acres of its own grapes plus other grapes from around the Columbia Valley.
WEST TO THE RIVER
Heading out of Walla Walla now, west toward the Pacific Ocean, the wine route reaches the Columbia River. Fifty miles west along the Columbia is Maryhill Winery. Leuthold, its co-owner, is a man at peace. He sits in a canvas director's chair on his winery's outdoor balcony, tousling the creamy coat of Potter, his docile, 130-pound Great White Pyrenees so-called guard dog.
In front of him is a modern, 55,000-case-a-year winery. Over his shoulder, green rows of vines run down to the broad, dark Columbia River. Across the river in Oregon is the snow-clad peak of Mt. Hood, a presently dormant 11,249-foot volcano.
Maryhill's wines include a 2006 Wildflowers white blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon and viognier that's complex, tart and lush ($14), a 2004 sangiovese with lots of oak and black cherries ($26), and a 2004 zinfandel with a walloping 16 percent alcohol ($36).
Another two hours west, then 10 miles up the White Salmon River past Husum, pop. 2,000, is the Wind River Winery. Its website says it's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And when we arrive at 10:20 a.m., it is, indeed, open. They never said there'd be anybody there.
We're greeted by Daisy, the winery dog. We hesitate, then enter the tasting room, grab wine glasses and half a dozen already-open bottles and retire to the wooden deck outside. Later, winery employee Ryan Durgan shows up, welcomes us and brings out more wine. Says the owners are in Los Angeles for a bar mitzvah.
This is the winery with the view. Sitting in plastic lawn chairs on the deck, sipping syrah, we look south over long, lime-green rows of riesling vines, past a dark pine forest, across the Columbia River at the sharp, snowy top of Mt. Hood.
''We just sit here and look at the mountain sometimes,'' says Durgan, grinning. ``It isn't too stressful.''
A Wind River tasting includes a sweet, grapey riesling from Silvertooth Vineyard ($15), a firm, peppery lemberger from Celilo Vineyard ($25) and a very impressive syrah from Horse Heaven Hills, with black cherries and bitter chocolate flavors ($25).
For those familiar with coastal Washington's rainy climate, it's a surprise that there are vineyards west of the Cascade Range as well. An hour's drive from Seattle is Port Townsend, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's a collection of Victorian mansions built in the late 1800s -- today a relaxed weekend getaway resort for overcaffeinated Seattleites.
The Ann Starrett Mansion is a grand, ornate old structure built in 1889 for the opulent sum of $6,000. Chock with gables and turrets outside, its architectural highlight inside is a free-standing, three-tiered staircase.
A few miles out of town is the nicely renovated old barn that is home to Olympic Cellars, which in turn is home to Working Girl Wines. Founded by Texas Instrument exec Kathy Charlton, who took early retirement in 1999 at age 51, it makes a feminist statement. Giving pieces of the action to two female friends and hiring a French winemaker, she has parlayed it into a 25,000-case-a-year winery with distribution in 20 states. Part of the profits go to women's health charities, in return for volunteer help at harvest time.
It was after much debate that they chose the name Working Girl Wines.
''We know the name has implications,'' says retail manager Molly Rivard, grinning. ``We're willing to live with the consequences.''
Rivard and Benoit Murat offer samples of their nonvintage Rosé the Riveter, a rosé made of lemberger, a red grape from Eastern Europe; it's sweet and crisp, with raspberry flavors ($14), and nonvintage Go Girl Red, of lemberger and merlot, soft, juicy red plums, fully dry ($14), and their 2006 Vin Nouveau, of Madeleine angevine and Madeleine sylvaner grapes, sweet and soft and grapey ($13).
The nouveau, made of hybrids from the cool, damp regions in northern Germany, is the only one made of grapes grown on this rainy side of Seattle. The rest come from vineyards in the Columbia Valley.
Most experts say it's too cool and wet here to grow the better-known grapes like pinot noir or chardonnay.
But Murat is hopeful: ``I think I can do it.''
It's the kind of spirit that for more than 20 years now has been creating Washington State's new wine country.