Editor’s Note: Originally published in June 2012, this article was updated in May 2017 for accuracy and relevance.
The Dalles, OR
Don’t worry if the eclectic interior of this former wheat mill—chandeliers hanging from a 100-year-old pulley system and bar stools crafted out of wine barrels—leaves you with your mouth hanging open. Tasting room pourers will soon fill it with sips of The Dalles winery Quenett’s chardonnays, pinot gris, and fruit-forward reds. The Dalles natives James and Molli Martin began renovating the 1913 mill (where wheat for Cheez-Its was once milled) in 2009 into a tasting room for Quenett and a bottling facility for the couple’s single-serving wines they call Copa Di Vino. Enjoy a glass of either as you marvel over the restored mill, or delight in a game of bocce ball just outside.
Drink in one of our favorite views of the Gorge, along with award-winning syrahs and zinfandels, at Washington’s Maryhill Winery. Perched on the eastern edge of the national scenic area, just 13 miles south of Goldendale, Maryhill’s tasting room looks out on a wide, flat Columbia carving its way through sunburnt stone, and a 4,000-person amphitheater where the winery hosts summer concerts by the likes of Santana, Boz Scaggs, and ZZ Top (tickets available online).
Hood River, OR
Nothing improves your golf game—or at least your temperament—like a good wine tasting session. Nestled right next to the Hood River Golf Course’s clubhouse, Phelps Creek’s tiny tasting room is the prime place to test this theory. Owner Bob Morus planted the first of his 30 acres in 1990, collaborating with a Hood River winemaker and a fourth-generation vigneron from Burgundy to produce solid representations of that region’s Old World pinots. The 2009 Cuvée Alexandrine pinot is a pleasant surprise among a sea of excellent chardonnays, and the lively tasting room banter (often improved by stories from the owner himself)—well, that’s just par for the course.
Climb north from the Columbia River into the golden, windswept hills of Lyle, and you’ll find an idyllic piece of farmland. This is Syncline Winery, where the rustic tasting room and the adjacent vineyards might just be the best picnic spot in the Gorge. Owners James and Poppie Mantone focus on Rhône wines like syrah, roussanne, and viognier, while mixing in rarer finds like the spicy, Old World–style mourvèdre, and produce some of the region’s most critically acclaimed bottles. You’ll want to snag at least one for your picnic.
Hood River, OR
Consider this stately 1908 Dutch Colonial house a one-stop shop for all things Gorge. Longtime residents Camille Hukari and Jerry Tausend converted the first floor of the appropriately named “White House”—set on 31 acres of U-cut flower fields and pear and heirloom apple orchards—into a Gorge wine-tasting hub, pouring tastes from more than 25 of the region’s wineries along with local ciders and craft beers. The house is also a veritable Gorge art gallery brimming with local painters’ and photographers’ work. If you’re still hankering for more vino after circumnavigating the sprawling property, head around back and check out the tasting room's Viento wines. Consider it dessert.