Eric and Jill Johnson carry fruit straight from the orchard to their stand.
The Elberta is our biggest, juiciest peach, and you cannot buy it in a grocery store," says Cheryl Barrett, owner of Barrett Orchards in Washington’s sun–drenched Yakima Valley. The region calls itself "the fruit bowl of the nation," but some of its produce is simply too fragile to travel. So you need to come to it. Follow Interstate 82 as it runs the 50 miles from Yakima to Prosser, and you’ll pass orchards and roadside stands offering incomparably fresh fruit—berries in June, cherries and peaches in July, and pears and apples in August and September. You’ll have the chance to sip the vintages of more than 50 wineries, stroll through rural towns, and drop in at restaurants with menus that reflect the local harvest. The valley invites you to take it slow on country lanes, chat with growers and vintners, and spend the night at a quiet inn surrounded by cherry or apple trees.
At the visitor center in the city of Yakima, you can pick up maps to local wineries, orchards, and other attractions such as the Yakima Valley Museum, where you’ll find a working soda fountain, a children’s learning center, and displays of the region’s agricultural history. Twenty miles south, the Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center exhibits the traditions of the area’s American Indians in Toppenish, a town decorated with 70 murals—a new one is added every year.
It’s easy to eat and drink your way through the valley. In Yakima, Barrett Orchards whips up wholesome smoothies, and Elton Young’s restaurant proffers luscious fruit pies. Just as seductive are the scoops of ice cream buried under a landslide of sugar–ripe peach wedges at Piety Flats Winery and Mercantile, which occupies a 1911 general store.
Since the wineries neighbor the orchards, you can easily pair fruit with the valley’s reds and whites. If you like soft and buttery chardonnays, made from one of the valley’s most widely planted grapes, stop in at Bonair in Zillah. At Windy Point in Wapato, Liz Stepniewski pours merlots that are brighter and softer than their California counterparts.
A day of fine fruit and wine deserves a gourmet finale. At Carousel French Cuisine on Yakima’s historic Front Street, choose local vintages to complement such traditional dishes as garlicky escargots or rabbit in a dark wine sauce. And for dessert? Something fruity, of course.
Photography by John Granen
This article was first published in July 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Get AAA's Oregon & Washington TourBook guide and map. For more information, contact the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau, (800) 221-0751, www.visityakima.com. Area code is 509 unless otherwise noted.
TO DO AND SEE
Bonair Winery and Vineyards 500 S. Bonair Rd., Zillah, (800) 882-8939, www.bonairwine.com. Johnson Orchards 4906 Summit– view Ave., Yakima, 966-7479. Piety Flats Winery and Mercantile 2560 Donald–Wapato Rd., Wapato, 877-3115, www.pietyflatswinery.com. Thompson's Farm and Market 9950 Hwy. 12, Naches, 949-3450, www.thompsonsfarm.com. Washington Fruit Place at Barrett Orchards 1209 Pecks Canyon Rd., Yakima, 966-1275, www.treeripened.com. Windy Point Vineyards 420 Windy Point Dr., Wapato, 877-6824, www.windypointvineyards.com. Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center Highway 97 and Buster Road, Toppenish, 865-2800, www.yakamamuseum.com. Yakima Valley Museum 2105 Tieton Dr., Yakima, 248-0747, www.yakimavalleymuseum.org.
Carousel French Cuisine 25 N. Front St., No. 6, Yakima, 248-6720. Dykstra House 114 Birch St., Grandview, 882-2082. Elton Young's 810 N. Fifth Ave., Yakima, 457-6027. Essencia Artisan Bakery & Chocolaterie 4 N. Third St., Yakima, 575-5570.
Best Western Ahtanum Inn 2408 Rudkin Rd., Yakima, (800) 348-9701, www.bestwestern.com. Cherry Wood Bed & Breakfast 3271 Roza Dr., Zillah, 829-3500, www.cherrywoodbandb.com. Cozy Rose Inn 1220 Forsell Rd., Grandview, (800) 575-8381, www.cozyroseinn.com.