Sunday Drive to the Tri-Cities: Washington’s Wine Country

Cari_2Editors Note: This Sunday Drive is brought to you by Cari McGee who knows her way around Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and surrounding towns as a Realtor in the Tri-Cities for Windermere.  Cari is also the author of The Real Estate Blog by Cari McGee.

Now that gas prices are back at feasible levels, you should think about taking a drive over to the OTHER side of our fair state.  The Tri-Cities (3-4 hour trip by car, depending on how fast you drive and what the traffic on the Pass is like) is a great place to spend a peaceful Sunday afternoon.

Now, I’m not an outdoorsy type of girl.  When I have free time, I’m curled up on the sofa reading a novel that takes place near a town that ends in 'shire and where all the houses sport Aga ranges.  However, I realize that not everyone is like that.  In addition, one big reason anyone would come over here from Seattle is to enjoy the sunshine we see on more than 300 days in a year. So, the list of possible activities here include boating, fishing, golfing, shopping, and my new favorite – wine-tasting.

Carivines One sip of alcohol and I become flushed, my heart beats wildly and I feel light-headed.  Strangely, it’s not all alcohol that does it (or maybe it IS but because I love champagne and daiquiris so much I don’t notice it when I drink them!). Usually, though, one sip of wine begins the process and I can’t have more than three or four sips before I quietly set the glass down and go look for a diet Coke. So it was a great surprise to me to go winery-hopping through the Tri-Cities and have a GREAT time doing it because the whole flush thing didn’t happen!

Due to Eastern Washington’s location on the lee side of the Cascades, the entire areaCaribarnardgriffin  is sheltered from the more dramatic marine climate. A mix of light rainfall and irrigation from nearby rivers provides the ideal amount of water for growing grapes. The Tri-Cities is in the South Columbia Valley, which is part of the vast Columbia Valley Appellation.  Wines have been produced in the region only since the mid 1980’s, and yet the quality and reputation of the wines here is exceptional.

Three wineries are very close together along Tulip Lane in Richland; Barnard Griffin, Bookwalter and Tagaris.  One of them offersCaribookwalker  tastings for free, and the other two charge 5 or 6 dollars, but that is refunded if you buy a bottle of wine.  Breadsticks and crackers or chocolate chips provide a break for your palate in between selections and the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed.  The pourer will chat you up or let you and your group do all the talking, whichever option you wish.                                                       Caritagaris

Travel fifteen minutes away from those wineries (and the joke in the Tri-Cities is that everything is just fifteen minutes away from everything else) and you’ll find Badger Mountain/Powers Winery.  The vineyard at Badger Mountain is a certified organic winery, and so the wines made from grapes harvested there taste a bit differently than traditional wines.  There are no added sulfites as well, and even I, an inexperienced wine-drinker, noticed the difference.Caripowers

Further away than the famous fifteen minutes allows are Hogue Cellars (closer to Prosser), and Preston Wineries (out beyond Pasco).

Jump in the car some Sunday morning, zip across the state and enjoy some fantastic wine by mid-afternoon (or golf, or fish or shop!). There are all kinds of things to do here in the Tri-Cities, pick your fun and dive into it.  We’d love to have you!

Sunday Drive to Sonoma County…Part 2

This is the final part of our trip to Sonoma County (part 1 is posted here).  We had such a wonderful time, I P7270225thought I’d share some of our favorite parts of the trip with you as part of my Sunday Drive excursions on Mortgage Porter. 

Westside Drive in Healdsburg will take you along a beautiful windy road packed with wineries along the Russian River all the way to the Pacific.  We stopped at Twomey Cellars which has a great view and Matrix.   Hop Kiln Winery (pictured right) is another "must see".  It was too early in the morning for us to taste wines, we enjoyed walking around their grounds.   Located right next door is Rochioli Vineyards–this was also a recommendation from Dave Savage (DSR).  P7270286 Sadly we were too early to sample these wines which are described as "legendary".

We drove along Westside Drive to where the Russian River meets the coast.  It’s really beautiful and nice to dig your toes into some California sand.   We headed south along the misty Highway 1 until we reached Bodega Bay.   We had lunch at the Sandpiper in Bodega–do have the oysters baked in the chipolte sauce (I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe ever since).  P7270306

Bodega Bay is famous for Potters School, where Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds" was filmed.  The Birds was probably the first "scary movie" I ever saw and is still one of my favorites to this day.  Apparently many others agree as Potters School had many curious visitors.   Note: no crows were harmed in this photo–this is a rental: 3 minutes for two bucks!

We caught Highway 12 to Highway 116 towards Forestville where we stopped at Iron Horse Vineyards.  Another great recommendation from Dave which has wonderful views over the valley of endless vineyards.  Our last winery on our vacation was Hartford Family Wines.  We really enjoy their Pinot Noir back at home and purchased two bottles while we were there.  And I was finally able to meet Dave Savage of Mortgage Coach, who not only provided us with great recommendations for our trip to Sonoma County, he also did a pod-cast interview with me a few months earlier.

You can check out photos from our trip here.

IMPORTANT TIP:  Do not try to carry on your wines from Sonoma County Airport (or anywhere for that matter).   The grumpy TSA person confisgated our two bottles of Hartford and would not allow us to check it or leave it for a friend (when he allowed the person right in front of us to check an item that was too large to be a carry on).  I was told that the wine was donated, the airport will not provide a receipt.  Lesson learned.

A Sunday Drive to Healdsburg, Sonoma County

As you may know, I was in San Francisco last month for the Inman Connect real P7250157estate  conference.  I decided to add a few days to my trip and make the most of my air fair expenses by visiting Sonoma…specifically Healdsburg.  I know this isn’t quite a "neighborhood tour" like I’ve been promoting at Mortgage Porter…I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this post all the same.

It was a lucky fluke that we wound up based in Healdsburg, which is just north of Sonoma.  Sonoma is a nice town but if you want to really see wineries and enjoy a small town atmosphere, head north and you’ll be in P7250162 the heart of the Russian River wine regionDave Savage of the Mortgage Coach provided us with some excellent recommendations which I’ll share with you too.  (I may abbreviate: DSR = a "Dave Savage Recommendation").

An inexpensive (compared to other places in Sonoma county) place to stay is the Best Western Dry Creek Inn which is located right on Dry Creek Road and Highway 101.  Breakfast comes with the room but I suggest heading out to the Flying Goat Coffee for your morning jolt of caffeine.  Dave says they serve the world’s best cappuccino.

We also enjoyed an incredible breakfast at Costeaux French Bakery which has been a part of this town since 1923.   You need a nice breakfast if you’re going to start your day early with wine tasting!P7250113

In the town of Healdsburg, we found some wonderful wineries and tasting rooms.  Two of my favorites are:

  • Williamson Wines.  Bill Williamson pairs his wine tastings with food.  It’s an amazing experience.  Imagine having a piece of cheese with a bit of pickle on top paired with a sip of Chardonnay.
  • You also must visit Seghesio Family Vineyards on of the oldest in Healdsburg…they have great wine too.  (Thanks DSR).

Dave Savage had spot on recommendations for places to dine in Healdsburg.   For dinner, he recommends (and I agree):

Ravenous.  Located next to the town theater on North Street.  This is a cozy restaurant that you may need reservations for.  We had the ribs and flank steak. (DSR)

Bistro Ralph.  We shared a steak served on a pile of the tiniest french fries topped with a dollop of horseradish.  Reservations are a must. (DSR)

P7260186Driving north on Dry Creek Road, you can catch a concert on Friday evenings at Mazzocco Wines.   Pack a picnic and they’ll happily uncork one of their nice wines for you to enjoy on the lawn.   Passalacqua Winery and Unti are also a "must stops".   Many people recommended Bella Vineyards and Wine Cave, which is beautiful; however, when we were there, it’s was also packed with tour buses…Preston Vineyards was a welcome break from the crowds where no groups over 8 are allowed.   At the end of Dry Creek Road, you’ll find Lake Sonoma and Sbragia Family Vineyards which not only boasts amazing views, they also have fantastic wine.

Healdsburg has amazing wines and I’m just touching the surface.  Watch for another post for the rest of our excursion to Sonoma County soon.

Blake Island


Just a hop, skip and a jump from West Seattle is Blake Island.   Last weekend, after our  "drive by" earlier this month, we decided to cruise over with our kids to this State Park and go tent camping.   Our campsite (#34) had views of Mount Rainier, Vashon and Southworth along with the ferry runs.   We saw seal, otter, eagles and other birds along with hundreds of jumping fish.  The Ranger came by to worn us that if we didn’t lock up all our food (the provide locking garbage cans–you should not store the food in your tent) we would lose it raccoons and otters.  I guess they will actually unzip your tent and come on in if they think you’re hiding goodies.

Img_6475 There are all types of boats from kayaks, sailboats, Tulley’s and yachts.   I did not venture far from our campsite on the south side of the island.  I enjoyed doing nothing at all and being "unplugged" under the tall Madrona’s.  Our teens took the wooded trail to Tillicum Village where there is a snack shop with ice cream, breakfast and lunch as well as ice, wood and matches (camping necessities).

Our one night and 3 mile journey from home felt like a different world.   After last Friday…I needed it!  (Photo on the left is the view from my tent).

A Sunday Cruise–in the Puget Sound

I went on my first trip on our new boat, a 17 foot Arima.  Let me begin by saying, I’m not really into boating–I can barely dog-paddle and have a fear of water.   My hubby knows this (and I know I married a man who loves the water).   Anyhow…it was time for me to "face a fear" and take a Sunday cruise.  I thought I my first trip would be a quick hour tour just to get familiar with the boat…we stayed out four hours and I loved it!   

We left West Seattle and headed over to Blake Island to cruise by Tillacum Village.  All our kids have managed to go there via field trips–I have yet to experience it.

From there we went north towards Bainbridge Island.  (I was only equipped with my life jacket and my flip video camera–so the pictures aren’t as nice as I would like them to be).   The homes along the waterfront are incredible.   My husband wanted to show me this salmon fish farm. 

We passed the Walla Walla ferry on our way to Bremerton.

At Bremerton’s Navel Ship Yard, we noticed a couple subs along with other naval ships, including the USS Stennis (CVN 74). 

On our way back home to West Seattle, we passed the "back side" of Blake Island

Next time…I’ll bring a "real" camera (and a picnic basket)!

Take a Sunday Drive to Queen Anne

David_karen_bell053nobckgd_2 This week’s Sunday Drive is brought to you by husband and wife team David and Karen Bell, Associate Brokers from ReMAX Metro.   Be sure to check out their blog Seattle Real Estate Bells.

Just north and west of downtown Seattle lays one of the most popularly of all Seattle’s neighborhoods, Queen Anne.  Queen Anne Hill was developed in the late very 1890’s and early 1900s, at about the same Rp_sunday_drive_2_2 time as North Capitol Hill, but generally with smaller homes.  Later, in the 1910’s and 1920’s, many larger homes were built on Queen Anne’s South Slope because of magnificent views of Elliott Bay and Mt Rainier. Today that south facing view includes the spectacular view of downtown Seattle.  Queen Anne is renowned for its extraordinary architecture that includes many fine examples of Queen Anne, Craftsman, Bungalows, Seattle Box, and later, Colonial styles of architecture. The highest hill in Seattle, Queen Anne rises 456 feet above Elliott Bay.

Many people know Queen Anne as the home of Kerry Park, with its incredible views of the city and Puget Sound. Queen Anne offers simple pleasures such as lazy morning Rp_sunday_drive_blog_1 strolls to admire the beautiful homes and gardens, as well as sophisticated amenities like fine dinning and an exciting variety of specialty shops. In the past 30 years Queen Anne has become one of the most desirable and expensive neighborhoods in the city. Queen Anne is arguably the most centrally located neighborhood in the city and it is literally just minutes to downtown…or for that matter just about anywhere you want to go.  With all the traffic snarls Seattle has, Queen Anne is just minutes to Highway 99 (Aurora) and I-5, making getting just about anywhere very easy.  For the frequent traveler, they simply drop down to Highway 99 and in 20 minutes they will be at the airport.  Queen Anne is a delightful walking community…and a great place for a Sunday Drive!

While in Queen Anne, David and Karen Bell recommend that you try The 5 Spot for breakfast and if you like Thai food (who doesn’t?), Orrapin Thai Cuisine on the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Boston.

Sierra Crest Condominiums


Editors Note:  I would like to welcome our “first” Sunday Driver, Jason Mook, who is going to tour us around Sierra Crest in Puyallup.   Jason is a Realtor with Windermere Real Estate/South and is the author of Puyallup blog A Generous People.

[Read more…]

A Sunday Drive to Chuckanut Drive

We decided to drive up to Bellingham today via Chuckanut DriveImg_6258


On our way back home, we picked up some fresh oysters at Samish Bay for dinner. Img_6261


I wish I had a picture of our baked oysters in their shells…we devoured them too quickly!  If you enjoy a beautiful drive with windy roads, evergreens, mossy trees, dramatic bays; I highly recommend taking the Chuckanut exit from I-5.  Unwind.