20 West Coast Wineries You Must Visit!
Recently, we published an article about 20 West Coast Craft Breweries to Visit for our beer-loving travel nurses. But what about the wine lovers? Don’t worry, we have something for you as well! The west coast is arguably more renowned for their wine than their beer, and Washington, Oregon, and California all have world-class winemaking regions to explore. If you’re able to work a contract on the West Coast, you have to pencil in some time for wine tasting! So without further ado, here are 20 west coast wineries you simply have to visit!
1. Chateau Ste. Michelle
Location: Woodinville, WA
One of Washington’s most well-known wineries, Chateau Ste. Michelle is located east of Seattle in the suburb of Woodinville. The winery started in 1967, when legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff came to Washington, and introduced a new line of vinifera wines called Ste. Michelle Vinters. In 1976, they established their winery in a historic French chateau, and dropped Vinters from their name. Since then, Chateau Ste. Michelle has won 22 Winery of the Year Awards from Wine & Spirits. With 18 different wines in the Top 100 according to Wine Spectator, they’ve shown that Washington grapes can be just as good as California or Italy. Plus, they host outdoor concerts during the summer!
2. Nefarious Cellars
Location: Chelan, WA
From Woodinville, we head east over the Cascade Mountains, to our next winery. Nefarious Cellars opened in 1998, and sits on a hillside overlooking Lake Chelan. The main vineyards are just a five minute walk away from the winery, and over 70% of their wine production comes from those grapes. Dean and Heather Neff share the winemaking responsibilities equally, with Dean making the reds, and Heather making the whites. The couple believes that this allows them both to be involved in the creative process, but also removed enough to honestly judge each other’s recipes. Some of their fan favorites include the Syrah, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, which you can enjoy from your Adirondack chair on their stunning patio!
3. L’Ecole Winery
Location: Walla Walla, WA
Next, we head to Walla Walla, in the Southeast corner of Washington. The region around Walla Walla has become synonymous with wine, and there are several world-class wineries around the city. L’Ecole Winery is one of the most prominent, and is considered one of the best wineries in the state to visit. Since 1983, L’Ecole has earned a reputation for excellence, and has been named a Top 100 Winery of the Year 15 times by Wine & Spirits Magazine. One of their signature wines is the Ferguson, a Bordeaux Blend that has been recognized internationally as the best Bordeaux Blend in the world! L’Ecole’s unique winery is located in a historic schoolhouse, and the tasting room is located in one of the old classrooms.
4. Abeja Winery and Inn
Location: Walla Walla, WA
Just east of Walla Walla, Abeja Winery and Inn is another can’t miss stop if you’re wine tasting in the region. The name Abeja comes from the Spanish word for bee, and the owners chose the name to reflect their deep-rooted respect for the environment. Founders Ken and Ginger Harrison came to the Walla Walla Valley in the late 1990’s, with a goal of making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. They discovered a historic farm that was falling into disrepair, and fell in love with the property. So, they restored the old farm buildings, and established an inn along with their vineyard. The renovated farm cottages provide a comfortable stay for guests, while still maintaining the property’s pastoral charm.
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5. Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
Location: Spokane, WA
From Walla Walla, we head north to Washington’s second largest city. Arbor Crest Wine Cellars has been a part of the Spokane community since 1982. Owners Kristina Mielke Van Loben Sels and her husband Jim, left a prestigious winery in California to start their own in the Spokane Valley. The historic Cliff House Estate is perched on a 450 foot basalt cliff, and offers sweeping views of the surrounding Spokane Valley. Today the winery is in high demand as a venue for weddings, art festivals, and outdoor concerts, and is visited by over 65,000 people each year. One of their most acclaimed wines is the Dionysus, a red blend named after the Greek god of wine.
6. Cave B Estate
Location: Quincy, WA
Our next winery takes us back to Central Washington. Cave B Estate Winery was opened in 2000, and is located next to the famous Gorge Amphitheater. Owners Vince and Carol Bryans were previous owners of the Gorge, before selling the music venue to focus on winemaking. 100% of the grapes are grown at the estate vineyards. The vineyards have grown to 103 acres, and include 17 different varieties on grapes. Some of their best wines include their Rosé, and their Malbec. Although the Bryans sold the Gorge, they built a small amphitheater on their property that hosts small concerts and events. They also have condos you can rent that offer stunning views of the vineyards and the river.
7. Kiona Vineyards
Location: Benton City, WA
For our next stop, we head south to the Tri-Cities area. Kiona Vineyards has been calling the Tri-Cities home since 1975. The Williams family had been farming on Red Mountain, outside of the city, for three generations, and were one of the first wineries to be established in the area. Today the Red Mountain viticulture area has become of the state’s premier winemaking regions, and Kiona sells their grapes to over 60 different local wineries. One of their most popular wines is the Red Mountain Reserve Blend, which got 90 points from Wine Spectator Magazine. It’s also worth trying the Red Mountain Lemberger, a variety that’s unique to Washington, and a style that only a few wineries are still producing.
8. Maryhill Winery
Location: Goldendale, WA
We continue west along the Columbia River Gorge to Klickitat County. Maryhill Winery was established in 1999, and has made a name for themselves in this remote part of the state. The winery itself is incredibly scenic, with stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood on a clear day. They have live music during the summer, and the winery has drawn some big musical acts over the years including Styx and Michael Franti. Today, the winery attracts more than 75,000 people annually, and is a major player in Washington’s wine market. They’ve won more than 3,000 awards since they opened, including Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year in 2015.
9. Torii Mor Winery
Location: Dundee, OR
From Washington, we cross the Columbia River and head to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where all of the Oregon wineries on our list are located. Torii Mor Winery is in the small town of Dundee, about 25 miles southwest of Portland. The founder, Dr. Donald Olson, started with a vision of making elegant, old-world style Pinot Noir. Their first vintage was released in 1993 with just 1000 cases, and today the winery produces 10,000 cases annually. Staying true to their vision, Torri Mor specializes in growing Pinot grapes. Their fan favorites include the Pinot Noir, and the Pinot Gris. They’re also known for their port and dessert wines.
10. Argyle Winery
Location: Dundee, OR
Our next winery can also be found in Dundee. Argyle Winery was founded in 1987, and is known for producing a wide selection of sparkling wines. They attribute their success to the “true cool” climate of the Willamette Valley, where the rain shadow effect from Oregon’s Coast Range mountains creates the perfect atmosphere for Pinot grapes. The winemaking team at Argyle has been focuses on experimenting with nuances in the flavor to create unique award-winning varieties. Several of their wines have 90+ points from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, and their Extended Tirage program has placed them in the top tier of sparkling wine producers.
11. Bergstrom Wines
Location: Newburg, OR
Less than 10 minutes north of Dundee in the town of Newburg, Bergstrom Wines is a family-owned winery that was started in 1999. The founder John Bergstrom emigrated from Sweden at a young age in search of a better life. He settled in Oregon, and became a surgeon, before eventually following his passion for winemaking. His son Josh earned a degree in viticulture from the Burgundy region of France, and returned to help his father start the vineyards. Bergstrom is most known for their Pinot Noirs, and Chardonnays, all of which have earned 95 points and above from various rating sources.
12. Sokol Blosser Winery
Location: Dayton, OR
From Newburg, we head back south through Dundee to the town of Dayton. Sokal Blosser Winery was a pioneer winery in Oregon, when they planted their first vines in 1971. When Sokal Blosser opened the first tasting room in Oregon in 1978, there was virtually no wine industry. The next year, they won several awards at the International Wine and Spirits competition in London, and they’ve been growing ever since. Siblings Alex and Alison Sokal Blosser have been running the winery since they took over for their parents in 2008, and have continued the winery’s tradition of excellence. The winery is also praised for their commitment to sustainability, and was the first winery to receive a LEED certification.
13. Brooks Winery
Location: Amity, OR
Just south of Dayton in the town of Amity, Brooks Winery has been focused on holistic farming and winemaking since 1998. The founder, Jimi Brooks, passed away unexpectedly in 2004, leaving sole ownership of the winery to his 8-year old son. Unfortunately, Jimi’s death came shortly before Brooks was set to have their first harvest. However, with some help from other local winemakers, the harvest was able to proceed on schedule. Since then, Brooks has flourished under the direction of Jimi’s son Pascal, his sister Jamie, and his longtime friend Chris Williams. Riesling and Pinot Noir are the staples for Brooks, and their Riesling was even served at a White House dinner during President Obama’s first term.
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14. Elk Cove Vineyards
Location: Gaston, OR
Our last winery in Oregon takes us to the town of Gaston. 30 miles west of Portland. Elk Cove Vineyards is another pioneer of the Oregon wine industry, when they first planted their vineyards in 1974. They named the vineyards after the herd of elk that they would see roaming through the hills when they first bought the property. The grapes themselves are grown at some of the highest elevations of any winery in Oregon, giving the wine a distinct flavor and character. Like other Willamette Valley vineyards, Elk Cove specializes in Pinot grapes, producing award-winning Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris and Chardonnays. They were also named one of Oregon’s top wineries by Food and Wine Magazine in 2018.
15. Idlewild Wines
Location: Healdsburg, CA
Our journey continues into California’s Sonoma County. Idlewild Wines started with a simple dream: to make Piedmont-style wines. Sam Bilbro was first exposed to Italian wines from the Piedmont region while working in the restaurant industry. He set out to replicate the conditions for growing quality Piedmontese varieties in Northern California, and has had great success so far. His wines have been featured by the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes Magazine, and Idlewild was #37 on Wine Enthusiasts list of the Top 100 Wineries of 2018. The taproom is in an urban setting, located in downtown Healdsburg. If you visit you should definitely try the Barbera and the Dolcetto.
16. Robert Mondavi Winery
Location: Oakville, CA
In the heart of Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi built an esteemed reputation since he first opened his winery in 1966. The To Kalon Vineyard at the winery was named the Best Vineyard in North America for 2020. The estate vineyard grows some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the world. Mondavi said that “making good wine is a skill, but fine wine is an art.” and his perfectionism has led to the creation of exemplary wines. The Fumé Blanc, one of Mondavi’s original creations, was released in 1968, and is still one of his most popular wines today. The winery also hosts outdoor concerts in the summer, and offers a variety of different tours and tastings.
17. Brown Estate Winery
Location: Napa, CA
Brown Estate Winery is Napa Valley’s first and only black-owned winery, and one of the the regions most revered Zinfandel producers. Zinfandel is one of California’s most popular varieties of wine, and Brown Estate’s 2016 Zinfandel earned 90 points from Wine Spectator. The Brown family purchased a dilapidated farm in 1980, and began refurbishing the property. They sold their first wine in 1996, and have gained a cult following through word of mouth and social media. In 2017, they opened their tap room in downtown Napa, and have expanded their wine palette to include Tempranillo, Syrah, and sparkling dessert wines.
18. Stag’s Leap Winery
Location: Napa, CA
Stag’s Leap Winery has a rich history, and the property has been growing grapes under various owners for 145 years. Although wine was produced at the property during the early 20th century, it wasn’t produced under the Stag’s Leap label until the 1970’s. The name comes from the Stag’s Leap Palisades, the rock outcropping that forms the eastern boundary of the estate. The unique topography of the estate, combined with the superb climate of Napa Valley, results in an ideal balance of acid and sugar in the fruit, which gives Stag’s Leap wines a distinct flavor. One of their signature wines is the Petite Syrah, which received 92 points from Wine and Spirts.
19. Artesa Winery
Location: Napa, CA
The story of Artesa Winery began in 1991, when one of Spain’s oldest winemaking families, Raventós Codorníu, established roots in Napa Valley. The family had been making wine in Spain since the 16th century, and wanted to bring their legacy to America. The vineyard is divided into blocks, so that the winemakers can get the most out of the different soils on the property. Most of the vineyards are devoted to growing Pinot Noir, but Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are also grown at the estate. The winery and tasting rooms were built into the hillside to incorporate the natural landscape into the architecture. The winery also boasts sweeping vistas of the surrounding countryside.
20. Ram’s Gate Winery
Location: Sonoma, CA
Our last winery takes us back to Sonoma Valley. Ram’s Gate Winery is a newcomer to the California Wine scene, opening in 2011. Nestled between Sonoma Valley, the coast, and the hills of Los Carneros, the winery has been described as the “compass rose” of Sonoma, and the gateway to California’s wine country. Joe Nielsen has been director of winemaking since 2018, and has introduced a variety of new practices including native fermentation, whole cluster fermentation, and partnerships with other small production co-ops. Their Pinot Blanc received 92 points, and their Rosé recieved 90 points from Wine and Spirits Magazine.