Washington State’s Gilbert Cellars: Unique Wine Blends Made in a Vineyard/Orchard Setting

Pioneering Orchardists/Vintners- the First of the 2021 “Wines of Washington State” Series: Wines, Orchards, Golf Outings

Introducing Washington Wines and Gilbert Cellars, Yakima, Washington

It seems that everyone knows that California is the largest wine-producing state in the US. But did you know that Washington State is second? If you have been to Seattle for business or pleasure, that is NOT the area where  grapes are grown. Eastern Washington has the benefit of a drier climate and the ancient soils from the Missoula Floods era* that produce top notch reds, whites, rosé’s, and sparkling wines. The soil is often compared to the famous French region Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Following a recent trip to the Eastern Washington, I will be featuring a special “Wines of Washington State” newsletter series detailing some exceptional wine discoveries and travel adventures in Eastern Washington State.

Gilbert Cellars, Yakima, WA, is an outstanding example of one of the best of Washington State winemakers. This 5th generation fruit-growing family has deep agricultural history as one of the finest orchardists in the state. Their apples and cherries are shipped over the world. Now this 5th generation facility stands out for its stunning wines. The family history is also unique in that an 8,184 ft. duel-glacier mountain peak in the Cascades Mountains,  Gilbert Peak, is named for their Yakima great-grandfather, Curtiss R. Gilbert.

The Winery Portfolio of Blends and Single Varietal Wines

The 5th generation Gilbert partners teamed to develop the wine business in the family. With winemaker Justin Neufeld, Gloria and Charlie Gilbert, and Laura Schlect among others as partners, this winery located at their Hackett Ranch has an active Wine Club complete with weekly live music events on site. The Gilbert Cellar grapes are sourced from estate-grown grapes as well as important Washington AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas): Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, and Yakima Valley.

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I was privileged to do a portfolio tasting with Laura Schlect in the midst of the vineyards and orchards. While I was certainly impressed with their single varietal wines like Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was the blends that I purchased to send home for my cellar. If  you travel to the winery, plan to attend one of the outdoor events at their vineyard-surrounded amphitheater…it serves as a destination wedding venue, too.

My Wine Recommendations:

2020 Vin de La Vallé- $22, A southern Rhone-like blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier. I shipped 6 bottles home as my summer patio wine. The pineapple and lemon aromas and refreshing taste, yet larger Viognier-created mouthfeel, made for a wonderful white wine blend.

2017 Left Bank - $20,  a stunning Bordeaux-Inspired “left bank” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (dominant,) Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carménère. This red blend wine is a great value at $20 to be sure, but it was my “best of tasting,” and a flagship wine for the Gilberts. Again, this is one of my personal wine selections.

Rosé of Bandol $18, a southern France style rosé of Mourvedre and Grenache, full of grapefruit, red berry, and jasmine notes.

2014 Reserve No 2 – $55, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend – not made every year, this wine is considered to be their “best of cellar.” The complex aromatics and well-managed tannins stood out for me.


*Missoula Floods - The Missoula floods were cataclysmic glacial lake outburst floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge at the end of the last ice age. It was the biggest freshwater flood in the world. The resulting cobblestone-strewn, wind-swept topsoil, and alluvial-fan ancient soils are perfect for water drainage and heat radiation for the roots of vines. The soil-type is often compared to the famous French region Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


If You Go to Yakima

Golf Outing:Apple Tree Resort Golf Course

Voted "One of Washington's Top 18 Holes" by Washington CEO Magazine.

You will be amazed at the 17th “Apple Island Hole” and the stunningly landscaped fairways lined with precisely pruned apple and plum trees, fountains, lakes,  and cascading brooks. We were happy for a par!

Downtown Yakima Restaurant/Bar: Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Ice House, 202 E. Yakima Ave.

The Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Ice House menu features locally-sourced wines and ingredients, including Gilbert Cellars wines. From the American cuisine menu we chose the pan-seared Halibut Over Creamy Polenta, peppers, and bacon, and the Ground Cheeseburger featuring their Cowiche-baked roll and special burger sauce. A Rolling Stone Bourbon cocktail and Gilbert Cellars glass of Allobroges Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre wine blend completed the pairings.

Photo: Cowiche

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Wine Wanderings Editorial Calendar

The Wines of Washington Series:

Yakima, WA: Gilbert Cellars at Hackett Ranch, Orchards, and Golf Outings

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars: Concerts, Weddings, and Fine Wines

The Columbia River Gorge: Zip-Lines and Fine Wines with Hawkins Cellars

Wine Tasting in Spokane: Latah Creek Wine Cellars

Terra Blanca Winery & Estate Vineyard

Wine Castles of Sonoma County

Napa Valley: Adventures Post-Pandemic

An Interview with Dr. Liz Thach, Author: Ten Hot Wine Trends for 2021 in the US Market

Healdsburg and the Wines of Sonoma

An Interview with Dominic Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley

America’s Exceptional Wine Country Adventures

The True Cost of a Cocktail.

Tour Tuscany Like a Pro