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Monday, Jun. 07, 2010

10 Great Northwest Wine Country picnic spots


Many Northwest wineries provide excellent locations for picnicing. Here are 10 great locations to put down a blanket and share a meal.

Donald Mercantile

Few have heard of the town of Donald, so this wide spot on the road in the Yakima Valley is pretty special. Off Exit 44 on Interstate 82 near the town of Wapato is the Donald Mercantile and Piety Flats Winery. This is home to one of the best root beer floats you'll find, and the picnic tables under the apple trees are perfect for resting and eating while on the wine trail.

2560 Donald-Wapato Road, Wapato, WA 98951, 509-877-3115, pietyflatswinery.com.

Northstar Winery

About 10 minutes south of downtown Walla Walla, Wash., is this Ste. Michelle-owned winery that focuses on crafting great Merlot. The winery is set amid vineyards and nearby wheat fields, and the patio provides a stunning view of the Blue Mountains.

1736 J.B. George Road, Walla Walla, WA 99362, 509-529-0948, northstarwinery.com.

Mount Baker Vineyards

Here's the plan: Shop for your picnic lunch at the Farmers Market in downtown Bellingham, Wash. (bellinghamfarmers.org), and at Quel Fromage cheese shop (quelfromage.com), in Old Fairhaven, then make your way up the Mount Baker Highway to Mount Baker Vineyards in the North Cascade foothills. The winery offers a tasting room and picnic grounds among the estate vineyard.

4298 Mount Baker Highway, Everson, WA 98247, 360-592-2300, mountbakervineyards.com.

Kettle Valley Winery

At the end of a dusty road is this winery on the Naramata Bench that is producing some remarkable wines. The winery is named after the Kettle Valley Railway, which now is a popular bike path. The winery location offers stunning views of the southern end of Okanagan Lake, and there is plenty of room on the lawn for enjoying a picnic.

2988 Hayman Road, Naramata, BC V0H 1N0, 250-496-5898, kettlevalleywinery.com.

Abacela

Earl Jones searched the United States for the best spot to grow Tempranillo, and the gazebo overlooking his cannon and Cox's Rock is a prime place for a packed lunch. It's a relaxing 10 minutes from Interstate 5, five minutes from the Wildlife Safari and provides a nice spot to plan out the rest of your Umpqua Valley tour.

12500 Lookingglass Rd., Roseburg, OR, 97471, 541-679-6642, abacela.com.

Cathedral Ridge Winery

The Flerchinger family founded one of the Northwest's prime winery picnic spots, and owner Robb Bell maintains that tradition among the pine trees. There's the Columbia River and Mount Adams to the north and Mount Hood to the south.

4200 Post Canyon Dr., Hood River, OR 97031, 800-516-8710, cathedralridgewinery.com.

Bitner Vineyards

The deck adjacent to the Bitners' new tasting room is perched over their vineyards and the Snake River Valley serves as a fascinating backdrop. Entertainment comes via their trio of Jack Russell terriers. Enjoy your own nibbles alfresco or bring takeout from the nearby Orchard House.

16645 Plum Road, Caldwell, ID 83607, 208-899-7648, bitnervineyards.com

Tunnel Hill Winery

Guy Evans set out to make a documentary about how family farmers - his father included - were being affected by the changing ways of agriculture. By the end of filming, he returned to the family farm and launched this winery on Lake Chelan. The Evans family has created a wonderful oasis at its winery, complete with wildflowers and a waterfall. The nearby family fruitstand is a great source of food for your picnic.

37 Highway 97-A, Chelan, WA 98816, 509-682-3243, tunnelhillwinery.com.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars

On a cliff overlooking the Spokane Valley, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars provides a perfect location to enjoy a picnic while touring the Inland Empire. The facility was built in 1924 and became a winery in 1985. A fire this past winter damaged the Cliff House, but the winery remains open and is one of the top wine attractions in the Spokane area.

4705 N. Fruit Hill Road, Spokane, WA 99217, 509-927-9463, arborcrest.com.

Kramer Vineyards

Trudy and Keith Kramer purchased their vineyard site in the northern Willamette Valley and began planting in the mid-1980s. They have created a winery that produces superb wines and provides a fun atmosphere. The Kramers encourage picnics by providing plenty of outdoor seating.

26830 N.W. Olson Road, Gaston, OR 97119, 503-662-4545, kramerwine.com.