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Monday, Jun. 07, 2010

10 Great Northwest Wine Country restaurants

One of the joys of wine touring is the cuisine you discover. In the Northwest, we are blessed with talented chefs who recognize the quality of fresh local ingredients and the importance of being in the heart of wine country. Here are 10 restaurants to check out.

Dundee Bistro

This is the quintessential dining experience in Oregon wine country. The always-progressive Ponzi family launched the Dundee Bistro in 1999 on Highway 99W as it crawls through the town of Dundee, about 45 minutes southwest of Portland. The ingredients are as local as possible (which is not difficult given the wonderful farms throughout the Willamette Valley), and the wine list is vast.

100-A S.W. Seventh St., Dundee, OR 97115, 503-554-1650, dundeebistro.com.

Visconti's Restorante Italiano

Chef/co-owner Daniel Carr showcased Washington wineries at his original Wenatchee restaurant years before it was trendy. His Leavenworth location features more than 100 wines from the Wenatchee Valley area and includes an Italian cheese and cured meat shop.

1737 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801, 509-662-5013, 636 Front St., Leavenworth, WA, 98826, 509-548-1213, viscontis.com.

Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen

In the past few years, Walla Walla has been blessed with a number of top chefs and restaurants. While a few were lost during the recession, several remain. Saffron is one of the most exciting eateries in Walla Walla, thanks to its use of fresh regional ingredients and focus on Mediterranean cuisine. And if you have a hankering for Vietnamese food, Pho Sho is next door.

125 W. Alder St., Walla Walla, WA 99362, 509-525-2112, saffronmediterraneankitchen.com.

Rhody Cafe

Whatcom and Skagit counties can't boast of many wineries, but they both have restaurants that pay due homage to Northwest wines and celebrate the bounty provided by local farmers and fishermen. The Rhododendron Cafe, at the gateway to Chuckanut Drive, has for 25 years delighted locals and visitors with a menu, refreshed each month, that focuses on a particular cuisine. In coming months, you'll find dishes inspired by Spain and Portugal, the Caribbean and South Pacific and the Northwest itself. And don't be surprised by an extensive wine list that favors the Northwest.

5521 Chuckanut Drive, Bow, WA 98232, 360-766-6667, rhodycafe.com.

The Steamboat Inn

Famed author Zane Gray loved to fish here. Now, this Umpqua River lodge is home to some of the Northwest's premier guest chef/winemaker dinners each spring. It's closed in January and February. Reservations are required the rest of the year.

42705 N. Umpqua Highway, Idleyld Park, OR 97447, 541-498-2230, thesteamboatinn.com.

Local Lounge & Grille

The McWatters family proudly features Okanagan Valley wines and local ingredients at its new casual yet swanky restaurant. There's outside seating, and across the parking lot is the Summerland Waterfront Resort Hotel and Spa. You can dock your boat just outside the restaurant.

12817 Lakeshore Drive, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z1, 250-494-8855, thelocalgroup.ca.

Three Rivers Grill

Jim Dey and his Olympic medal-winning sailing wife arrived from the East Coast, gutted a home built in 1895 and transformed it into remarkable two-story restaurant. It spotlights Columbia Gorge wines, and many of its 250 seats are outside with a view of the Columbia River.

601 Oak St., Hood River, OR 97031, 541-386-8883, 3riversgrill.com.

Picazo 7Seventeen

Is there a hotter chef in Eastern Washington than Frank Magana? He could stand out in most metropolitan areas, yet he chooses to ply his craft in the Yakima Valley, where he has ready access to fresh ingredients and plenty of winemakers. Expect an amazing experience whether you head to Picazo or happen upon a Magana-catered event.

717 Sixth St., Prosser, WA 99350, 509-786-1116, picazo717.com.

Brick 29 Bistro

Some Idaho winemakers believe Dustan Bristol's restaurant beats anything in the state capital. He is the reigning Iron Chef Boise champion, and he earned our 2009 Best Idaho Wine List Award. Ask for his lacquered bacon, which is available for retail but quickly sells out.

320 11th Ave. S., Nampa, ID 83651, 208-468-0029, brick29.com.

The Herbfarm

What other property would create terroir-based salt for a 100-mile meal? It remains the gold standard among Pacific Northwest restaurants. In fact, Wine Press Northwest now refers its annual wine list competition as "The Herbies" because Ron Zimmerman's array is unbeatable. All who enjoy Northwest wines should have this on their bucket list.

14590 NE 145th St., Woodinville, WA 98072, 425-485-5300, theherbfarm.com.