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Monday, Jun. 07, 2010

10 Great Northwest Tasting Rooms

If you're wine touring, tasting room ambiance and amenities matter almost as much as the wine. Here are 10 wineries that take special care of their guests.

Latah Creek Wine Cellars

Longtime winemaker Mike Conway launched Latah Creek in 1982, the same year he helped start Hogue Cellars in the Yakima Valley. He and wife Ellena have carved out a fun tasting room and gift shop in what would otherwise be considered a humble location.

13030 E. Indiana Ave., Spokane Valley, WA 99216, 509-926-0164, latahcreek.com.

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Jim Bernau purchased this beautiful property in 1983 and launched the winery six years later. It has developed into one of Oregon's largest and most respected wineries. The tasting room, south of Salem on Interstate 5, is a great place to taste and enjoy the views.

880 Enchanted Way S.E., Turner, OR 97392, 503-588-9463, wvv.com.

Indian Creek Winery

Few offer a tasting experience as laid-back and friendly as the Stowe family has since 1982, and the continued mom-and-pop feel of the cozy tasting room is charming and refreshing. It's open Saturdays and Sundays. On those days, it's "Wine-Thirty!"

1000 N. McDermott, Kuna, ID 83634, 208-922-4791, indiancreekwinery.com.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Kenn and Sandra Oldfield developed one of the Okanagan's most visitor-friendly wineries when they launched Tinhorn Creek in the mid-1990s. The expansive tasting room overlooks the southern Okanagan Valley and Black Sage Bench, and demonstration vineyards provide a fun education.

32830 Tinhorn Creek Road, Oliver, BC V0H 1T0, 250-498-3743, tinhorn.com.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars

While husband Jarrod grows the grapes and makes the wine, Ali Boyle is the namesake of the winery, and their two tasting rooms show her touch. The moment you step in the door of their Prosser tasting room, you forget this is part of a strip mall. There's a tasting bar, comfortable couches and a big screen TV. On the other side of a bookcase is a club-members-only lounge.

2880 Lee Road, Suite D, Prosser, WA, 509-786-3497, alexandrianicolecellars.com.

Rio Vista Wines

How many wineries can you pull up to in a boat? At least one, as Rio Vista sits along the Columbia River a few miles north of the turnoff to Chelan. John and Jan Little have created a fantastic little winery that includes a Tiki-style tasting hut next to the river.

24415 Highway 97, Chelan, WA 98866, 509-682-9713, riovistawines.com.

Olympic Cellars

Olympic Cellars began life as Neuharth Cellars in the 1970s and became Olympic Cellars in the mid-1990s. In 1997, the winery moved to its current location to make way for a new highway. The tasting room is in a refurbished barn and is run by owner Kathy Charlton.

255410 Highway 101, Port Angeles, WA 98362, 360-452-0160, olympiccellars.com.

Pend d'Oreille Winery

Skiing first lured Stephen Meyer to the Idaho Panhandle in 1995, but his wines and wife Julie's well-appointed "Lifestyle Store" fit this fine arts community. The tasting bar was created by local craftsmen. There's a new kitchen, live music on weekends, and it's where savvy fans refill their Bistro Rouge magnums.

220 Cedar, Sandpoint, ID 83864, 208-265-8545, powine.com.

J Bookwalter

When John Bookwalter took over his parents' winery in the late 1990s, Bookwalter was a solid, run-of-the-mill operation. The young Bookwalter has changed everything, converting the tasting room into a lounge that features small-plate dishes, regional cheeses and live music. It is now one of the most popular destinations in the heart of Washington wine country.

894 Tulip Lane, Richland, WA 99352, 509-627-5000, bookwalterwines.com.

Saint Laurent Estate Winery

Few wineries in the Northwest provide a more panoramic, spectacular and romantic view, especially from the gazebo perched high above orchards in the Wenatchee Valley and Columbia River. Beautiful gardens and a creek surround the homey tasting room that's tucked inside a Craftsman-style house. Among the clever gifts are "I Got Lucky at Saint Laurent Winery" T-shirts, a tribute to the Mracheks' consumer-priced line of wines.

4147 Hamlin Road, Malaga, WA 98828, 509-888-9463, saintlaurent.net.