The Tri-Cities region that includes Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick has received justifiable acclaim for its wines. The region shares the same latitude as the legendary Burgundy and Bordeaux wine regions of France, and many oenophiles consider the Red Mountain Region American Viticultural Area (AVA) just outside Richland the state’s best. However, the Tri-Cities’ cycling scene has gone relatively unheralded, but now two-wheeled tourists can easily plan a wine-and-wheels vacation.
Courtesy of Bike Tri-Cities, the region’s cycling advocacy organization, the Tri-Cities Wine Map will soon feature a vellum overlay that traces bike-friendly routes among the dozens of wineries and wine sellers in the area, from paved urban bike paths to rolling farm-to-market roads that survey sagebrush and sprawling vineyards. Century-seeking cyclists can sketch out the perfect post-ride stop, and casual riders can enjoy a car-free wine tour alternative in the often confusing sprawl of one the nation’s fast-growing metropolitan areas.
Bikes and wine make a fine pairing here. The winery roads have good sight lines and get mostly slow-moving tourist traffic, so cyclists can relax a bit. And, despite the area’s reputation in the wine world, there’s still a laid-back vibe; cyclists are more likely to find live music and Food Truck Fridays than frou frou pinky-lifted sipping.
Although the new bike-route enhanced wine maps are not yet available, cyclists can sample one of the best rides with a 19-mile out-and-back in East Richland that begins and ends at the Park and Ride off Columbia Park Trail. A trio of wineries within a block of the Park and Ride — Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin, and Tagaris — make for a perfect introductory tour of the region’s wineries, and guests will find bocce ball courts and small-plate post-ride appetizers; Friday evenings are a good bet for live music. From here it’s a little over nine miles on wide-shouldered and nearly level Keene Road and then Highway 224 around the south flank of Red Mountain to Sunset Road and its collection of wineries.
Even wine-averse cyclists will have plenty to enjoy on Sunset Road as it climbs past vineyards, their orderly rows contrasting with the adjacent tangle of sagebrush and dryland wildflowers. Below is the slow-flowing and surprisingly lush Yakima River, and beyond is the long buttress of the Horse Heaven Hills, itself a renowned AVA. Hamilton Cellars, halfway up Sunset Road, boasts the best sunset view, but Cooper Wine Company is the most cyclist-friendly. Proprietor Neil Cooper and his dog Bud enthusiastically greet newcomers, who won’t feel out of place in spandex or cut-off shorts here. It’s an ideal spot to throw down a blanket on the large lawn and enjoy a glass or two with some food-truck fare.
Cyclists can make a short lollipop loop for their return trip by taking brand-new Antinori Road from its junction with Sunset Road. It’s a steady climb on new smooth blacktop past several vineyards, followed by a shallow, swooping descent to Hwy 224 and back to the Park and Ride. Greenies in downtown Richland hosts weekly group rides. And bonus: Across the parking lot is Paperstreet Brewing, which has a great selection of beer. Visit www.greenielife.com and www.biketri-cities.com for more info. //