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Prosser a vibrant Washington wine community

Susan Bunnell co-owns Bunnell Family Cellar with her husband, Ron, and also manages their Prosser restaurant, Wine O Clock.
Susan Bunnell co-owns Bunnell Family Cellar with her husband, Ron, and also manages their Prosser restaurant, Wine O Clock. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

For many reasons, the community of Prosser is the center of the Washington wine industry.

Here is where Walter Clore arrived in the late 1930s to work as a scientist and researcher for Washington State University. His tireless efforts led to widespread plantings of wine grapes that today is the second-largest wine-producing state in the country.

Here in the heart of the Yakima Valley, the Yakima River flows east, providing life-giving water to agriculture and residents.

And in the past 20 years, a vibrant and dynamic wine industry has developed, which draws wine lovers and their tourism dollars to this community. Today, more than two-dozen wineries have tasting rooms in Prosser — often just minutes from either of the two exits off Interstate 82.

With the wineries, a restaurant scene and tourism culture is developing, and that helps draw more wineries and more business.

Clore died in 2003, but his memory lives on through the people who work here and now the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center, which features a tasting room that spotlights Washington's wine industry and provides classes and other educational opportunities.

Here are several delicious wines from wineries with tasting rooms in Prosser. Put them on your list of places to visit as you make summer travel plans. All of these wines earned gold medals at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition.

Mercer Estates Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Winemaker Jessica Munnell uses estate grapes for most of her wines, and this Cab is a stunner, thanks to notes of late summer blackberry and plum. It's a plush wine with approachable tannins.

14 Hands Winery 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: This gorgeous red from Washington's second-largest winery unveils black fruit that plays freely with sweet oak and spice notes. It finishes with deep fruit flavors and a sturdy backbone of minerality.

Milbrandt Vineyards 2014 Traditions Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $13: The Milbrandt family is one of the largest grape growers and wine producers in Washington, and this delicious and affordable Chardonnay is a great example. Refreshing aromas and flavors of lime, tart apple and pineapple lead to a pleasing finish.

Coyote Canyon Winery 2012 Robert Andrews Mourvèdre, Horse Heaven Hills, $38: Mike Andrews is one of Washington's top grape growers, and he holds back a little fruit for his brand. This is rich with dark fruit backed by white pepper and a gracefully managed structure.

Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $48: Longtime winemaker Ron Bunnell has crafted a Cab from one of the best yet little-known vineyards in the state. Dense aromas and flavors of dark fruit and backed by sturdy, well-managed tannins.

Daven Lore Winery 2012 Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $29: Owner/winemaker Gordon Taylor loves Merlot from the Horse Heaven Hills, and this is one of his best to date. Dark-toned blackberry and black currant flavors are met with notes of dark chocolate.

Smasne Cellars 2012 Verhey Vineyard Malbec, Yakima Valley, $26: Robert Smasne grew up in the Yakima Valley and now makes some of the state's best wines. This luscious Malbec is loaded with satisfying flavors of blackberry and dark plum.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2013 “A squared” Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Owner Jarrod Boyle's Cab is a deep, complex wine filled with oak, black cherry and plum, all backed by blueberry-flavored tannins.

Desert Wind Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $18: Using grapes from its estate vineyard on the warm Wahluke Slope, the Fries family has produced a delicious and graceful Cab with notes of ripe dark fruit and hints of nutmeg and cardamom.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.

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