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Great Northwest Destinations: Desert Wind Winery
Editor’s note: This is the sixth in an occasional series on destination wineries of the Pacific Northwest.
PROSSER, Wash. – A family whose viticultural feet are planted firmly on both sides of the Columbia River has built a winery in the heart of Washington wine country that is exactly what this Yakima Valley community needed for a long time.
The Fries family, which launched Duck Pond Cellars more than 20 years ago in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley, built Desert Wind Winery in 2007 on a bluff overlooking the Yakima River in Prosser. Inside, Desert Wind is a tasting room, restaurant, conference facility, bed and breakfast and spacious patio.
This story started in the early 1980s, when Doug and Jo Ann Fries moved their family from California’s Central Valley to Oregon. In 1984, they purchased property along the Willamette River and planted 500 acres of hazelnuts and 13 acres of vines. Nine years later, they opened Duck Pond Cellars.
In 1992, they bought a 540-acre property on the arid Wahluke Slope in Washington’s Columbia Valley near the town of Mattawa and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and other varieties. They called it Desert Wind Vineyard. In 2000, they added a 60-acre vineyard and called it Sacagawea Vineyard.
In 2001, they launched Desert Wind Winery with a 1997 red blend called Ruah and in 2004 built a winemaking facility in Prosser, about an hour to the south.
Fries, Jenkins families run Desert Wind Winery
The operation remains a family affair. Son Greg Fries is president of the company and the director of winemaking, and his wife, Amber, is director of communications. Greg’s sister Lisa Jenkins runs the tasting rooms, office staff and day-to-day operations. Her husband, Scott, is vice president of sales. Sister-in-law Erin Fries handles purchasing for the company’s tasting rooms.
In 2007, the family promoted Mark Chargin to head winemaker.
Desert Wind Winery includes restaurant, B&B
While the trend in Washington is to add amenities such as food service, Desert Wind Winery has taken it to an entirely different level. Inside the winery is Mojave, a full-service restaurant run by chef Kristin Johnson. The Southwest-inspired cuisine is a reflection of the building’s architecture, though with a Northwest flair. The days and hours of operation are seasonal, but Mojave typically is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
On the winery’s second floor are four luxurious and beautifully apportioned rooms overlooking the Yakima River. Room rates run from $200 to $325, depending on season and night of the week. Spa services are available for overnight guests. Guests receive a welcome bottle of wine and breakfast basket delivered to their rooms.
Since the early days of the Washington wine industry, the Yakima Valley town of Prosser has been the heart of the region. Desert Wind’s arrival helped lead an upgraded experience that has spread to other areas and wineries. A decade ago, wine travelers would be hard pressed to find a decent meal in Prosser. But today, they have many superb choices, thanks in large part to the vision of the Fries family.
Desert Wind Winery amenities
- Gift shop
- Picnic area
- Live music
- Conference facilities
- Food for sale
- RV parking
Overnight accommodations recommended by Desert Wind Winery
- Desert Wind Winery B&B
- Teepees at Cherry Wood Bed & Breakfast in Zillah.
Nearby coffee places recommended by Desert Wind Winery
Other activities near Desert Wind Winery
- Antiquing in downtown Prosser
- Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center
- Horse Heaven Hills Brewing
- More than 20 wineries within a five-minute drive
- Blue Flame Spirits
Desert Wind Winery hours and contact info
The tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It is closed on major holidays.
2258 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA 99350
Getting to Desert Wind Winery
From Seattle or Portland, Desert Wind Winery is about 200 miles to the east.
The winery is less than two minutes off Interstate 82. Take Exit 82 from the interstate, turn left onto Wine Country Road, and it will be on the right.