by Claudia Melatini
Want to be the first to discover the next great West Coast winery? Wine lovers from around the world are trekking further north to the Pacific Northwest, East of the Cascades, to discover a different kind of Washington. These aficionados are making their way to Zillah, Washington, and more specifically, to Bonair Winery and Vineyards.
Situated on forty acres of lush soil in the gorgeous Rattlesnake Hills, Bonair was founded in 1980 by Gail and Shirley Puryear. They began with the Chateau Puryear Vineyard, and added the adjacent Morrison Vineyard in 2001. And do not worry - the rattlers are long gone, leaving you time to unwind and enjoy a 'unique' kind of wine country. While you are at it, bring along the Dave Matthews band album, "Under the Table and Dreaming" - the perfect accompaniment to a relaxed weekend. This mellow, soulful record blends well with the low key atmosphere of Zillah and its surroundings.
The location and setting of Bonair ('good air' in French) are ideal, allowing the vineyard to produce an astonishing variety of wines. Zillah receives only five inches of rain a year, and sits on the same latitude as the famous wine regions of France. This allows Bonair to ripen their grapes to perfection, while preserving the precious water with their eco-friendly drip irrigation.
"We make very good wine, and we refuse to take ourselves too seriously," says Gail Puryear. This friendly, no-fuss attitude makes for a relaxing and fun visit to Bonair, which is open to the public year round, and is also available for weddings and special events. They also host an annual "Thanksgiving in Wine Country," as well as the "Red Wine and Chocolate" event every President's weekend. Upcoming in 2006, visitors will be treated to the release of Bonair's Cabernet Franc Port, which will be served alongside a fine bittersweet chocolate.
Whether you enjoy Pinot Noir or Ports, this vineyard has it all. Puryear suggests starting with the Chateau Puryear Reserve Chardonnay ($20), Bonair's flagship wine. The free-run juice is fermented and aged in only French oak barrels from the center of France, making the wine big, soft, and buttery. Top off this perfect reserve with the soulful track, "Lover Lay Down," and an unforgettable Bonair sunset. Cabernet lovers can try the Morrison Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($20). "This wine," says Puryear, "is the crème de la crème, always fully extracted, and always barrel select." It is a deep colored, full-bodied Cabernet. This year, go off the beaten path and discover Bonair Winery and Vineyards, the hidden gem of the Pacific Northwest wine region.