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Yakima's Horses + Hounds

The Yakima Valley is the perfect hub for horse and hound lovers alike. And, if you also love wine, then you have found Nirvana.
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photography by Julie Clegg | Click an image to enlarge
Nirvana is a strong word, but I love dogs, I love horses and I love wine. When I have all three...Nirvana. And, at Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn, located in the heart of the Yakima Valley’s wine country, you have all three. You also have luxury teepees. Have I blown your mind?

Cherry Wood’s claim to fame is its luxury, and totally dog-friendly teepees and there’s no, roughing it here. Each 20-square-foot teepee is outfitted in classic Western fare, with a queen-size, cushy bed, piled high with Pendleton wool blankets and down pillows.

However, don’t let the luxury fool you. Cherry Wood is also a working farm, home to 33 horses (28 of which are rescues). It’s also home to owners Pepper and Terry Fewel and their three rescue dogs, Stuka, Peewee and Jessie. Their main enterprise is farming, with acres of apple and cherry orchards surrounding the property—but, not to worry—they won’t put you to work. You (and your pooch) are there to be pampered.  

Photographer Julie Clegg and I have made the three-hour drive from Seattle to attend the annual Canine & Wine Walk, which kicks off at Cherry Wood (I will get to that later). Upon arrival in Yakima, we are met by the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau’s director of tourism Katie Heaverlo and her dog Cooper, our four-legged model for the next two days. Katie whisks us to lunch at Second Street Grill, located in downtown Yakima, where we nosh on BLTs and cobb salads piled high with chicken, avacado, tomatoes, egg, bleu cheese and more bacon. Yum!

With bellies full (Cooper included), we decide it’s a good idea to work off some of that bacon and opt for a hike at the Chowiche Creek Conservancy. Located, six miles northwest of downtown Yakima, Cowiche Creek winds between the towering cliffs of Cowiche Canyon. The former railroad line is now an unpaved trail, framed with basalt and andesite rock as it winds to make nine crossings of Cowiche Creek. From its high point located atop Cowiche Knoll, you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the valley and surrounding hilltops. Feeling less ambitious, we decide to enjoy the view (and wine) at Wilridge Vineyard, with 85 acres of vineyards, orchards and sageland bluffs.

The Fido-friendly, 1900s era farmhouse at Wilridge hosts a branch of Seattle’s Pike Place Market’s popular Wines of Washington Tasting Rooms, and of course features the winery’s entire lineup of fine varietals. Cooper enjoys a dog treat, while we enjoy a sampling of reds: the Tasting Room is a cooperative of Washington wineries and features dozens of other local wines in addition to Wilridge’s. (Read here about Wilridge's Seattle location.)

Next, we visit Naches Heights Vineyard. The vibe here is spa-like, with a tasting room featuring an indoor/outdoor fireplace and comfy leather sofas. Outside, the grounds are beautiful, with seating areas on the patio, next to a waterfall or under a pergola near the vineyard. We enjoy a bottle of Chardonnay while Cooper enjoys a nap in the afternoon sun.

Done with wine tasting for the day, we head to Russillo’s Pizza, an authentic New York style pizzeria, featuring Washington wines, a full bar, classic and gourmet pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads and what we’ve come for...homemade gelato! With cones in hand (including one for Cooper), we take a stroll along the boardwalk of Track 29, located in the historic section of downtown Yakima. Track 29 is lined with refurbished train cars transformed into unique shops.

It’s been a long day of exploration and I am ready to head to Cherry Wood for some rest and relaxation before dinner. Cherry Wood is located near Zillah, a quaint town of approximately 2,700 residents which lies just on the outskirts of the Rattlesnake Hills American Viticultural Area. On our drive, I can’t help but admire the surrounding landscape. Yakima is situated in the Yakima Valley, an area noted for apple, wine and hop production. In fact, the Yakima Valley produces 75% of all hops grown in the United States and is one of the most important hop growing regions in the world. It is also home to almost half of the wineries in Washington state, many of which are dog friendly, which we will discover more about at tomorrow’s Canine & Wine Walk.

As we approach Cherry Wood, we can see the teepees dotting the horizon—which I have to admit, is not something I see every day living in Seattle. We follow the signs pointing to “Teepees” (see above) and are warmly greeted by Tiffany Fewel, owners Pepper and Terry’s daughter, and Stuka, the Fewels’ rescued German shepherd. Stuka leads the way, while we get a quick tour of the property. Julie and I each have our own teepee, with a queen size bed, compact refrigerator, and separate super-clean and private “water closet.” Rounding out the amenities is an outside seating area and firepit, barbecue, private open-air showers, and outdoor claw foot tubs for a soak under the stars. Paradise.

After our tour, we hop in the car with Katie and Cooper  and head to Snipes Mountain Brewery, a family restaurant and brewery located in Sunnyside, Washington. The brewery has a lodge-like atmosphere, with a dog-friendly patio area, where you can enjoy one of many fine microbrews, while sampling baked brie with roasted garlic, Caesar salad, pork tenderloin medallions with apple Dijon sauce, or a New York steak with caramelized onions. For more casual dining, you can also enjoy wood fired pizzas and gourmet burgers. We go with burgers and beers, while attempting to save room for s’mores later by the fire.

Back at Cherry Wood, we find a stack of wood next to the firepit and all of the fixin’s for s’mores, so we settle in and take in the stars blanketing the sky and the quiet countryside surrounding us.

The next morning, the farm is bustling with activity, but first things first...breakfast. Included in your stay at Cherry Wood is a gourmet breakfast. Today we are served Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon (yes, more bacon), fresh squeezed orange juice and of course, coffee. All of this is served with white linens on the patio overlooking the farm.

After breakfast, we join Pepper and Tiffany at the horse corall where it’s bustling with activity. Today, a farrier is there to fit each horse with new shoes. With 33 horses, including Shetland pony Wild Bill, it’s a big job!

Although Cherry Wood once raised all of its own horses, Pepper and Tiffany now focus on rehabilitating abandoned and neglected horses. When these horses are again happy and healthy they are evaluated for use on the wine rides. Most are senior citizens who seem to thoroughly enjoy semi-retirement at Cherry Wood, where they are well fed, well cared for and get lots of apples and attention from guests. Guests can enjoy a leisurely ride through the countryside with stops for wine tasting along the way. However, today we are wine tasting on foot with our canine companions.

Cherry Wood is the starting point to the Canine & Wine Walk, an annual event to raise money for Yakima Valley Pet  Rescue. At 11 a.m., people and their pooches show up at the farm to stroll through the vineyards to nearby wineries for dog-friendly tastings. Our first winery is Cultura, located adjacent to the Cherry Wood orchards and owned by Tad and Sarah Fewel (yes, it’s a family affair—Tad is Pepper and Terry’s son). The tasting room at Cultura is lovely and the wine is superb. I can’t help but purchase a bottle of their flagship wine, Kairos, a delicious blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Cultura is the hub for the Canine & Wine Walk, and it is hopping, with hot dogs grilling on the barbecue and cool, adoptable dogs hoping to find their forever home.

Next, we move on to Paradisos del Sol, a wine estate that is family, dog, bicycle, and horse friendly. In Spanish, “paradisos del sol” means “gardens of the sun,” and this little slice of paradise is perfect for wine tasting with your pooch.

Up the road, we stop in at Silverlake Winery, which features dramatic views from their “Viniferanda,” overlooking the vineyard and Valley. Cooper enjoys a spot in the shade, while we enjoy Silverlake’s award-winning wines.

Next, we head to Toppenish, a community of approximately 9,000 people located entirely within the bounds of the Yakama Indian Nation, about 20 miles southeast of Yakima. The town’s pride and joy are its 73 painted outdoor, historical murals, which cover almost every available outdoor wall space and lends to its Old West charm. Each mural tells a story of early development of Toppenish, and its rich history and cultural diversity. And, bonus: Toppenish’s average of 300 days of sunshine makes it a great place to visit with your pooch!

Speaking of weather, we are there in May and the daytime temperature is a steady high of 80 degrees, which is perfect. During peak summer months, temperatures can soar into the 90s and even 100s, but it’s also high desert country, so night time temperatures can be in the 50s to 60s. Dress for heat during the day and bring layers for cool evenings (I even made use of the electric blanket provided by the folks at Cherry Wood to keep me warm and cozy in my teepee). It is also worth noting that the climate is dry, so bring plenty of water for you and your travel hound.

After Toppenish, we head to Wapato, located about 10 miles southwest of Yakima. Here, we visit Imperial’s Garden, named after the Imperial family, and a fixture in the community for the past 22 years. Imperial’s Garden does a robust business from its first offering, asparagus, in mid-April, to its last pumpkin in late October. Depending on the season, you can also find snap peas, beets, onions, garlic, squash, beans, cucumbers, corn, and Wapato sweet onions—either by perusing the produce stands or picking your own! Again, we are there in May, so I am going home with some beautiful asparagus.

On our way out of town, we make a must-visit to the Yakima Greenway, fondly known as “The Jewel of Yakima.” The Greenway features ten miles of paved pathway, three parks, two fishing lakes, four river access landings along with protected and natural areas, and a fully-fenced, off-leash area for your furry friend. It’s the perfect place to spend the day with your dog, whether you enjoy walking, bird watching, fishing, running, biking, skating, picnicking or simple solitude. Nirvana.

More Information
Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn
3271 Roza Drive, Zillah, Wash.

Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center
101 N. Fair Avenue, Yakima, Wash.

Second Street Grill
28 N. 2nd Street, Yakima, Wash.

The Tasting Room at Wilridge Vineyard
250 Ehler Road, Yakima, Wash.

Naches Heights Vineyard
2410 Naches Heights Rd., Yakima, Wash.

Russillo’s Pizza and Gelato
1 W. Yakima Ave., Suite 4, Yakima, Wash.

Snipes Mountain Brewery & Restaurant
905 Yakima Valley Hwy., Sunnyside, Wash.

Cultura Winery
3601 Highland Drive, Zillah, Wash.

Paradisos del Sol Winery
3230 Highland Drive, Zillah, Wash.

Dineen Vineyards
2980 Gilbert Road, Zillah, Wash.

Silverlake Winery
1500 Vintage Road, Zillah, Wash.

Toppenish Chamber of Commerce
504 South Elm, Toppenish, Wash.

Imperial’s Garden
4817 Lateral A Road, Wapato, Wash.

Yakima Greenway
111 S. 18th Street, Yakima, Wash.
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