No need to truck deep into the valley for a charming vineyard experience. Keep close to the city and visit The Tasting Room Yakima (250 Ehler Rd., 509/966-0686) out near Cowiche Canyon. Here you’ll encounter a small turn-of-the-20th-century farmhouse that acts as a cooperative tasting room to three boutique wineries. Outside, there is a verdant lawn and a patio for picnicking, a well-tended garden, and a small chicken coop. All of this is adjacent to a small nine-acre biodynamic vineyard and over 80 more acres of sage land open to hiking.
Once a part of a vast fruit and vegetable empire, the cannery building that holds Eaton Hill Winery (530 Gurley Rd., Granger, 509/854-2220, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) dates back to the early 1900s. See for yourself how barrels have replaced cans in this historic structure while you take a sip or two of the winery’s award-winning gewürztraminer.
Tucker Cellars (70 Ray Rd., Sunnyside, 509/837-8701, www.tuckercellars.com ) throws open the doors to its 10,000-square-foot facility and 50-acre vineyards for tours every day (10 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. in winter). Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the on-site market to pick up a host of gourmet food grown, cooked, or canned by the Tucker family. Favorite treats include fresh fruit and produce, pickled asparagus spears, and home-popped white cloud corn.
Hugged by its own small vineyard and a stand of plum and cherry trees, the boutique Chinook Wines (220 Wittkopf Ln. off of Wine Country Rd., Prosser, 509/786-2725, www.chinookwines.com , noon–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun.) lies inside renovated farm buildings. Get a peek inside the winery and the barrel room before heading into the farmhouse tasting room. The personable owners happily welcome people to wander the grounds and spread out blankets and baskets in the shady garden picnic area. Be sure to bring some food that will pair well with the specialty sauvignon blanc.
The town of Prosser  is a good place to survey the Yakima Valley  wine scene without having to drive all over the countryside. In addition to the tasting rooms and wine bars scattered over town, Prosser is also home to the unique Vinters’ Village complex, a hub of 12 distinct wineries and The Winemakers’ Loft (357 Port St., 509/786-2705, www.thewinemakersloft.com , 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily), a new winery “incubator” that helps upstart winemakers experiment and launch their own brands. Some of the highlights among the Vinters’ Village dozen include Milbrandt Vineyards (508 Cabernet Ct., 509/788-0030), which serves a varied tapas and salad menu to go with its vintages, and Thurston Wolfe Winery (588 Cabernet Ct., 509/945-4292, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.–Sun.), known best for its full-bodied zinfandel, syrah, and sangiovese.
Also at the village is the funky Airfield Estates (560 Merlot Dr., 509/643-1282, www.airfieldwines.com , 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sat.), a lively winery whose decor plays off of its vineyard history—the vines were all planted around an old World War II airbase. The winery was built to resemble an old military hanger, including a 40-foot water tower that acts as a VIP tasting room and wine library for the facilities. Big band music pipes inside when you step into the gorgeous building and get a look through the giant picture windows that frame the barrel room. Airfield is open one hour later on summer Saturdays.
While you’re in town, be sure to also drop in on Desert Wind Winery (2258 Wine Country Rd., Prosser, 509/786-2505), a handsome new winery that eschews the typical chateau motif. The buildings are made up like an old New Mexico adobe hut, with eclectic Southwest decor to match within the luxury tasting room. The property is also home to a four-room bed-and-breakfast and a sumptuous fine-dining establishment.