“We’re here to get the party started!” With those words Managing Partner Dan Thiessen and winemaker George-Anne Robertson gave us a quick preview of the exciting changes planned for the former Basel Cellars property now being re-imagined as Yellowhawk Resort.

The sprawling stone and timber mansion, set high on a hill near the Oregon border, has been a bit of a mystery for many Walla Wallans. Originally built in the late 1990s as a private home, the property has been used as a vineyard and winery for the past two decades. Winemakers have come and gone, and the home itself rented out as a VRBO party pad.

Acquired last winter by the same group that owns the Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing, it is now being transformed into a luxury resort for weddings, corporate retreats, wine and culinary events and more. The home itself will be repurposed as a reception area, spa and meeting center. Additional on-site lodging and poolside cabanas are in the planning stages pending county approval.

The wine program will also do a complete turnabout, trading the traditional Basel lineup of white and red varietal wines for a galaxy of sparkling wine options. The first wines bearing the new Yellowhawk label were released this month.

Although the full build-out of the property is planned over the next four years, there’s already much to enjoy, whether for a quick wine tasting, an all-day poolside escape, or a special occasion event.

“We bought this property for the hospitality, not the wine,” Thiessen acknowledges. “What better suited for the South Side winery district than a resort? We’re the portal to all the other wineries. Why not have visitors start here and then go exploring? This allows us to be part of a well-established community and embrace them.”

Robertson is a graduate of the Enology and Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College. With guidance from her former enology instructor Tim Donohue, she’ll design and execute an innovative lineup of sparkling wines made principally from grapes grown on the property.

The first releases under the Bubbles label include force-carbonated white, rosé and red wines. Under the Sparkling label traditional méthode champenoise wines will be made, beginning with a vintage-dated sparkling sémillon, which she previewed during our tour. Light, graceful and immensely refreshing, it promises more good things to come.

Currently the main house may be rented as an eight-bedroom VRBO. Other visitors may book poolside cabana rentals for half or all-day reservations, with wine tasting, dining and spa options. Food will be prepared in the Yellowhawk mobile kitchen. Ultimately a full-service onsite kitchen is planned.

Look for fizz-friendly foods such as fish and chips, spicy french fries, crab cakes and scallops on the menu. In short order it may expand to include such treats as house-made blinis with caviar and crème fresh; fruit cobblers, berry parfaits and more farm-to-table items showcasing local farms and purveyors.

The first big party is slated for the last weekend of August. Named the Shindig, it will signal the debut of an annual celebration of local food and wine. This year each of the six Walla Walla wine districts will be represented by four wineries, matching their wines to small plates. There will be a Grand Tasting on Friday evening, a charity auction on Saturday and a poolside Sunday Champagne brunch.

Suffice it to say that there is much more in the works while negotiations with county and state agencies are ongoing. But as part of the Revelers Club group of restaurants, the overall commitment to locally sourced food and farm products, to first-class hospitality services and to serving the wider community in which the Yellowhawk Resort is located is a founding principle.

The goal for Yellowhawk Resort, Thiessen explains, is to become a scenic and serene base camp for visitors who are just now discovering Walla Walla and a retreat for locals to enjoy the beauty of this place we are all so lucky to call home.

Yellowhawk Resort is located at 2901 Old Milton Highway, Walla Walla. Find out more at yellowhawkresort.com or call 509-522-0200.

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