“It makes you feel good when people say those kinds of things,” he said with a chuckle. “But my roots are right here, and I’m content.”
And now that two of Washington state’s most respected vintners — Co Dinn Cellars and Côte Bonneville — have opened up tasting rooms in downtown Sunnyside, Hazzard seemingly has no reason ever to leave Bon Vino’s Bistro & Bakery in the town he was born and raised in.
“The only thing that I would do differently would be in a bigger place with a catering kitchen,” said Hazzard, a member of the class of ‘85 at Sunnyside High School. “The support that this community gives us has been special.”
Indeed, Sunnyside is a wine country town again, a century after W.B. Bridgman made history with the state’s first commercial wine grapes. Across Interstate 82 from Upland Vineyard there’s vaunted Harrison Hill, home to some of the state’s oldest Cab. A bit to the east is Otis Vineyard, home to the oldest Cab, circa 1957.
And in 2006, a shuttered farm store was about to get transformed into a wine-themed eatery that aimed to serve both wine tourists looking for lunch and working farmers who come in to sip on espresso well before dawn.
“Sometimes the farmers are waiting outside the door for you to open up at 5:45 in the morning,” Hazzard said with a chuckle. “They’ll be in here with coveralls and their trucker hats, and they’ll have these huge mugs in front of them. I had to really coax those farmers into here. I told them, ‘I don’t care if there’s mud on your boots from just coming out of a hole digging ditches or whatever it is. It’s nothing that a little soap and water can’t fix.’ ”
Hazzard, his wife Kenna, and business partner Joreen Mensonides created the name - Bon Vino’s.
“We’ve had some criticism with it being Italian and French,” Hazzard chuckled. “We took words from two cultures and played off the concept of ‘good wine’ being the inspiration, which is to support all these great wines and these wineries surrounding us.”
There’s no doubting the success of Bon Vino’s, a bustling place for coffee, pastries by Mensonides and lunch, which extends until the restaurant’s hard close at 3 p.m. On the main floor of the dining room are 78 seats. A conference room seats 32 and gets opened up for the lunch rush. There’s also outdoor seating when weather permits. And for those who don’t have time to sit down and relax, there’s a drive-through.
“Sometimes, people will come to the door, see that it’s packed, and then they go out to their car and use the drive-through,” Hazzard said with the chuckle. “It’s crazy funny.”
He rarely has the time, but Hazzard occasionally looks back and shakes his head on just how he came to be the winner of the Chefs Challenge in the Columbia Valley after spending a decade managing the parts inventory for Darigold’s plant in Sunnyside. His early interest in cooking began in his mother’s kitchen, and then he entered the hospitality industry without considering a career as a chef.
“It all started with the hospitality and tourism program through Yakima Valley Community College after high school, and what I really wanted to do was be a director on a cruise ship,” Hazzard said. “I got a job at the Town Plaza Hotel in Yakima and then Johnny’s Lounge, and it just kept rolling. I never imagined that after watching Mom cook all of her great meals that I would have a restaurant and be in business for 11 years.”
He’s come full circle. Last year, Darigold profiled Hazzard in its Fresh magazine.
“I had to support my family, but I started moonlighting as a caterer when I was at Darigold,” he said. “A lot of it was for friends and relatives, and I enjoyed doing it, and then I started to get calls from people I didn’t know.”
The key phone call came from Mensonides, who was opening a bistro to showcase her pastries and needed someone for the grill.
“I was never a line cook, but it’s just as hard to cook for 10 people as it is 100 people,” he said. “So I take care of the back of the house, the menus, the cooking and the catering events. Joreen takes care of the financial part, and she does the scheduling, her pastry case and the wedding cakes and specialty cakes.”
About the only complaint Hazzard hears is that Bon Vino’s only is open for dinner on special nights such as Valentine’s Day. Hungry fans often can find him around the Yakima Valley with catered dinners for wine-themed events. The business model, however, gives him precious family time for his wife and three boys. He’s sacrificed his golf game as well as hunting and fishing trips.
“It’s about a three-minute drive from my house on the other side of town to the restaurant, and I’ll get calls saying, ‘We need your help at the bistro,’ “he said with a laugh.
He doesn’t seem to mind.
“When we first opened this restaurant, I used to know maybe 90 percent of the room,” Hazzard said. “Now I might know 20 percent. It’s just been word-of-mouth from a lot of the companies that we work with, the Kiwanis, Rotary, our walking ladies and the fundraisers for the school district and the hospital. We really try to help out the community, and I think that comes back to us.”
Support of the Yakima Valley wine industry shows at Bon Vino’s, and Hazzard got guidance early on from Angelo Tavernaro, a Master Sommelier living in nearby Prosser at the time.
“He told me, ‘There are so many great wines in this valley, you don’t need to look in Oregon or California. You really need to promote the Washington wines,” “Hazzard recalls. “It was good advice, and he spent a lot of time here.”
Lunch hours prompt Bon Vino’s to focus on retailing bottles for off-premise consumption and relying on an array of six wines on tap from Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Prosser. He works with Brad Smith, an instructor at Yakima Valley College’s wine program, on the sweet Sèmillon bottled under the Bon Vino’s brand. Catering clients include Co Dinn Cellars, Côte Bonneville, Mercer Estates, Thurston Wolfe and Columbia Winery.
“It’s hard for me to say No,” Hazzard said with a smile.
For the Match Maker assignment, Hazzard stayed home, thanks to Co Dinn and the Shiels family, which use historic buildings for their young tasting rooms. Neither is much more than a mile from Bon Vino’s.
“It’s really nice to have them so close now,” Hazzard said.
The Côte Bonneville 2009 DuBrul Vineyard Estate Red Wine is the flagship bottling by retired Dr. Hugh Shiels, his wife Kathy and winemaking daughter Kerry. Soon after establishing their meticulous 45-acre vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills above the Yakima Valley, they began selling fruit to some of Washington’s premier wineries.
Their own meritage-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot represents their best work, and it’s a wine priced for special occasions. Hazzard chose to pair it with the Bon Vino’s Italian Marinara Pasta, a standing item on his menu that features his remarkably versatile red sauce.
“With the Côte Bonneville, I get really dark berry notes out of it and the sweetness of the sausage and the marinara works really well with it,” Hazzard said.
He caters events both in DuBrul Vineyard and at the Shiels’ tasting room, which includes the annual Sunnyside Lighted Farm Implement Parade. The recent opening of Co Dinn Cellars in the town’s former water plant gives Bon Vino’s another local angle.
“What a nice guy, too, and it’s a real pleasure working for him in his new winery,” Hazzard said. “His Syrah is so bright and juicy, and our Firehouse Burger is really nice and spicy, which complements the pepperiness and sweetness that surrounds the Syrah. I love doing the elegant and intimate winemaker dinners, but I also love just making a burger.”
And now with two renowned wineries and tasting rooms nearby, it would seem as though Hazzard is more rooted in Sunnyside than ever before.
“It’s putting the smile on peoples’ faces and being a part of that wedding, something that’s a once-in-a-lifetime special event,” Hazzard said. “We’ve had people come in and get engaged here at the restaurant. That makes you feel good to have a place that’s special people. That’s the whole passion behind to.”
Co Dinn Cellars 2013 Roskamp Vineyard Block 2 Syrah, Snipes Mountain - $50
— 66 cases, 14.2% alcohol
It's no miracle on the scale of the Marriage at Cana, but Coman Dinn has turned a water department building into a winery in Sunnyside, Wash.
Dinn landed in the Yakima Valley in 1996 and spent 17 years making wine for Hogue Cellars. He resigned on June 27, 2013, and lined up some of his favorite vineyards to help him strike out on his own, moving production to the Grandview campus of Yakima Valley College and its Yakima Valley Vintners winemaking program.
All along, he had his eye on a permanent home. By 2015, Dinn began collaborating with the Port of Sunnyside, the City of Sunnyside and Yakima County officials to transform the former Sunnyside Water Department building into Co Dinn Cellars.
“It’s right across the street from Safeway," points out wine country chef Roger Hazzard. “It was our old Sunnyside waterworks building, and he’s made it very industrial and really cool with some of the historical features he's left in there."
Classic brick frames the old office building, and there’s a strong Art Deco-feel to much of the 3,200-square-foot structure that housed two water wells, which remain capped and in the basement. A gantry crane serves as a conversation starter in the tasting bar. Harvest time offers guests the opportunity to get close to the action, but there also is a comfortable patio outdoors to enjoy on those warm summer nights in Sunnyside.
Understandably, Dinn’s fruit sourcing remains focused on the Yakima Valley. Painted Hills provides his Cabernet Sauvignon program. Elephant Mountain Vineyard is responsible for his Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend. Lonesome Spring Ranch provides his Rhône-inspired GSM. Old vine Chardonnay comes from French Creek Vineyard.
Roskamp Vineyard is a little-known cobblestone site established in 1998 along the southwest ridgetop of Snipes Mountain near Sunnyside, and the Phelps clone fruit spent 22 months in neutral French oak. The youthful nose brings hints of chocolate-covered blueberries, dark plum, mint, molasses and a dash of black pepper. It follows with a plush and focused delivery of sweet blue fruit amid a light to medium structure of sandy tannins, elderberry acidity and a lick of back bacon. Dinn enjoys this Syrah with medium-rare Grilled Rosemary Lamb Chops, braised beef and Eggplant Parmesan.
Co Dinn Cellars, 501 Grant Ave., Sunnyside, WA 98944, CoDinnCellars.com, (509) 840-2314.
4 eight-ounce beef patties
4 slices pepper jack cheese
8 slices maple bacon
2 avocados cut in half, peeled and pitted
4 jalapeño peppers, oiled, salted and cut in half
4 pepperoncini, cut into rings
2 ounces thinly cut capicola (Italian spicy cured ham)
4 hamburger buns (preferably onion bun
Chipotle mayo for taste
Barbecue the beef patty to your preference on temperature.
Right before the hamburger is done, add the pepper jack cheese to melt.
While patty is cooking, add bun to grill to get toasted.
Also add capicola and jalapeno to grill or place in a small pan on the barbecue.
Pull patty off and place on bottom of bun.
Add two slices of maple bacon, half of one avocado, half of one grilled jalapeno, one pepperoncini and two slices of cooked capicola.
Add chipotle pepper to mayo and use for sauce on top.
Côte Bonneville 2009 DuBrul Vineyard Estate Red Wine, Yakima Valley - $120
— 490 cases, 14.2% alcohol
Some of the Northwest’s cult producers — Betz Family Winery, DeLille Cellars, Owen Roe, Pursued by Bear, Rasa Vineyards, Va Piano and Woodward Canyon — purchase fruit from the Shiels family’s DuBrul Vineyard.
Côte Bonneville, the wines made by Kerry Shiels, fit right in among those. Her work with her parents’ fruit has turned Sunnyside into a town of importance in the wines of Washington state.
In 1991, more than a decade after establishing their practice in Sunnyside, Kerry’s parents, orthopedic surgeon Hugh Shiels and wife Kathy purchased a rocky, 45-acre Red Delicious apple orchard and began transforming it into DuBrul Vineyard, a tribute to his mother.
Their third-leaf fruit turned into the inaugural 2001 vintage of Côte Bonneville, a brand named for a mansion designed by Hugh’s great, great-grandfather in their hometown of Cincinnati. Those early wines were made first by the late Stan Clarke and then Shiels’ cycling pal Co Dinn before Kerry returned home and took over the winemaking in 2005.
The Côte Bonneville program accounts for just 25 percent of DuBrul’s production. Their award-winning lineup spans Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc rosé, Syrah, two claret-style reds and their flagship Estate Red Wine, a Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%).
The Shiels farm these blocks at less than 2 tons per acre, and the vines are meticulously cared for by an all-female team. In 2009, DuBrul was named Seattle magazine’s award for Vineyard of the Year, which marked the second time in three years.
So perhaps it’s more than a coincidence that the 2009 DuBrul Vineyard Estate Red Wine is drinking so superbly. The 23 months in 100% new French oak barrels and the patience to bottle-age reveal classic notes of Chukar Cherry, black currant and plum backed by cinnamon, allspice, dusty tannins and charming acidity.
Last year marked the 35th anniversary of the Shiels family buying a former Union Pacific railroad depot, moving it across the Yakima Valley from Grandview to Sunnyside and renovating it into a doctor’s office. In 2015, they transitioned it to a tasting room for Côte Bonneville, making it a definite draw for Washington wine lovers.
Côte Bonneville, 1413 E. Edison Ave., Sunnyside, WA 98944, cotebonneville.com, (509) 643-4569.
Bon Vino’s Italian Marinara Pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 pounds kielbasa
1/2 cup kalamata olives
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine
8 cups marinara sauce
1 cup water
12 cups cooked pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan, add butter and melt, then add kielbasa to brown.
Then add olives and garlic. Sauté for 30-45 seconds. Make sure the garlic does not burn.
Add the red wine to cool pan down and deglaze. Let wine reduce by half then turn stove to low heat.
Add marinara sauce and water. Put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add cooked pasta to pan. Salt and pepper to taste, stir and serve hot.