I recently went to Seattle on business and was extremely fortunate to have been able to add an extra day to my trip. I spent that day visiting the town of Woodinville, which should be added to the bucket list of every wine lover. Most of the wineries and vineyards in Washington State are located in the central and eastern regions, however, the majority of residents are clustered around the Seattle area which is several hours west of the wineries. The Washington wine industry did a very cool and smart thing. Many wineries have built tasting rooms in this small town 30 minutes from Seattle to give wine lovers the opportunity to taste and learn about their wines without having to make the trek to Walla Walla (or any of the many towns in Washington wine country). While few things (in my opinion) can replace a visit to the actual vineyards and wine making facility, this comes pretty darn close.
There are over 90 wineries open for tastings in Woodinville, and I was only able to visit six, however, I did feel like I got a nice sampling. The vibe waas laid back, friendly, passionate about wine and the staff I encountered made my visit really enjoyable. The remarkable thing, and I don’t recall this every happening in my visits to various wine regions in California, is I really liked all of the wines I tried. There were no wines that were poorly made IMHO (that may have been good luck on my part). I also learned that I really like the style of wines made in this area (hot climate, full bodied wines, many of which are cab-based) which may not suit everyone, but I hope to go back to check out the 84 wineries I missed.
There is a range in Woodinville from quite fancy (Col Solare) to relaxed (J. Bookwalter) to welcoming (Delille Cellars). And regardless of the ambiance, as I mentioned before, the wines were really tasty. Now, you get what you pay for so if you are looking for wines <$15 you may need to do some research as the price points at the wineries I visited ranged from low $20s to $75 a bottle. J. Bookwalter was the exception as they have a mighty tasty red blend for $15 called the Notebook.
The one consistent thing I was told at multiple wineries was that their best fruit (for red wines) comes from Red Mountain. This is a very small AVA in Washington but it sounds like it is just a fantastic place for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals. I will keep an eye open for any wines from this AVA that cross my path.
I am working on detailed reviews of each tasting room, but here are some highlights from the trip. I had a really fantastic visit at J. Bookwalter. Both of the pourers we chatted with were really fun and enthusiastic and that added a lot to the visit. The wines were wonderful, and I really respect wineries that offer wines at a broad range of price points. Starting at $15 for a fantastic everyday red up to the alluring and captivating Bordeaux style blends (Connor Lee Conflict and Protagonist, both $60). This allows their customers to enjoy their wines during a lot of different occasions which is nice.
Col Solare was another memorable stop, in part because of the decadence involved in the tasting visit. Nestled inside Chateau Ste. Michelle (which is a huge winery that had a big role in putting Woodinville on the wine map), Col Solare currently makes only one wine, and it is a joint venture between CSM and Antinori, an Italian winery with an extensive wine heritage. The tasting room is all glass and allows you to see into the barrel room of CSM, however, it gives the impression of calmness and privacy in the tasting room. I have been lucky to have tried their wines on many occasions so the high quality of the wine was not a surprise.
The biggest highlight of the trip was at Novelty Hill / Januik. My good friend from college has a connection with the winery so we were able to chat with the winemaker Mike Januik for a while. I love getting to meet the winemaker, so this was a real treat!! I have tried the Merlot and Cab from NH on many occasions, however, I was fortunate to try many more of their wines that I have not been able to find in Atlanta (if only they would ship to Georgia!!). More on that visit in the review coming soon.
All in all, a great time wine tasting. Seattle residents are really lucky to have such a cool set-up so close to them. It reminded me of Los Olivos which is a similar wine lovers paradise, however, that town is not really very close to any major city. It also did not hurt that it was an insanely gorgeous spring day and every flower was in bloom.