Seattle has become the epicenter for successful business. As of 2017 fifteen Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in and around the city. Some of the more well known of these: Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and Expedia. In addition, there are giants like Boeing with more than 70,000 employees. These excessively successful business genetics spread to Woodinville, located just beyond Seattle’s 405 beltway. There, a unique urban wine scene has evolved. The heart of Washington’s wine country is a three hour trek over the mountains from Seattle, too far to draw the citified sprawl of wine seekers who prefer to live and work within the city limits; thus, the business of wine and winemaking gravitated towards Seattle and centers in Woodinville.
The romance of rollings hills and vineyards may not be part of Woodinville, but everything from production to bottled wine has been captured. The precise moment the grapes are picked, they are driven to fully operational production facilities, co-located with the tasting room or in separate facilities. There are several places to visit – the “Warehouse District,” for example, is exactly as it sounds, rows of warehouses with winery signs over the doors, pick up trucks and forklifts whizzing around, winery dogs on the premises, barrels stacked high, and the smell of wine in the air.
Woodinville has over 100 wineries and tasting rooms, a handful of microbreweries, multiple distilleries and cideries, and 26 restaurants and eateries. The wineries represent every appellation in the state of Washington and encompass everything from mass production to a one-man show. Your visit may start with a tasting tour at the renowned Chateau Ste. Michelle, the first pearl in the “string of pearls” of the enormous Ste. Michelle Wine Estates conglomerate, and you may end your tasting at a boutique winery where the winemaker is about the only guy showing up to work…and winemaking is his second job.
WINERIES OF WOODINVILLE
Woodinville is easy to navigate because it is sectioned off into four distinct districts: The Hollywood District, The West Valley District, The Warehouse District, and The Downtown District. Each district is located in different areas of town, although none too far from the other. The Hollywood District and The Warehouse District are home to most of the Woodinville wineries. Some of The Warehouse District wineries also have tasting rooms elsewhere so plan ahead in order to make the most of your time. For a complete list of wineries, visit Woodinville Wine Country. Many excellent local wineries make it difficult to narrow down a list, but here are ten excellent choices to get you started:
THE HOLLYWOOD DISTRICT
Betz Family Winery – Bob Betz has been making wine since 1975, by 2005 the Betz Family Cabernet Sauvignon was named “Number One Wine Of The Year” by Seattle Times wine critic Paul Gregutt and in 2014 their 2010 Pere de Famille was ranked #6 in the world in Wine Enthusiast “Top 100 Cellar Selections”
Chateau Ste. Michelle – Washington’s oldest winery and one of Seattle’s top spots for visitors offering complimentary tours daily and seasonal concerts. Col Solare, the partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori has a tasting room located within the Chateau. Tastings with Col Solare Bottega are by appointment only.
If you get the chance to meet him, winemaker Jerry Riener will exude his passion for winemaking. Jerry is one of those winemakers mentioned earlier who makes wine as his second job. He is a full time police officer who has creatively intertwined his career with his passion as is evidenced by wines with names like “The Alibi,” “Chalkline,” and “Gunmetal.” Guardian Cellars has a tasting room and production facilities in The Warehouse District, as well as a tasting room in The Hollywood District. Jerry was kind enough to show us Guardian Cellars production facility the day we visited.
DeLille Cellars – Consistently rating 90+ points on wines year after year from multiple publications with a focus on Bordeaux style wine.
Owner Kit Singh is another winemaker who expertly juggles a full time career and winemaking. When not in the cellar of his boutique winery producing 90+ point wines, Kit can be found at his dental practice in Redmond, WA.
Gorman Winery – Not your average winemaker producing outstanding wine. Wine Spectator named Chris Gorman one of the ten rising stars in American winemaking in 2008.
A family owned and operated winery producing fantastic wines often rating 90+ points and focusing on Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. Winemaker Linn Scott graciously hosted and allowed us access to Sparkman’s production facilities on a day grapes arrived from the vineyards. Sparkman Cellars has production facilities and a tasting room in The Warehouse District as well as a tasting room in The Hollywood District.
THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
Barrage Cellars – This is truly a one-man show producing excellent wine. The best part of visiting this winery, the guy pouring the wine is the guy making the wine. Make sure to check the hours of operation because they are limited.
Efesté – Producing wines using native fermentation resulting in richer, fuller, more complex wines that possess unique aromas and flavors. Efeste wines repeatedly earn high accolades.
Two Vintners -Thinking outside the box with a desire to produce wines that expose consumers to the uniqueness of Washington. Two Vintners is one of the few winemakers producing orange wine.
Selected for Condé Nast’s Gold Traveler’s List in the heart of The Hollywood District is Willows Lodge, a luxurious get-away offering cozy rooms with fireplaces, a full service spa, and top notch dining options with impressive wine lists to match.
For a more intimate experience, Matthews Winery Bed & Breakfast has a simple but elegantly furnished bed and breakfast with two rooms, the Merlot Room and the Syrah Room. Each room offers a king size bed, complimentary tasting for two, a bottle of their award winning Claret, and complimentary breakfast in the morning.
If you are looking for more mainstream lodging, you can find many of the major hotel chains within 10-15 minutes from the heart of Woodinville.
Barking Frog at Willows Lodge features a warm, inviting dining room and even more inviting patio for the summer months. Executive Chef Bobby Moore and his culinary team create dishes using fresh, local ingredients complemented by a noteworthy selection of wines sourced locally and from around the world.
Located on the grounds of Willows Lodge is internationally renowned The Herbfarm Restaurant, winner of AAA’s 5 Diamond Award. Diners can enjoy a nine course wine pairing dinner seasonally inspired and finalized mere hours before being served. The Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in the Hollywood Vineyards Plaza is situated amongst a slew of tasting rooms making it a great place to escape for a tasty break from sipping wine. The food is eclectic and creative, and the wine holds up to the menu beautifully. For another equally enjoyable option located in the same plaza with a more casual, hip vibe, visit The Commons Kitchen And Bar.
Urban wineries and the development of wine scenes are becoming wildly popular across America. They are a great way for city dwellers to enjoy the fun of wine tasting without leaving the comfort of their city limits. It is a perfect scenario for busy lifestyles, not to mention an advantageous business move for wineries. But do not worry if the evolving urban wine scene is not for you. There will always be room for the romantic side of wine that draws people to acres of vineyards, stately chateaux and villa-inspired tasting rooms surrounded by gnarled vines…even if they are 3 hours away.
*Heading photo - Sparkman Cellars Rainmaker