The Urban Wine Scene of Woodinville Washington

 

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.

The Warehouse District

Sparkman Cellars, The Warehouse District

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.

Jerry Riener, Owner/Winemaker, Guardian Cellars
Linn Scott, winemaker at Sparkman Cellars, showing off “Elvis Presser”

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, Woodinville WA

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.

Guardian Cellars

Guardian Cellars Tasting Room, The Hollywood District

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.

Lauren Ashton Cellars

Lauren Ashton Cellars

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.

Sparkman Cellars

Sparkman Cellars Birdie

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.

 

 

Entrance to The Warehouse District, Woodinville WA

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.

STAYING

Willows Lodge, Woodinville WA

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.

DINING

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
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Release the Rosé!

Lauren Ashton Cellars has become wildly popular for their Rosé.  They’ve been sold out of the previous vintage for months and much anticipation has surrounded the release of their 2016 vintage which is set to release April 22-23 at their tasting studio in Woodinville, Washington.

Winemaker and owner Kit Singh along with his wife and co-owner Riinu Rammal are part of a growing number of wineries who love giving back and decided since the release of their Rosé was so popular they would include the community and incorporate a charitable element to their Rosé release event, “Release the Rosé.”  A portion of the proceeds from the sales during the Rosé release weekend will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Puget Sound chapter.  I love when this sort of out pouring of generosity happens in the wine industry.

So about this Rosé….

Wow, is it beautiful!  It’s a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counnoise from Columbia Valley.  The wine is bright, fresh and well balanced with flavors of strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, ripe white peach with a delicate floral note.  Last night, I paired it with pork carnitas from pinch of yum and the flavors played off of each other delightfully!

If you find yourself in the Woodinville area during their “Release the Rosé” event, I highly recommend picking up some fantastic wine and supporting this great cause, it’s a win-wine (see what I did there)!

Here’s the Deets:

Release the Rosé – April 22-23, 2017 located at Lauren Ashton Cellars tasting room in Woodinville’s Hollywood District at 14545 148th Avenue NE, Suite 211, Woodinville WA 98072.

*Guests can pre-order the 2016 Rosé here.

 

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Charles Smith Wines Jet City

Charles Smith Wines Tasting Room, Jet City

I cannot believe it’s been almost a year since my husband and I visited Charles Smith Wines Jet City. The winery and tasting room, formerly a Dr. Pepper bottling plant, is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle with views of Boeing Field’s main runways and Mount Rainier.

Pulling up to the massive, black building with windows nearly two stories high was quite impressive. Even more impressive was the monstrosity of a front door that mirrored the colossal height of the windows. This state-of-the-art facility is the largest urban winery on the West Coast and a very cool place to do some wine tasting.

Human is 5’10″…Door is Ginormous

A little background…Charles Smith opened his first winery in 1999 in Walla Walla. With his convivial, avant-garde style, Charles continues to be a positive force in the wine industry. In Washington, Charles Smith is the largest independent producer, the largest winemaker-owned winery and third largest winery overall. Charles Smith has won numerous accolades, including “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” “Winery of the Year,” and “Winemaker of the Year” three times, most recently in 2014 by Wine Enthusiast.

Now back to Jet City…I tasted wines from the K Vintners and Sixto labels. K Vintners is the name of Charles Smith’s first winery, which had its inaugural release in 2001 with K Syrah. All of the wines under this label are picked by hand, foot-stomped, fermented using naturally occurring yeasts and basket pressed. The Sixto label is a chardonnay only label from Charles Smith and Brennon Leighton rejuvenating interest in Washington’s old chardonnay vines.  It is the sixth label that Charles has created.  I took home two bottles from my tasting, the Motor City Kitty Syrah (100% Syrah, Yakima Valley) and the Stoneridge Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley).

If you find yourself in Seattle, you should really check this place out. The tasting room is open Wednesday thru Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm and is located at 1136 S. Albro Place, Seattle WA 98109.

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Well Hello Kiona Lemberger!

kionalemberger

It was a great day when the subdivision welcome committee came to our home a few weeks after we moved to the Pacific Northwest for three reasons: (1) the “committee” was a lovely couple who quickly became our friends; (2) they showed up with Camano Island Coffee (seriously good coffee); and (3) they told us about Kiona Vineyards Lemberger (seriously good wine).

Kiona Vineyards and Winery was established in 1975 in the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) of Washington and has over 200 acres of vineyards. Kiona (pronounced Kigh-Oh-Na, meaning brown hills) produces approximately 30,000 cases of wine annually utilizing “environmental stewardship” in both the vineyards and cellar.

Lemberger (not to be confused with Limburger, the stinky cheese) is an obscure varietal hailing from Austria where it is known as “blaufränkisch.” Kiona Vineyards led the way in determining this varietal to be well suited to Washington’s climate and produced the first Lemberger wine in the United States in 1980. The Lemberger grape produces a delightful, medium bodied wine exhibiting red fruit, especially red cherry, with a good balance of earthiness and spice. Kiona refers to their Lemberger as “Pinot Noir on steroids” which is a great description because it has more guts than Pinot Noir, can be enjoyed by itself and has the ability of a Barbera or a blend to pair with a ton of different foods.

Kiona Vineyards has received numerous accolades for its wine and in particular, Lemberger. Wine Enthusiast gave Kiona’s 2012 Lemberger 90 points stating it’s flavor is “built upon chocolate and cherries with dusty tannins.” I have yet to try a Kiona wine I don’t like. In fact, I’ve been known to buy their wine by the case and their Lemberger is a staple in my home.  I’m not a spokesperson for them, I  just want you to drink good wine!  Look for Kiona in your local wine shop or order online, you will not be disappointed.

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