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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Lauren Ashton New Releases!

 

I discovered Lauren Ashton Cellars while living in Washington state.  My husband, Joe, attended the Northwest Wine Academy and was in a class with Riinu Rammal who co-owns Lauren Ashton Cellars with her husband, Kit Singh.  A few weeks later, Joe and I topped off a date day with a visit to Lauren Ashton‘s tasting room in the Hollywood District of Woodinville where we became hooked on these fantastic wines.  Lauren Ashton focuses on traditional French style wines that reflect Washington terroir.  They have just released two pretty fabulous wines that I am delighted to share with you:

 

Cuvée Méline

 

A Bordeaux style white wine made up of 55% Semillon and 45% Sauvignon Blanc fermented like a white wine should, low and slow, in stainless steel tanks and neutral barrels.  Cuvée Méline shows a purposeful balance between high acidity and lushness with green apple, grapefruit, peach and green melon followed by an intriguing suggestion of fresh bread.  I paired this wine with sweet potato gnocchi and it was a cohesive, delicious duo.

 

Cuvée Arlette

Also Bordeaux inspired, from the Right Bank with a Merlot predominance, is Cuvée Arlette .  A blend of 59% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and a token of Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Cuvée Arlette is a dignified wine with aromas of dark fruits, spices and earthy minerals.  On the palate, flavors of black raspberry, black currant and black cherry with a sway to perfectly roasted coffee beans, warm baking spices and clay pot.  The finish lingers on the palate providing an elegant, pleasing culmination.

 

Bonus Review ~ Chenin Blanc

For the first time ever, Lauren Ashton has released a Chenin Blanc.  The wine is whole cluster pressed resulting in a high quality, refreshing wine with crisp acidity.  The aroma is fruity with a hint of mango and flavors of ripe Bartlett pear, yellow apple, and pineapple with undertones of honey and chalk.  I tasted this little lovely in the morning before eating, which I admit, is something I do often while my palate is most attentive.  It would pair well with Asian food or simple chicken and fish dishes.

Whether you are looking to stock a cellar, enjoy a bottle or two in the next few months, or polish off immediately, these are excellent wines worth considering.  Lauren Ashton distributes to many states as well as ships to any state without restrictions.  To order Lauren Ashton wines, click here.

 

 

As wineries occasionally do, Lauren Ashton sent the above wines to me.  I only promote wines I thoroughly enjoy since my name is essentially on them at the point of promotion.  As I state in my bio, "I am here to inspire you to treat yourself to great wine experiences as often as you possibly can!"  I recommend wines that, in my opinion, can create great wine experiences.

 

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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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