Of course, during our December stay in Seattle, we had to visit Woodinville, Washington’s premier wine tasting area. A jewel in the Sammamish Valley and only 30 minutes from Seattle, how could we not go?
A word about Washington State wines is in order. Washington state is 2nd in production in wine in the United States (California is 1st), so that’s a lot of wine. Washington produces most of its wine in the Eastern part of the state (as you can see from the AVA map above). Think crisp, aromatic white wines such as Riesling, Viognier, and Gewürztraminer and rich, fruity dark red wine as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah when imagining Washington wines. So, with high expectations, we set off for Woodinville one grey December morning.
Woodinville, tucked into the gorgeous Sammamish Valley, features 118 wineries, 14 microbreweries, distilleries, and cideries and 30 restaurants and eateries, so there’s something to offer everyone in your group. Quaint and unpretentious, Woodinville’s tasting rooms provide the opportunity to chat up the wine hosts in a relaxed setting. What Woodinville may lack in the over-the-top opulence of other wine areas in the country, it more than makes up for in its friendly charm.
Our first stop was the magnificent Chateau Ste. Michelle (14111 NE 145th Street Woodinville, WA 98072); Phone: (877) 916-2325. The oldest winery in Washington, Chateau Ste. Michelle offers its fantastic wines to sample in opulent surroundings. The winery is a series of different tasting salons…feeling the need for a glass of red wine, visit the Col Solare Bottega (actually a partnership between Marchesi Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle) to quaff spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, in the mood for a delightful glass of bubbles, visit the Enoteca upstairs and drink your fill. And the winery, dressed up it’s Christmas finery, definitely helped put us in a festive mood.
By the time we concluded our tour of Chateau Ste. Michelle, lunch was in order. The Purple Café & Wine Bar (4459 Redmond-Woodinville Rd NE, Woodinville, WA 98072) fit the bill nicely. Delightfully funky, the restaurant boasts of an extensive wine list and a great mac & cheese; it was a great stop when between winery appointments.
Panther Creek Cellars (14455 Woodinville Redmond Road, N.E., Suite B Woodinville, WA 98072 (206) 450-0939 www.panthercreekcellars.com) was next on our list. Panther Creek Cellars is a bit of an outlier here. While their tasting room is in Woodinville, they are for all intents and purposes, an Oregon winery producing famed Pinot Noir. Panther Creek’s wines hail from some of the very best AVA’s in Oregon…Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, to name just a few. Panther Creek Cellars delivers single-vineyard wines that are redolent of fruit and spice and are simply yummy. Please stop in for a sip and chat with their charming, knowledgeable staff.
Torii Mor Winery (4525 148th Ave NE Suite 112, Woodinville, WA 98072) was a discovery. It’s the type of winery that other winemakers recommend you visit. Its’ unusual name comes from a combination of two cultures – Torii from the Japanese Torii gate (typically found at the entrance of a shrine) and after the property’s Torii gate in Oregon, and Mor, the old Scandinavian word for earth. In any case, Torii Mor makes notable Pinot Noir wines. We spent an hour enjoying their wines in the winery’s snug tasting room. Well worth a visit to acquaint yourselves with this winery.
We had time for just one more winery visit. I was intrigued by Savage Grace Wines’ story, so we made a stop. Savage Grace Wines 19501 144th Avenue NE Ste. F-1100 Woodinville, WA 98072 (Michael Savage) (206) 920-4206 www.savagegracewines.com. It was well worth the effort. Michael Savage has a vision of producing lower-alcohol wines in step with the land from which the grapes hail. He believes in making wine in keeping with the grape character and places less emphasis on the winemaking aspects. He aims for his wines to be an homage to their vineyards from which they come. I hesitate to use the word “authentic” because I think it is so over-used. However, I’ll make an exception here as it is an apt description for the winery’s tasting room – pure, easygoing yet charming. I highly recommend making a reservation for this lovely place.
And, so we head back to Seattle with great memories of Woodinville. Until next time.