The ABC’s of Woodinville Wine Country

wine grapes

A guide to Washington State’s award-winning urban wine destination, spelled out from Avennia to Zerba Written By Kaity Teer

An urban wine destination home to more than 70 wineries and 30 tasting rooms, Woodinville produces up to 3 million cases of wine each year and attracts up to 795,000 visitors annually. It boasts more 90+ wines than anywhere else in the world. Woodinville is in the beautiful Sammamish River Valley and yet is easily accessible from the Seattle metropolitan area, located just twenty miles northeast. Its winemakers source grapes from throughout Washington. “In Woodinville, you can taste the state. Every AVA in Washington is represented here in our wineries and tasting rooms,” said Sandra Lee, director of Woodinville Wine Country. Brimming with abundant opportunities for wine tasting, fine dining, wine and food classes, shopping and recreation, read on to find out what makes Woodinville Wine Country what Sandra calls “the perfect blend.”

 
aWine tasting may be an activity reserved for adults, but Adventura Aerial Adventure Park allows even the most serious of grown-ups to play more than 50 feet above the ground. From this height, you can enjoy scenic views of Woodinville Wine Country and nearby breweries, distilleries and wineries as you soar, jump, stretch, puzzle, balance, and swing through an obstacle course of ropes, swings, wooden planks, and slack wires. At the end of your high-flying adventure, a zip line will deliver you safely to the ground. The best way to celebrate your land – ing is to enjoy a wine tasting at one of Adventura’s many tasting partners. Reservations are recommended, so plan to book your adventure at least 25 days in advance. Upon your arrival, don’t underestimate the course’s com – pact design. The duration of a typical play day is 2.5 hours. Challenges vary from 28 to 55 feet above ground. The course is suitable for visitors ages seven and older and offers fun for a wide range of physical fitness levels. Even octogenarians have risen to the course’s challenges, proving you’re never too old to play. Adventura Play is open for play days on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from April through October. Halloween is the final day of the season, and you can celebrate in costume while trick-or-treating in the air.

best Behavior

Take a seat in the tasting room at Adams Bench Winery and you may be surprised to find yourself seated on a nineteenth-century disciplinary bench. The antique bench is only part of the winery’s rustic charm. It’s located about a mile up the hill from the old Hollywood Schoolhouse on three pastoral acres with fragrant lavender, a small barn, and views of rolling pastures, a neighboring vineyard, and the Olympic Mountains.

Tim Blue, who is the owner-winemaker along with his wife, Erica Blue, regales visitors with the story of the iconic bench for which the winery is named. A family heirloom, Tim’s father salvaged the bench—where troublemakers once sat awaiting visits to the principal’s office—from the elementary school in small-town Indiana where three generations of family members, including Tim, attended before it was razed.

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“It’s your time of reckoning when you sit on the bench,” Tim joked, with a nod toward the winery’s highly-rated flagship red blend, Reckoning. For troublemakers unafraid of the Reckoning, Adams Bench is open most Saturdays for tastings. Anything but stern, Tim and Erica are friendly, knowledgeable, and funny, and they enjoy getting to know their customers—including members of their Collector’s Club—who visit for the fall and spring releases of the lush, dark Cabernets and red blends Adams Bench is known for.

If you’re eager to be on your best behavior when you visit Woodinville, Tim, who has traveled extensively with Erica throughout all the significant wine regions in the U.S. and Europe, has graciously shared with us several of his top wine tasting tips—perfect for newcomers to wine tasting or those who may need to brush up on the “rules.”

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ONCERTS & FESTIVALS

Expect to nd musical notes and tasting notes in Woodinville all year long, but the warmer months offer special opportunities to enjoy live performances.

In September, you can rock out while exploring the Hollywood Winery District at the annual Hollywood Hill Block Party. Chateau Ste. Michelle hosts a summer concert series at its amphitheatre, and two years ago launched SESSIONS, a series of indoor concerts to enliven the winter months.

Next year, don’t miss the Celebrate Woodinville concert series on Wednesday evenings in July and August at Wilmot Gateway Park. These free, family-friendly events include a beer and wine garden with beverages available from local wineries and breweries. The culminating event is the annual Woodinville festival, which is held in August and features a farmer’s market, arts and crafts fair, exhibitors, and children’s activities.

A favorite summer event in the Warehouse Winery District is the Taste & Tunes Warehouse Party, which is held in July. Participate in the wine walk and enjoy live performances at many of the district’s wineries.

 Designated Drivers

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A number of transportation providers make it possible for everyone in your party to sip responsibly. The area’s premier provider, Butler Wine Tours, has a range of vehicle sizes on hand for guided Woodinville Wine Country experiences. Look forward to individualized itineraries based on an extensive network of personal relationships with area winemakers and boutique wineries. Brothers Stuart and Jeremy Butler, both University of Washington graduates, started the company in 1994.

“Everything we do is custom,” Stuart said. “We like to interview each group and design the best experience. We can select the wineries for you based on your preferences or make personalized recommendations.”

Though the Butlers have attended tastings and met with nearly every winery in Woodinville, they focus on 30 boutique wineries they know well and can count on to deliver their clients excellent tasting experiences. A typical tour lasts about four hours and includes up to four locations, with the option of adding an additional stop for lunch. Groups of up to fourteen passengers can be comfortably accommodated in the Mercedes Benz tour coach.

 

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NJOY PERFECT PAIRINGS

Woodinville’s abundant wine offerings are poured in many local restaurants and fine dining establishments by wine stewards who excel at palate-pleasing pairings. There are many delicious options to sate your thirst and your appetite at any price point.

At the top of the list, The Herbfarm has received tremendous critical acclaim. It is also one of only 50 restaurants in the U.S. to receive the AAA 5-Diamond Award. Reservations for the themed nine-course, six-wine dinner seatings are so elusive that in the past, the restaurant has crashed phone lines due to the influx of callers eager to get a coveted spot on the waiting list.

For diners who are looking for something less formal, consider the Purple Café & Wine Bar, with New American cuisine and a wine list that truly exceeds expectations. The Commons
is a kitchen, bar, and bakery that serves up rustic charm and good food. The Hollywood Hills Tavern, operated by Woodinville Whiskey Co. offers delicious cocktails, a full menu, and schedules live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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ROW YOUR GARDEN

Located in the Downtown District, Molbak’s Garden + Home isn’t just an iconic garden center; it’s a destination. A feast for the eyes, Molbak’s lovely garden displays andextensive selection of plants are sure to inspire, maybe even to the point of overwhelm. In addition to plants, owers, and supplies, you can get advice from horticultural experts or shop for home goods, garden décor, and gifts.

Make time in your schedule to pause for lunch in the idyllic Garden Café, and plan ahead if you’d like to participate in a class or workshop with subjects ranging from botanical drawing to ornamental grasses. Save the date for Cisco Morris’s visit September 13 and the annual Harvest Festival October 17. The holiday displays are magical and include an impressive selection of poinsettias and the St. Nick’s Holiday Wine Tasting, with more than 30 participating wineries.

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The story of Chateau Ste. Michelle is in many ways the story of Woodinville’s evolution into a world-class wine tourism destination. Now one of the largest U.S. producers of premium wines, Chateau Ste. Michelle catalyzed Washington State’s vinifera grape growing and anchored Woodinville’s wine industry.

In 1967, American Wine Growers—the result of a merger between two Washington-based wine companies with roots dating back to 1934 and the repeal of Prohibition—launched “Ste. Michelle” wines, made from fruit produced in eastern Washington. Ste. Michelle garnered national attention when its 1972 Riesling earned the top spot in a blind tasting hosted by the Los Angeles Times. In 1976, the chateau in Woodinville was constructed and the label was re-christened Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Since then, the label known for its excellent dry table wines has earned the title “Winery of the Year” by Wine & Spirits Magazine not just once, but an impressive 20 times. Among the winery’s many accolades, the 1999 Cold Creek Chardonnay was named by Wine Spectator as the highest- ranked white wine in the world, and the 2000 Single Berry Select dessert wine earned a 98-point rating also from Wine Spectator, which was the highest rating for a Washington wine that year. Led by head winemaker Bob Bertheau, the winery continues to produce highly acclaimed wines.

Visit the historic chateau and grounds (formerly the Frederick Stimson estate) and participate in one of several tour and tasting options, which range in cost from free to $100 per person. Consider the Library Pairings Tasting, which is a guided wine and small bite pairing that takes approximately 45 minutes and includes a demonstration on how to taste food with wine in a seated mat format.

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Itchen Classes

Visit the Winery Kitchen to cook and taste “food that likes wine.” Enjoy a seasonal class, pizza workshop, or mushroom harvest—with local pairings from a wine educator. Educational and entertaining, you’ll love learning from Chef Dona Applegate, who is a master cheese maker and certified food preserver.

“We don’t just teach people to prepare great food; we also let them pick it fresh!” Dona said.

 

 

 

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IVING LABORATORY

Known by locals as a “living laboratory,” the 21 Acres Demonstration Farm and Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living enriches the Woodinville community by serving as an integrated model for sustainable living practices. Here, you’ll find a 100 percent certified organic farm and a farm market with pesticide-free ingredients all produced in Washington State.

The 12,000 square-foot building which houses the market also includes cold storage for produce, a commercial kitchen, and space for classes and meetings. This cutting edge education center earned a LEED Platinum certification for its green building technologies, including solar photovoltaic modules, a green roof with a rooftop herb garden, low-flow fixtures, and composting toilets.

“Here in Washington State we can eat chemical-free food grown at local farms 12 months out of the year,” said Robin Crowder, marketing director.

Visit 21 Acres to shop the farm market, participate in a “Farm Walk” on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, attend classes, dinners, and free demonstrations designed to help participants learn more sustainable techniques for growing, eating, and living.

medium Plus

When tasting wine, you may overhear “medium plus” used to describe the structural elements of a wine—the alcohol, tannins, acidity, body, complexity or finish. Often this descriptor indicates that the wine taster remains undecided, unable to determine where to place the wine on an intensity scale that ranges from low to high. Medium Plus is also the name of the wine education company advanced sommelier Nick Davis launched in late summer of this year to help wine enthusiasts to study up.

Nick quickly ascended to distinction in Seattle’s wine and craft cocktail scene after graduating from the University of Washington in 2011. In April 2015, he became one of the youngest sommeliers in the country to pass the Court of Master Sommelier’s advanced sommelier exam, and he passed it on his first try. His résumé includes posts at Canlis, Lowell’s Restaurant, RN74 and Oliver’s Twist. He has twice served on the sommelier team for the Seattle Wine Awards and ranked in the top five American competitors at the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild’s World Class event.

Nick is passionate about deductive wine tasting and eager to share his knowledge with others through web articles and by taking on clients who are interested in learning more about wine tasting, either individually or in groups.

“Deductive wine tasting is not about the conclusion; it’s about the process of noticing and appreciating aromas, textures, and flavors. You turn off everything that’s a distraction and it becomes a meditation,” Nick said. “Once you open a wine, it begins to change. You dive into the present moment and become more perceptive with heightened senses.”

Nick shared a glossary of helpful terms to learn and put to use when tasting wine. There’s something on this list for everyone from neophytes to oenophiles.

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It was a match made in the heart of Washington winemaking country when Marty Taucher, a retired Microsoft executive turned wine industry student, accepted an internship with Chris Peterson, then the co-winemaker at DeLille Cellars. Marty, who was enrolled at South Seattle Community College, assisted Chris with the 2009 harvest, working as a crush intern and tank washer. After the harvest, they discovered they shared an ambition of building their own label. After several months of planning, they produced and released their first vintage in 2010. Since then, Avennia—named for a city in France’s Rhône Valley and the region’s old-world style of winemaking—has earned praise from critics and consumers alike and launched Avennia on a meteoric rise to the top of Washington wine labels.

Marty attributes much of Avennia’s success to Chris’s clarity of vision as a winemaker. “We worked hard to identify our mission, what would differentiate our brand,” Marty said. “Chris wrote a powerful, compelling message about what wines we would produce and how he was going to make them. That’s what we built Avennia around and we executed on our strategy flawlessly.”

Their laser-focus precision, strong sense of identity and purpose, and award-winning wines have led to sold-out vintages and a devoted mailing list. In July, to coincide with Bastille Day, the duo launched a new label Les Trouvés, to celebrate the spirit of Provence in Washington. This is one mailing list that you won’t want to unsubscribe from.

avennia.com, lesvinstrouves.com

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Oregon Winemakers

Woodinville tasting rooms include winemakers from the broader Pacific Northwest region. Zerba Cellars, for example, is one of three Oregon wineries with tasting rooms in Woodinville.

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Your guaranteed ticket to events like the Celebrate Woodinville Concert series, Taste & Tunes Warehouse Party Summer Kick-Off, Hollywood Block Party, St. Nick’s Open House, VIP tasting tours, and more. Purchase a 2016 Passport to Woodinville Wine Country when they go on sale in December.

It’s the perfect gift for local wine connoisseurs up for the challenge of visiting more than 60 wineries in 2016. Because most tastings range in price from $10-15, an official Passport will save you more than $800 throughout the year. Make it to all 60 wineries? Attend a celebration party in January 2017 for everyone who completed their passport books.

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uincy to Woodinville

In 2000, the Washington wine industry received a boost when a state law allowed for wineries to create satellite tasting rooms, which meant wineries could open additional locations and serve food. The Cave B tasting room in Woodinville brings wines from one of our favorite Washington wine escapes, the Cave B Estate Winery & Resort in Quincy, Washington, closer to home.

Its stunning accommodations 900 feet above the Columbia River are matched only by the quality of its 30 vineyards, where 18 varieties and 120 acres worth of grapes are grown, as well as its wines, which number 26 varietals and blends and include several Double Gold Seattle Wine Award recipients and the Wine Spectator 91-point 2011 Tempranillo.

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Red, White, and Tuna

Travel to Tuna, Texas, in the final installment of the Tuna trilogy at the Woodinville Repertory Theatre. Founded in 1998 by television’s Peg Phillips, who starred in CBS’s Northern Exposure, the theatre has entertained wine tourists and locals alike with high quality live productions in an intimate setting. Performances are staged in the Denali Slab & Tile Studio in the West Valley District just up the road from The Woodhouse Wine Estates, making it an excellent way to finish off an evening of wine tasting.

“Red, White, and Tuna,” will open October 2 and run weekends through October 18. The Washington Post calls the script a “satirical ride into the hearts and minds of the polyester-clad citizens of Texas’ third smallest town.”

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Solar and Explore

Take to the skies for a Woodinville experience that’s unlike any other. Book a “Wine Tasting & Flight Seeing” expedition through Evergreen Escapes.

Lift off in a Kenmore Air seaplane as it flies from Seattle’s Lake Union, and take in a stunning bird’s-eye view of the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainer, and surrounding vistas. Then, enjoy wine tasting and tours at three Woodinville wineries, including behind-the-scenes tours and viticulture lessons from your expert tour guide.

tBike the Samammish River Trail, which offers access to many wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Part of the Seattle locks-to-lake corridor linking the Ballard Locks to Lakes Washington and Sammamish, this 11-mile asphalt trail begins in Bothell’s Blyth Park and ends in Redmond’s Marymoor Park. Access Woodinville’s Hollywood District by heading west on an off-route trail option along NE 145 Street. Bring your own bike, or rent one for the day from Woodinville Bicycle.

 

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Unwind at Willows Lodge. With pristine grounds and views of the Sammamish River, we can’t think of a better place to unwind after a full day of wine tasting, sight-seeing, and adventuring than to stay at the luxurious Willows Lodge. The amenities in this cozy Northwest-style lodge are unbeatable. Eat at the highly-regarded Barking Frog and book a spa treatment at the day spa. You can even book transportation for wine tours. If you decided to never check out, we wouldn’t blame you.

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Excellent wines enjoyed in a gorgeous setting await visitors to JM Cellars, but if you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you can volunteer to participate in the crush experience. This year, JM Cellars will crush approximately 100 tons of grapes from eight different vineyards.

Located on an exquisitely landscaped hill called The Bramble Bump, which was originally an arboretum planted by horticulturists Jay and Smutty Smith, JM Cellars employs a master gardener, Mary Warren to assist with cleaning trails, pruning the 120 Japanese Maples, caring for the other rare specimens on the winery’s dreamy property.

Volunteers spend an eight-hour day doing heavy lifting, removing matter-other-than-grapes (MOG) from the conveyer belt, and can even hop in the bin to crush fruit with their feet (covered in food-grade plastic bags, of course). It’s a messy experience, but an amazing opportunity to participate firsthand in a harvest known for producing more than one hundred ratings of 90 points or better and two wines named by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as among the top 50 in the world.

 
hiskey, Vodka, and Craft Beerw

A visit to Woodinville Wine Country needn’t mean foregoing spirits or craft beer for the duration of your stay. In addition to its more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms, Woodinville is also home to several of the state’s top distilleries and craft breweries.

Forbes named Woodinville Whiskey Co. one of the top ten whiskey distilleries to tour in America, with the focal point its one-ton copper still handcrafted from Germany. This month, after five years in the making, Woodinville Whiskey Co. will make bourbon history as it releases its standard barrel Flagship Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Due out September 12, the distillery expects a lineup of fans eager for the first bottles; many plan to camp out overnight. Kentucky bourbon aficionados will want to taste the difference that Washington state ingredients produce. This local hot spot also produces an Age Your Own™ Whiskey Kit, Peabody Jones Vodka, and barrel aged maple syrup.

Washington state grapes can be used for more than just winemaking! Made with grapes grown in its Zillah, Washington, vineyard, Grapeworks Distilling produces single varietal vodkas from Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris grapes. Visit their tasting room to learn more about single varietal spirits.

Ranked second in the U.S. for the number of craft breweries that call our state home, production by Washington based small independent breweries grew by 22 percent last year. With a more than 30-year history of craft brewing, Woodinville’s Redhook Brewery preceded the trend. Its flagship brew is the Redhook ESB. Sample five beers during the tour and tasting

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Extra Effort

The good times flow like wine in Woodinville, but so do the good vibes. A number of charitable events take place throughout the year, but one of the most exciting is the Winemaker, Brewer, and Distiller Triathlon. This tri-relay race asks more than 20 teams from area wineries, breweries, and distilleries to run, cycle, and paddle. This year, money raised will go toward The Good Times Project, a pediatric oncology camp for patients, survivors and siblings.
The event is meant to be entertaining for spectators, who can cheer on familiar faces and purchase gamemaking elements to help their favorite team or stymie opposing teams.

 

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Your Choice

If you have your mind made up and already know what you want to sip, design your own wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Theme Tasting ($10).

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ZYMOLOGY

Zymology is a branch of chemistry that studies fermentation. If a visit to Woodinville leaves you longing to learn more about the science of winemaking, there are a number of area programs that aim to educate aspiring winemakers. Woodinville winemakers hail from winemaking programs at South Seattle Community College, Walla Walla Community College, and the University of California-Davis.

Before you enroll, take a trip to one of the region’s most well-known wineries, Columbia Winery, and explore its new education center. Ask for the 90-minute “Understanding Washington Wines: Educational Tour & Wine Tasting,” which will give you access to Woodinville’s largest, hands-on education center. You’ll also have the opportunity to taste six premium wines.

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