Travel like a Tourist

Exploring Woodinville Wine Country
JM Cellars

JM Cellars. Photos by Jon Anderson

In Woodinville, a collective passion for winemaking has grown into an area so focused on the love and appreciation of wine that you could happily lose yourself in it. Without ever being intimidating, Woodinville Wine Country is impressing wine lovers from around the world who come to experience the best of Washington wines.

As luck would have it, those on the Eastside are just a short trip away from Woodinville, a city just 12 miles north of Bellevue. Or better yet, let a knowledgeable tour guide like Stuart Butler of Butler Wine Tours, a.k.a. the “Wine Stuart,” pick you up and show you what the area has to offer. “The atmosphere is so relaxed here. You just keep tasting wines and you’ll find what you like,” Butler said.

You can tour through Woodinville with your pick of more than 90 wineries to taste and enjoy. But it’s best to choose just a few, so you can linger a while. Let the flavors develop fully because it will be worth it.

If you don’t know which wines you love yet, Woodinville Wine Country is the place to meet the winemakers and learn. If you only want the best and you know what that means to you, it’s here too. Wine tasting in Woodinville is about finding your passion and then relaxing into it.

So what will you visit Woodinville Wine Country for?

Purple Café and Wine Bar

Purple Café and Wine Bar

The Romance

Passing through lush trees near the top of Hollywood Hill you’ll come upon Adams Bench Winery (14360 160th Place N.E.), where winemakers Tim and Erica Blue are crafting small batches of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends so coveted that this winery is a must-visit just to have the chance to taste it.

There’s an instant feeling of romance as you turn into the property, with a pasture and graceful white fence leading you to an intimate tasting room and barrel cellar below.

Tim Blue, a Seattle attorney who grew up in Indiana, draws you in with his enthusiasm as he shares his vast experience. He started in winemaking after traveling and appreciating European and Northern California wines. “Everything matters,” he says of the choices the winery makes for grapes from Eastern Washington, French oak barrels and corks.

At Lachini Vineyards Tasting Room (14455 A Woodinville Redmond Road), vintners Ron and Marianne Lachini have a small open space that gives you the feeling of old-world shops where artisans strive to share their love for a single product with you. Here that product is wine made with grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

“People with very busy social schedules come here to relax and unwind,” Tasting Room Associate L.M. Archer said. She encourages visitors to get to know Woodinville’s wineries for the value as well as the experience. “Our wine is really inexpensive for the quality.”

The Vibe

Up on a secluded hillside sits a 7 acre property that was originally a stunning private home. At JM Cellars (14404 137th Place NE) winemakers John and Peggy Bigelow have a relaxed space that manages to be impressive and laid-back at the same time. With a rambling tasting room and grounds graced with lush trails leading to a pond, JM Cellars is a scene-stealer in Woodinville.

The winery has a youthful vibe and the people watching is almost as enjoyable as one of John’s enthusiastic tours, where he shows off his barrels like your hip and worldly friend.

If you’re heading to JM Cellars or anywhere you’ll want to grab a box lunch at The Vineyard French Bakery (16507 140th Place NE) where owner LeeAnn Belarde, a Woodinville native, is offering sweet and savory classic French bakery items to pair with the wines you’ll discover.

At Ross Andrew Winery (14810 NE 145th St. Suite A-2) just north of the Hollywood Schoolhouse, winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel shares his premium red and white wines in a breezy new interior designed by his father, Bellevue architect Ned Nelson. The space feels very Northwest modern while giving off a good dose of “Mad Men” cool, too.

Mickel believes Woodinville Wine Country is popular because people love making a connection to their wine’s story. “People want to talk to the winemaker,” he said. “Our best customers are friends now.”

The Energy

To see the labor of love for small wineries head to the Warehouse District, where more than 40 wineries have come together in an industrial area to give it the buzz and energy of a group endeavor.

Olivier Dispas and Stephanie Rodriguez of Redmond tour the barrel room at JM Cellars.

Olivier Dispas and Stephanie Rodriguez of Redmond tour the barrel room at JM Cellars.

Winemaker Kevin Correll of Barrage Cellars (19501 144th Ave. NE, E-800) shares his varietal blends in an open space where he loves giving visitors an up-close look at his work. A Boeing instructor by day, Correll takes a month off during the harvest season to create his wines.

“I’m not paying myself. I’m self-funded,” he said. “It’s a passion and I do it because I love it.” Warehouse District winemakers routinely share equipment and many would not be able to stay open without that willingness to work together, Correll said.

A few doors down at Guardian Cellars (19501 144th Ave. NE, E-600) Lynwood police officer Jerry Riener and his wife, Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan, surprise you with a little bit of rock and roll fun. The blended wines with names like The Alibi, Chalk Line and Gun Metal, as well as the appreciation for Beastie Boys as background music, gives Guardian Cellars a high-energy downtown feel.

Riener speaks of the camaraderie between Woodinville’s small wineries and the popular local draw Chateau Ste. Michelle. “Every winery serves a purpose,” he said. “Washington winemakers are a slight anomaly in how much we work together.”

The Escape

The Willows Lodge (14580 NE 145th St.) is a well-known Woodinville getaway spot for those who appreciate Northwest luxury. Have a glass of wine in front of your room’s stone fireplace, get pampered at the spa, and enjoy some down time before dinner at the acclaimed Barking Frog restaurant.

Or take your wine to Bellevue and indulge in a weekend city escape at The Westin Bellevue (600 Bellevue Way N.E.), where you’ll relax into the uniqueness of a full-service hotel with the comfortable refinement of a high-end urban residence. The next morning be sure to try the SuperFoodsRx breakfast items at Cypress Lounge & Wine Bar, especially if you’ve overindulged.

Five Woodinville wine picks for summer

Woodinville Wine Country is the perfect place to enjoy sunny summer days and warm nights. If you’re dining at home or hosting a party of your own, here are five summer wine picks from L.M. Archer, FWS, Tasting Room Associate at Lachini Vineyards:

  • Brian Carter Cellars, 2011 Oriana “Golden Lady” $20. Golden Lady indeed. This luxurious, food-friendly Rhone-style white blend with a Riesling chaser pairs well with seafood and spicy Cajun cooking.
  • DeLille Cellars, 2011 Chaleur Estate Blanc, $35. Elegance in a bottle. Who needs reds? This full-bodied, finely balanced white Bordeaux blend bursting with hints of lemon grass, guava and white pepper compliments grilled steaks.
  • Forgeron Cellars,  2011 Chardonnay, — $27. French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla forges a Burgundian beauty — poised, polished, pleasantly light — the perfect wine for seafood, chicken, or pasta at your next patio party.
  • William Church Winery, 2012 Viognier, $23. This flirty flagship Viognier vibrates with aromatic notes of pear, honeysuckle and peach. Quite the accompaniment for Asian food.
  • Lachini Vineyards,  2011 Pinot Noir Rosé, $22. Finally, guys — a rosé you can drink without feeling foolish. Dry, crisp, refreshing — in a league of its own. And thoroughly addicting. The perfect summer concert picnic pick.

Pairing your Woodinville wine with an amazing meal

When you have fallen in love with your favorite wine the only thing left to do is celebrate it with an amazing food-and-wine pairing. Bring a bottle with you to Purple Café and Wine Bar (four locations, including 430 106th Ave. N.E., Bellevue). There is no corkage fee on your first bottle — wine director Chris Horn welcomes wine enthusiasts. “I love it when people trust us to treat their personal wine properly,” he said. Every item on their extensive menu has been carefully paired with a wine. Knowledgeable staff will help you decide how to experience such menu favorites as warm bucheron goat cheese, ahi tartare, spicy prawns and shoestring frites and dark chocolate silk mousse with its perfect accompaniment.
Bring a small party to be spoiled in one of the intimate spiral dining rooms, or ask for Horn to draw from Purple Café and Wine Bar’s incredible wine list to create a pairing menu for you that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

The Basics

Wineries and tasting rooms have unique hours and some are open by appointment only. Tasting fees range from $5-$20. Dress is casual for regular tastings. Wine walks are held the first and third Thursdays of the month, when visitors can tour and taste a number of local wines for a flat fee. Pick up a Tasting Woodinville map at many locations in Woodinville or check woodwarewine.com for current information. Details on release parties, concerts, and special events can be found at woodinvillewinecountry.com.

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