A mecca for wine lovers is 1.5 hours away | NW Wines

By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman

Never has wine country been so close to Washington’s largest population base.

Woodinville, a community of 11,000 across Lake Washington from Seattle, is far from the state’s vineyards, but it has long been home to Washington’s oldest and best-known winery.

And thanks to the success of that producer — Chateau Ste. Michelle — more than 70 wineries and tasting rooms now crowd Woodinville.

Ste. Michelle, which started in Seattle in 1934, opened its chateau in 1976. At the time, few understood the move to what was then a remote area of King County. But wine lovers came in droves, and today more than 300,000 visit Ste. Michelle each year for wine tasting, events and concerts.

Across the street is Columbia Winery, which was purchased by Gallo this summer. It started in the 1960s as Associated Vintners and has been one of the state’s best producers for its entire history.

With this foundation, Woodinville has grown to a superb destination. Between new wineries that call Woodinville home and producers that have opened satellite tasting rooms, visitors will find more than 70 places to visit in the town.

With the explosion of wineries in the past half-decade, Woodinville’s lodging and restaurant scene also have developed. The Herbfarm Restaurant — arguably the Northwest’s finest dining experience — is across the street from Ste. Michelle and shares a parking lot with Willows Lodge and the Barking Frog restaurant. A short walk away is Purple Cafe, which succeeds with great food and wine.

Here are a few wines from Woodinville producers we’ve tasted recently.

— Pondera Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $28: This big, bold wine opens with aromas of boysenberries, black tea, blueberries, mint and fresh-out-of-the-oven brownies. On the palate, it shows off rich flavors of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and chocolate. It’s a big wine in every way.

— Baer Winery 2009 Ursa, Columbia Valley, $39: A blend of Cabernet Franc (44 percent), Merlot (38 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (9 percent) and Malbec, this brings hints of blueberry cobbler, dried cranberry, violet and sweet oak tones of tobacco and black pepper.

— Chateau Ste. Michelle 2008 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $38: The attraction begins with a nose of black cherry extract and includes raspberry, root beer and woodruff, backed by humidor aromas. The presentation to the palate shows lovely extraction with juicy black cherry, black licorice, black olive and Belgian chocolate. Enjoy with a porterhouse.

— Columbia Winery 2008 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $15: Black cherry, blueberry, Van cherry, tobacco leaf and earthy accents swirl amid assertive tannins and abundant oak tones of Baker’s chocolate and drip coffee.

— Convergence Zone Cellars 2009 Storm Front, Red Mountain, $28: This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec shows off heady aromas of black cherry, cinnamon and milk chocolate and the palate follows through with pleasing balance.



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