One of the great things that I am finding about Washington is that there are so many different experiences within an easy driving distance. The East side of the state, where I am currently living, is all high desert. The desert has its own kind of beauty, with the rolling hills and rivers flowing in every direction, but drive a few hours West and you will cross over the mountains and be in the middle of the evergreen forests and coastal areas. Last weekend I took a trip to Woodinville and Seattle to hang out with my friend Andrew Lazorchak, who was up from Napa visiting some of his Wine Soiree clients. Although a single day in Woodinville isn't enough time to fully experience the area, we did enjoy some great wines and beautiful scenery.
Woodinville is a unique wine enclave within the Seattle metropolitan area. Despite being only 30 minutes from downtown Seattle, Woodinville feels very secluded from the big city. When Chateau Ste. Michelle set up shop in Woodinville a little more than 30 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine what the area would become. There are now over 70 wineries in the area, both primary locations and satellite tasting rooms for wineries in other parts of the state. The area also offers great lodging, shopping, and dining. If you visit Woodinville and are looking to pack as many winery stops as possible into a day, the Warehouse District gives you access to over 35 wineries within easy walking distance. A tour of this area would give any visitor a nice snapshot of wines produced from fruit from around the state.
The majority of the wines being sold in Woodinville are produced from fruit sourced from different areas of the Columbia Valley. The Western side of Washington does grow some grapes, primarily whites, but the majority of the fruit production is done in the more arid and warmer Eastern side of the state.
During the time that I was in Woodinville, we decided to visit only a handful of wineries, rather than blowing through as many as possible. It was release weekend for several wineries, so we had the opportunity to taste some wines that were just hitting the streets. I met up with my friends Margot Savell, Shona Milne, Andrew Lazorchak, and Barbara Evans, and we started our tour.
Ross Andrew Winery
The tasting room for Ross Andrew Winery is right in the heart of Woodinville. We had the opportunity to meet with Ross Andrew himself, and he introduced us to his new release 2009 Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris, which was a lovely aromatic white with floral notes and pears jumping out on the nose, and some nice crisp mix of fruit and minerality on the palate. We also tasted the 2008 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, also a new release. This Syrah has the quality that you expect from a Boushey Vineyard Syrah, with earthy dark fruit and smoke aromas on the nose, and great dark fruit, a touch of citrus, and a velvety texture on the palate. The new releases from Ross Andrew were my first exposure to his wines, and I am looking forward to my next opportunity to try them again.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Alexandria Nicole was one of the many standouts that I remembered from my trip to Washington for the Wine Bloggers' Conference in June. They produce an astounding number of different varieties of wine from the grapes grown at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard. The wines that I have tasted have consistently been of high quality, and the tasting room in the Woodinville Hollywood School House makes for a great visit. Alexandria Nicole produces so many wines, that I can't really do justice to them in the space that I have here, but look for a more detailed post coming up soon about their 2008 Members Only blend. The blend is a Mourvedre based blend of Rhone varieties, which makes it a perfect wine for my Movember Mourvedre project.
Brian Carter Cellars
Brian Carter Cellars is known for their European-style blends. They currently offer one white blend, and red blends that range in styles of blends from the Rhone, Bordeaux, and Tuscany, just to name a few. They also have begun to produce a handful of single varietal wines, although the focus is still primarily on blends. We tasted several great wines, but I was especially enamored with the 2007 Corrida, a Spanish-style of blend that featured Tempranillo. I will be doing a more detailed tasting of this wine in a future post, but suffice it to say that the dark fruit and cedar notes that stand out on this wine were enough to draw me back for another tasting.
Although we didn't spend much time in the Warehouse District, Barbara took Andrew and I to visit one of her favorite Warehouse stops. Sparkman Cellars is a small production winery that has been producing wine since 2004. The winery features some cool branding, with wines named Ruckus, Darkness, and Kingpin. The juice is nice as well. One of my favorites was their Ruckus Syrah, which had some really great dark fruit and smoky character. I will definitely be making my way back to Sparkman Cellars on future trips to the West side.
Whether you are looking to tour the beautiful Chateau Ste. Michelle location, or work your way through the smaller artisan winemakers that can be found in the area, Woodinville is a destination that has the be experienced. The sheer density of the wine population in this area make it a unique stop, as you won't have to spend half your time driving to see everything that you want to see. The easiest way to maximize your time would be to visit the Warehouse District, but don't neglect all of the great stops that the rest of the area have to offer. You won't be able to see everything in a single day, so make sure to plan where you would like to go before hand, or do what I did and enlist the help of one of the locals. Oh, and beware of the roundabouts.