Wine in the US for most foreign wine drinkers means just Napa or to extend it to a maximum – California. It is often beneficial to be open-minded and try something new, perhaps even from the same “pond”.
I have been a long time admirer of Pinots from Oregon (bordering California in the North), but also caught some birds singing [my American friends] that the Washington State has some interesting liquid grapes.
So I took off further North and landed in a terroir of surprises. Ocean on one side, Canadian border on the other, and the wild Oregon in the backbone, they all surround the wine country of the Washington State.
There is no need to trail the entire State though. The locals provide a direct wine experience on their doorstep.
Just a 3o minute ride from Seattle is a wine village called Woodinville. Here many wine makers from the entire country set at least a tiny tasting room so the city dwellers have an easy escape to the country full of passion for the liquid of gods – the wine.
The Woodenville tasting rooms are segregated into three main districts and the rest which I’d call off the beaten path wineries.
"wine decoration" at Alexandria Nicole Cellars
The three “kings” are:
1) the Warehouse District: Des Voigne Cellars, Efesté and others are hidden on the 14th Avenue in the Northern tip of the town
2) the North Industrial Park: Covington Cellars and Hestia Cellars just below the Warehouse District
3) the Schoolhouse District welcoming you into the town if you come from Seattle: Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Hollywood Hill Vineyards and many others are clustered in this major spot
There are lots of small tasting rooms, but you cannot miss the oldest and the only locally producing vineyard, winery and castle in one – Chateau Ste Michelle. The history of wine making there reaches far into the Repeal of Prohibition in the US in the last century, but what is the most enthralling is its exclusive role as the pioneer of wine in the Washington State.
Today, this enchanting chateau is popular with picnic enthusiasts setting up their delicious lunches or local delicacies (often brought from the Seattles famous Pike Street Market – the sockeye salmon, artisan cheese, organic vegetables and fruits). Sipping on any locally sourced bottle of wine on the lawn of this historic property.
Sokeye salmon and halibut at Pike St. Market in Seattle
Whether you spoil yourself with a picnic or not, a visit of the chateau is a must. The tour leader is knowledgeable not only about the Ste Michelle’s award winning wines, but he has secrets to reveal during the 30 minute visit of the winery. The concluding tasting of three wines with a sweet muscat rewards you for your educational effort.
Your journey should not stop at the Chateau Ste. Michelle though as its neighbour the Columbia Winery recently renovated its tasting room and the results are worth a sip or two of their outstanding wines in a comfortable chair or couch facing a soothing fireplace.
Woodenville is for me one of the most vivid examples of an American sense for practical thinks with all special effects making your life easier – why to travel as far as to the wine country while we can set up a “tasting village” around the corner of a big city? yes, it is highly convenient. However, for the more curious I would recommend a trip to the source. The Vineyards are just so beautiful and the wine makers’ passion for their “liquid daily bread” is something worth the extra mile.