By John ~ July 30th, 2010.
According to the latest list published by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, there are more wineries licensed with a Woodinville address than with a Yakima, Prosser, Benton City (Red Mountain), Spokane, or Tri-Cities address, more than anywhere in Washington State other than Walla Walla. This is especially noteworthy because almost none of these wineries are growing their grapes in Woodinville. Today, there are even a number of Walla Walla wineries with a Woodinville tasting room or one in the works. There are billboards around Seattle that say that there are over 70 wineries and/or tasting rooms in Woodinville. By my count, there are over 90, and the number seems to be increasing every day.
Woodinville is only 30 minutes from Seattle, and the Seattle metroplex is the population center of the state. When I asked Pepper Bridge’s Norm McKibben why the iconic Walla Walla winery has put in a tasting room in Woodinville, Norm replied:
“Walla Walla has been very good to us, but we need to also have a presence closer to the people. Only 10% of the tourists to Washington State come to Walla Walla. And, in fact, only 30% of the residents of Washington State have ever been to Walla Walla.”
The first time I went to Woodinville to taste wine, it was just a sleepy little rural community that just happened to be close to Seattle. There were only a handful of wineries, only a couple of which were opened daily. Today, Woodinville is one of the Seattle area’s top tourist attractions, with at least 18 tasting rooms open daily and upwards of 70 open on the weekend. In addition, the Woodinville Wine Country Association sponsors Passport to Woodinville (first weekend of April) and St. Nicholas Weekend (first weekend of December). And many of the wineries themselves sponsor their own events throughout the year from spring and fall releases to Chateau Ste. Michelle’s summer concert series.
It all started in Woodinville in 1976 when Ste. Michelle Vintners built a French-style chateau in Woodinville on an estate owned by Seattle lumber baron Frederick Stimson and changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle. Right across the street from Chateau Ste. Michelle is Columbia Winery, one of Washington’s oldest wineries and a tourist attractions in its own right. Facelli Winery, the third Woodinville winery, opened in 1988. DeLille Cellars, founded in 1992, was the fourth winery in Woodinville and the beginning of a wave of boutique wineries in the area, such as Betz Family Winery.
Prominent among the stand-alone wineries that have come into Woodinville have been Januik Winery and Novelty Hill who share a top-of-the-line facility just down the road from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery. On the other end of the spectrum are wineries such as Adams Bench and Hollywood Hill Vineyards who started out in their garage or a small facility on their home property. Hollywood Hill also has the only producing vineyard in Woodinville, growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. There are also some mid-sized wineries like Matthews Estate who have stand-alone facilities. Other wineries have and will go stand-alone as they outgrow their facilities in the warehouse district.
The Warehouse Wineries
In recent years, the warehouse winery district in Woodinville has become a tourist attraction of its own, advertising that there are “35 artisan wineries within a one-minute radius.” In fact, Betz Family Winery is one of the more notable graduates from the warehouse district. Things are moving so fast that I found five wineries in the warehouse district that aren’t even on their website list.
A more recent development has been wineries located in other parts of the state opening tasting rooms in Woodinville. So if you live on the west side of the state and you’ve been wanting to visit wineries such as Airfield Estates, Alexandria Nicole, Amavi, Canon de Sol, Challenger Ridge, Chandler Reach, Covey Run, Dusted Valley, Gifford Hirlinger, Gordon Brothers, Goose Ridge, Irlandes, Isenhower, J. Bookwalter, Otis Kenyon, Pepper Bridge, Tefft, or Zerba, you might want to check them out in Woodinville first before driving to their primary locations across the mountains.
Any list of Woodinville wineries/tasting rooms will be out-of-date by the time it goes to press. Since I haven’t found a single one that’s 100% accurate and up-to-date, I’ve started my own. (Click here for our .pdf list of Woodinville wineries/tasting rooms including website, address, phone, and hours.) If you see additions, deletions, or corrections that need to be made, please let me know. And, for regular Woodinville wine news and updates, visit Shona Milne’s Woodinville Wine Update blog; she seems to have a better pulse on what is going on in Woodinville than anyone else.
If you haven’t yet made a Woodinville wine tasting trip, you ought to put it on your schedule now. It’s amazing to observe the energy and the commitment to producing great world-class wine from some of Washington’s best vineyards and sharing that wine with visitors from around the world.
Filed under: American Wine, General Wine Information, Washington State Wine