An Afternoon in Woodinville, Suburban Wine Country

By Kori ~ August 4th, 2008.

Three of Washington State’s largest and most opulent winery facilities are located in Woodinville, a suburb of Seattle. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, and Novelty Hill/Januik make excellent stops on anyone’s wine tasting adventure.

In addition to the “Big Three,” Woodinville is also home to a number of small, garagiste wineries. But instead of being located in someone’s garage, most of these mom-and-pop operations are located in local business parks or storage facilities. While over 30 wineries currently have production facilities or tasting rooms in Woodinville, almost all of them actually get their grapes from vineyards in eastern Washington.

One Saturday afternoon last month, the Wine Peeps made the 20 mile trek to Woodinville for a bit of wine tasting. Since we have been to the “Big Three” numerous times, we decided to check out a few of the smaller wineries that we had not previously visited.

Our first stop was at Chatter Creek. During our visit, we had the pleasure to meet Gordy Rawson, winemaker/owner, who founded Chatter Creek in 1996. Chatter Creek’s annual production is approximately 2000 cases and is focused on the Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. We tasted five of their wines and especially liked the 2005 Clifton Hill Syrah.

Just down the street from Chatter Creek is Stevens Winery. Tim and Paige Stevens opened Stevens Winery in 2002. Tim is also an artist and designs an original label for each Stevens wine. Their yearly production is about 2000 cases. Of the three wines we tasted, their 2007 Divio Viognier was our favorite.

Our next stop took us to Matthews Estate. Matt Loso founded Matthews Estate in 1993. His wines have received numerous accolades. However, earlier this summer, Matt sold his interest in the winery to his partners. We, unfortunately, did not have a very pleasant experience at Matthews Estate. The four wines we tasted were okay, but not great, and certainly not worth the money. And the tasting room staff was a bit snooty. The lady serving us even made a snide comment to me about the fact that I was spitting and taking notes. I wonder if Matthews Estate has always been this way or if things have changed since Matt left.

Darby Winery was our final visit of the afternoon. Darby Winery is a fairly new winery founded by Darby English, winemaker/owner. Even though they are located in a business park, Darby has done an excellent job creating a nice ambience in the tasting room. Of the three wines we tasted, we liked their latest release, the 2006 Chaos, the best.

For information and a listing of other wineries in the area, visit the Woodinville Wine Country website.

Here’s a breakdown of the wines that we tasted in Woodinville. Under each Quality heading, the wine name and region will be listed along with price and QPR rating.

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2005 Chatter Creek Syrah, Clifton Hill Vineyard (Wahluke Slope), $38, QPR: 4
2006 Darby Chaos Red Wine (Columbia Valley), $28, QPR: 4

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Chatter Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Alder Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills), $30, QPR: 4
2007 Chatter Creek Pinot Gris (Columbia Valley), $15, QPR: 3
2007 Stevens Divio Viognier (Yakima Valley), $22, QPR: 2
2001 Matthews Columbia Valley Red Wine (Columbia Valley), $70, QPR: 1

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2006 Stevens YES Red Wine (Yakima Valley), $16, QPR: 4
2006 Chatter Creek Cabernet Franc, Alder Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills), $24, QPR: 2
2006 Darby Syrah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills), $30, QPR: 2
2004 Matthews Columbia Valley Claret (Columbia Valley), $30, QPR: 2
2007 Stevens A Second Thought Sauvignon Blanc (Yakima Valley), $19, QPR: 1
2007 Darby Le Deuce Viognier/Roussanne (Columbia Valley), $24, QPR: 1
2005 Matthews Red Mountain Syrah (Red Mountain), $55, QPR: 1

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2006 Chatter Creek Grenache (Columbia Valley), $18, QPR: NR
2007 Matthews Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley), $30, QPR: NR

Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Red Wine, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, Viognier, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Woodinville Wine Update » Matthews Estate Has Suspended Operations | August 17th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    […] a real treat. There was a post a few weeks back by Kori at Wine Peeps who felt the staff provided sub-optimal service under the new management. Perhaps this break will give the new owners a chance to regroup. Read […]

  2. Gregory Copploe | July 2nd, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Wineries Have Partnered up with Local Artists to Bring you an Evening of Wine Tasting and Art Viewing

    (SEATTLE) June 11, 2009 – Alicia Hansen announced Wednesday that Woodinville will host an evening of art and wine tasting on July 16, 2009 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. “Wine and art go hand in hand, and we are excited to support our local wineries and local artists and host what will be a yearly event in Woodinville”. It’s such a mellifluous mix, art and wine, and we expect a huge turnout”.
    This year we have several wineries participating in this event, and we are proud that they will be giving back to the community by hosting a local artist in their winery. The participating wineries are: Des Voigne Cellars, Alexandria Nicole, Anton Ville, Chatter Creek, Covington Cellars, Cowan Vineyards, Edmonds Winery, Gordon Brothers, Page Cellars, Patterson Cellars, Red Sky Winery and William Church Winery. “William Church Winery is proud to host an artist this year. This exposure is great for both the artist and the winery, so it’s a win win for all”, touted Leslie Balsley owner of William Church Winery.
    Two featured artists, Gretchen Michaels and Gregory Copploe are part of this year’s festivities. Ms. Michaels has partnered up with Red Sky Winery and Mr. Copploe has partnered up with William Church Winery. Gretchen Michaels’ actual paintings are done in “reverse” as she paints on the back side of an acrylic panel. Unlike painting on canvas where the first painted layers get covered with each additional layer of paint, you see her first layers, then less of each additional layer. When the artwork is mounted using her custom built frames, you are looking at the paint through the acrylic panel. Many layers of paint create the final effect. Gregory Copploe’s unique oil style has been compared to Amedeo Modigliani, as he captures the delicate and passionate soul of the woman, her nose elongated, her lips pouting, and her eyes soulful and wanting. His style evolved from painting faces in the clouds, to creating thick oils in spatula, and eventually painting portraits of classical women in a Modiglianic style. Greg and Gretchen both believe that “showing your art in this setting where wine and art are paired together is a winning and sensual combination”.
    Come and taste at twelve of the wineries in the Woodinville Warehouse District for only $20 (cash only). Each winery will feature two wines along with art from a local host artist. Tickets can be purchased at the Woodinville Park North ticket tent (located at 19501 144th Avenue NE just across from Building A at the entrance to the park), Chatter Creek (18658 142nd Ave. NE and Covington Cellars (18580 142nd Ave. NE
    For more info go to

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