“Isn’t it a state law that every Washington winery is mandated to have a tasting room in Woodinville?” joked Andy Perdue, editor of Wine Press Northwest magazine, at a recent seminar at Taste Washington.
Everyone laughed, but with almost 100 wineries or tasting rooms in Woodinville, it could be true.
I have toured many of the wine regions of the world: the Mosel in Germany, Bordeaux in France, Tuscany in Italy, the Duero in Portugal. Of course, many visits to Sonoma and Napa Valleys. The other day, I ventured into Woodinville for the first time for wine tasting. I have been to Chateau Ste. Michelle for concerts, meetings and events. And to Columbia and Januik/Novelty Hill for meetings and events, too. Our whole family has volunteered at DeLille Cellars. In fact, for the last crush, my husband worked 10 days.
However, I have never been to Woodinville to do the usual winery visiting. I was daunted by the total number of wineries and being unfamiliar with Woodinville in general.
Teri, our youngest daughter, is the Inglemoor High School nurse and lives in Kirkland, just over the hill from Woodinville. She has inherited her parents’ interest in wine and is a constant visitor to Woodinville. She was our tour guide. She is a club member of many wineries and is often greeted by name.
Focusing on the wine: the grapes come from Eastern Washington. However, the majority of wine purchases are in heavily populated Western Washington — primarily King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It pays to have a presence on our side of the mountains.
In Woodinville, there are tasting rooms of wines produced in Eastern Washington. There are also wineries where the grapes are brought in from Eastern Washington, and the winemaking actually takes place in Woodinville.
I was in Woodinville on a Saturday. It was not a specifically important Saturday, except that the weather was wonderful. The traffic was fierce; the parking was scarce. Betz Family Winery did have its pick-up of ordered wine. Traffic into Betz was directed by police. I commented that I would not like to be a Woodinville resident who had to do my chores on the weekend.
Whenever we visit Napa and Sonoma, we rarely visit more than five wineries per day. We usually plan to stop for lunch, but it never happens. We always end up having an early dinner. You can’t do a winery justice if you blitz in and out. You don’t savor the wine or listen to their history. However, the California wineries are closer together. In Washington, they are not only spread out but sometimes hard to find.
Woodinville is a half hour, 20-mile drive from Mercer Island. Plan on visiting Woodinville more than once. As you understand the layout, Woodinville wine touring will become easier.
The big ones
Relatives from the Midwest are coming to visit. Aunt Minnie’s favorite wine is white, but she can’t remember the brand or varietal, but it has a grape on the label. This is also for people who have never visited wineries. Chateau Ste. Michelle is the most polished with a very informational wine tour. The surrounding gardens and landscaping are breathtaking.
Then, drive across the street to Columbia and then visit Januik/Novelty Hill, which is right behind Columbia. Finish off with a late lunch/early dinner at Red Hook Brewery, which is just east of Columbia.
All these three have food available. Columbia serves flatbread pizzas on Wednesday through Sunday. Novelty Hill offers a seasonal menu on the weekends. Chateau Ste. Michelle has a wonderful gift shop where salami, cheese and crackers can be purchased. Food is important while wine tasting. Our daughter brought bottles of water and a selection of crackers in the car truck.
The tourist district
Woodinville sponsors a First Thursday Wine Walk in the Hollywood District. While it might be crowded, participants are assured that the wineries are open on the first Thursday of the month from 4 to 8 p.m. $20 per person buys 15 tasting tickets. Bring your own glass; cash only.
The warehouse district
In a couple of industrial parks just north of the tourist area is the hottest spot for wine tasting in Woodinville. On the third Thursday, the Warehouse District is featured from 4 to 8 p.m. $20 per person buys 15 tasting tickets. Bring your own glass; cash only. Food trucks are available. There are more than 43 small wineries and/or tasting rooms within easy walking distance of each other. One cluster is located just off of 144th Avenue Northeast, and a smaller cluster is off of 142nd Avenue Northeast. If you visit the wineries at other times, there is usually a tasting fee that is often refunded if wine is purchased. Make sure to visit William Church Winery, which is owned by Leslie Lind Balsley and her husband, Rod. Leslie grew up on Mercer Island and graduated from Mercer Island High School. They have a tasting room in both the warehouse district and also the tourist district.
January bridal fair
In January, a bridal fair is held. The seven wedding venues — Columbia, Januik/Novelty Hill, J&M Winery, Willows Lodge, Woodman Wine Estate, DeLille Cellars and Matthews Winery — are decked out in wedding decorations. One hundred wedding industry professionals such as florists, photographers and musicians give out information. A shuttle is run to the various wedding sites where food and wine are served.
Events coming soon
Woodinville Reserve on Friday, April 12, from 7-10 p.m. at Columbia Winery.
In a brand new event, over 40 Woodinville wineries will fill the floors of the historic Columbia Winery to pour wines rated at least 90 points from major wine publications as well as special wines too limited in quantity to be reviewed. Gourmet bites will also be served from local Woodinville restaurants. Tickets are $75.
Passport to Woodinville Open House: April 20 and 21 from 12-4 p.m.
Then the following weekend, Passport to Woodinville, which is in its 11th year, has its two days of four hours each. $65 for Sunday only, $75 for Saturday and Sunday. And the best price? $125 includes both days of Passport plus the brand new Woodinville Reserve the previous weekend.