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Wine Tasting and More in Woodinville, WA

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Jason Baldwin, Refuge & Prospect

Sometimes stories sit in edit. Sometimes stories get lost in edit. We've discussed this, multiple times.
Here is another story that never made it to the other end. It's worth sharing as we approach the 2015 Auction of Washington Wines. That's a weekend of picnics, dinners, galas, and wine from all over the state, in Woodinville, starting August 13th. Can't make it? Keep reading anyway. Woodinville, WA is a city you should know about. Tack it onto a Seattle trip. Or visit separately.

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“We have some friends who are really into wine,” says Celia D’Alessandro, eying a limited edition creation at Chateau Ste Michelle. “We want to have something they don’t.” The real estate professional from Northport has traveled with her husband to experience the world’s greatest. Last year: Bordeaux; today: Woodinville, WA, where 108 of the state’s 800 wineries have tasting rooms. Many are satellites of operations located on the other side of the Cascades Mountains. That’s east, where the grapes are: 43,000 acres divided into 13 regions (aka appellations) across hundreds of miles. The people, the drinkers and distributors, are in the west. 20 miles from Seattle (by highway or bike path), Woodinville is the place to discover what Washington wines are all about.

Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Estates (14111 Ne 145th St.; 425-488-1133; ste-michelle.com) is a great starting point, literally. Established in 1976, with a history that dates to the repeal of Prohibition, this was the first winery in Woodinville. The free 35-minute tour introduces you to things like “liquid sunshine” (rain; they get that a lot) and Horse Heaven Hills (an appellation that produces 25-percent of the state’s grapes), and ends with a taste of three wines. Continue the experience with four more tastes, $10, requesting things you can’t get anywhere else (assistant winemaker series).

Ten years ago there were only 20 tasting rooms in town. The rapid growth began in 2008 in the Hollywood Schoolhouse area, a ten minute walk from Chateau Ste Michelle. There is an actual schoolhouse, built in 1912, now a private event space in the middle of three small, strip-mall type lots accommodating some 30 tasting rooms. Newcomer Market Vineyards (14810 NE 145th St.; 425-486-1171; marketvineyards.com) joined the others this July, pouring the likes of Arbitrage Cabernet Sauvignon and Liquidity (a Roussanne-Viognier blend). Get it? Stock Market.

You could spend your whole day here, stepping from room to room, or sitting at Village Wines (14450 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE; myvillagewines.com) – 34 wines by the glass; 16 WA, from $6. Inside Chandler Reach (14700 148th Ave NE; chandlerreach.com) there’s Designated Driver Coffee Co serving free espressos and drip coffee to drivers, from $1.50 for everyone else. And get to Lauren Ashton (14545 148th Ave NE; laurenashtoncellars.com) where you may meet winemaker – possibly the greatest part of Woodinville is the opportunity for this type of connection - Kit Singh, a daytime dentist who is a big believer in Washington. “We have better fruit than California. We have three hours more sunshine and the right conditions for cooling down.”

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Michael Savage, Savage Grace

Moving on – this is the time to call Green Cab (206 575 4040 ) or Uber – Seek out Refuge and Prospect (19400 144th Ave NE; refugeandprospectwinery.com/), opened by winemaker Jason Baldwin in March. Everyone can appreciate these well composed wines, so interesting and dynamic they can send the wine geekiest into talespin. “Being a neophyte winemaker I’ve got my lifetime ahead of me to experiment,” says Baldwin of his disregard for traditional expectations. Seeing Red, he says, is Washington in a bottle, “You need a spreadsheet to track where all the grapes are grown.”  And you can’t get it anywhere else.

Hard to believe this cozy industrial chic hunting-ish lodge space neighbors a transmission shop, but that’s par for the course in Woodinville’s Warehouse District. Cross the street to enter a concentration of some 50 rooms within former light-industrial spaces. Another possible all-day affair. Wander to the back to Savage Grace (19501 144th Ave NE; 920-4206; savagegraceines.com) where newcomer Michael Savage can be found, talking Loire Valley and Beaujolais, and translating their styles with Washington grapes. “We don’t want wines to give you everything,” he says. “We want them to have a question mark, but have a graceful end.” The only question you’ll have is – how much room do I have in my suitcase?

A day of wine is best broken up with a refreshing beer or a flight ($7 for six 3-oz glasses). Redhook Brewery and Forecasters Public House (14300 NE 145th St.; redhook.com) sells beer to stay or go, as well as pub favorites like wings, $8, and offers tours too, $5.

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fried pickles @ Hollwood Tavern

Save room for dinner – and local spirits – at Hollywood Tavern + Woodinville Whiskey (14508 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE; 425 488 0630). This upscale diner opened November 2013 and serves the most attractive and tastiest Fried Pickles, $7, we’ve ever had (crispy cornmeal yet still juicy-dilly). Or, take it up a notch at Barking Frog (14580 NE 145th St.). The delicious Halibut with controne beans, $34, is buttery yet light.

If you’re spending the night you’ll be in the town’s only hotel, the lovely Willows Lodge (14580 NE 145th St; same property as Barking Frog; 425- 424-3900; willowslodge.com), 89 rooms and suites, from $219.

Jet lag will help get you up early to borrow a bike for a ride along the paved Sammamish River trail, next to the property. Keep to the right, single file please; everyone’s friendly yet serious about their bike etiquette. After, hit The Commons (14481 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE; thecommonscafe.com) for a Smoked Salmon Scramble, $14. This is Hollywood Schoohouse again, which means tasting rooms next door. You can do lunch – menu changes monthly, think $8-14 pizzas and mezze - at Pairings (18580 142nd Ave NE; covingtoncellars.com), the restaurant within the Covington Cellars tasting room.

Note: Tasting room hours vary but most are open 1-5pm, weekends only. Check websites or call ahead for specifics. Many wineries – including Betz (betzfamilywinery.com) and Delille (delillecellars.com) - use volunteers during harvest (September-October) and bottling. Again, call ahead.

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