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2011 Chardonnay a Summer "Wine Pick" - 425Magazine.com

"Forgeron Cellars, 2011 Chardonnay, — $27. French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla forges a Burgundian beauty — poised, polished, pleasantly light — the perfect wine for seafood, chicken, or pasta at your next patio party."

L.M. Archer, FWS, 425Magazine.com, July/August 2013

Travel like a Tourist - Exploring Woodinville Wine Country

By Linda Jenkins

In Woodinville, a collective passion for winemaking has grown into an area so focused on the love & appreciation of wine that you could happily lose yourself in it. Without ever being intimidating, Woodinville Wine Country is impressing wine lovers from around the world who come to experience the best of Washington wines.

As luck would have it, those on the Eastside are just a short trip away from Woodinville, a city just 12 miles north of Bellevue. Or better yet, let a knowledgeable tour guide like Stuart Butler of Butler Wine Tours, a.k.a. the “Wine Stuart,” pick you up & show you what the area has to offer. “The atmosphere is so relaxed here. You just keep tasting wines & you’ll find what you like,” Butler said.

You can tour through Woodinville with your pick of more than 90 wineries to taste & enjoy. But it’s best to choose just a few, so you can linger a while. Let the flavors develop fully because it will be worth it.

If you don’t know which wines you love yet, Woodinville Wine Country is the place to meet the winemakers & learn. If you only want the best & you know what that means to you, it’s here too. Wine tasting in Woodinville is about finding your passion & then relaxing into it.

So what will you visit Woodinville Wine Country for?

The Romance

Passing through lush trees near the top of Hollywood Hill you’ll come upon Adams Bench Winery (14360 160th Place N.E.), where winemakers Tim & Erica Blue are crafting small batches of cabernet sauvignon & cabernet blends so coveted that this winery is a must-visit just to have the chance to taste it.

There’s an instant feeling of romance as you turn into the property, with a pasture & graceful white fence leading you to an intimate tasting room & barrel cellar below.

Tim Blue, a Seattle attorney who grew up in Indiana, draws you in with his enthusiasm as he shares his vast experience. He started in winemaking after traveling & appreciating European & Northern California wines. “Everything matters,” he says of the choices the winery makes for grapes from Eastern Washington, French oak barrels & corks.

At Lachini Vineyards Tasting Room (14455A Woodinville-Redmond Road), vintners Ron & Marianne Lachini have a small open space that gives you the feeling of old-world shops where artisans strive to share their love for a single product with you. Here that product is wine made with grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

“People with very busy social schedules come here to relax & unwind,” Tasting Room Associate L.M. Archer said. She encourages visitors to get to know Woodinville’s wineries for the value as well as the experience. “Our wine is really inexpensive for the quality.”

The Vibe

Up on a secluded hillside sits a 7 acre property that was originally a stunning private home. At JM Cellars (14404 137th Place NE) winemakers John & Peggy Bigelow have a relaxed space that manages to be impressive & laid-back at the same time. With a rambling tasting room & grounds graced with lush trails leading to a pond, JM Cellars is a scene-stealer in Woodinville.

The winery has a youthful vibe & the people watching is almost as enjoyable as one of John’s enthusiastic tours, where he shows off his barrels like your hip & worldly friend.

If you’re heading to JM Cellars or anywhere you’ll want to grab a box lunch at The Vineyard French Bakery (16507 140th Place NE) where owner LeeAnn Belarde, a Woodinville native, is offering sweet & savory classic French bakery items to pair with the wines you’ll discover.

AtRoss Andrew Winery (14810 NE 145th St. Suite A-2) just north of the Hollywood Schoolhouse, winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel shares his premium red & white wines in a breezy new interior designed by his father, Bellevue architect Ned Nelson. The space feels very Northwest modern while giving off a good dose of “Mad Men” cool, too.

Mickel believes Woodinville Wine Country is popular because people love making a connection to their wine’s story. “People want to talk to the winemaker,” he said. “Our best customers are friends now.”

The Energy

To see the labor of love for small wineries head to the Warehouse District, where more than 40 wineries have come together in an industrial area to give it the buzz & energy of a group endeavor.

Winemaker Kevin Correll of Barrage Cellars (19501 144th Ave. NE, E-800) shares his varietal blends in an open space where he loves giving visitors an up-close look at his work. A Boeing instructor by day, Correll takes a month off during the harvest season to create his wines.

“I’m not paying myself. I’m self-funded,” he said. “It’s a passion & I do it because I love it.” Warehouse District winemakers routinely share equipment & many would not be able to stay open without that willingness to work together, Correll said.

A few doors down at Guardian Cellars (19501 144th Ave. NE, E-600) Lynwood police officer Jerry Riener & his wife, Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan, surprise you with a little bit of rock & roll fun. The blended wines with names like The Alibi, Chalk Line & Gun Metal, as well as the appreciation for Beastie Boys as background music, gives Guardian Cellars a high-energy downtown feel.

Riener speaks of the camaraderie between Woodinville’s small wineries & the popular local draw Chateau Ste. Michelle. “Every winery serves a purpose,” he said. “Washington winemakers are a slight anomaly in how much we work together.”

The Escape

The Willows Lodge (14580 NE 145th St.) is a well-known Woodinville getaway spot for those who appreciate Northwest luxury. Have a glass of wine in front of your room’s stone fireplace, get pampered at the spa, & enjoy some down time before dinner at the acclaimed Barking Frog restaurant.

Or take your wine to Bellevue & indulge in a weekend city escape at The Westin Bellevue (600 Bellevue Way N.E.), where you’ll relax into the uniqueness of a full-service hotel with the comfortable refinement of a high-end urban residence. The next morning be sure to try the SuperFoodsRx breakfast items at Cypress Lounge & Wine Bar, especially if you’ve overindulged.

5 Woodinville wine picks for summer

Woodinville Wine Country is the perfect place to enjoy sunny summer days & warm nights. If you’re dining at home or hosting a party of your own, here are 5 summer wine picks from L.M. Archer, FWS, Tasting Room Associate at Lachini Vineyards:

  • Brian Carter Cellars, 2011 Oriana “Golden Lady” $20. Golden Lady indeed. This luxurious, food-friendly Rhone-style white blend with a Riesling chaser pairs well with seafood & spicy Cajun cooking.
  • DeLille Cellars, 2011 Chaleur Estate Blanc, $35. Elegance in a bottle. Who needs reds? This full-bodied, finely balanced white Bordeaux blend bursting with hints of lemon grass, guava & white pepper compliments grilled steaks.
  • Forgeron Cellars, 2011 CHARDONNAY, — $27. French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla forges a Burgundian beauty — poised, polished, pleasantly light — the perfect wine for seafood, chicken, or pasta at your next patio party.
  • William Church Winery, 2012 Viognier, $23. This flirty flagship Viognier vibrates with aromatic notes of pear, honeysuckle & peach. Quite the accompaniment for Asian food.
  • Lachini Vineyards,  2011 Pinot Noir Rosé, $22. Finally, guys — a rosé you can drink without feeling foolish. Dry, crisp, refreshing — in a league of its own. And thoroughly addicting. The perfect summer concert picnic pick.

Pairing your Woodinville wine with an amazing meal

When you have fallen in love with your favorite wine the only thing left to do is celebrate it with an amazing food-&-wine pairing. Bring a bottle with you to Purple Café & Wine Bar (4 locations, including 430 106th Ave. N.E., Bellevue). There is no corkage fee on your 1st bottle — wine director Chris Horn welcomes wine enthusiasts. “I love it when people trust us to treat their personal wine properly,” he said. Every item on their extensive menu has been carefully paired with a wine. Knowledgeable staff will help you decide how to experience such menu favorites as warm bucheron goat cheese, ahi tartare, spicy prawns & shoestring frites & dark chocolate silk mousse with its perfect accompaniment.
Bring a small party to be spoiled in one of the intimate spiral dining rooms, or ask for Horn to draw from Purple Café & Wine Bar’s incredible wine list to create a pairing menu for you that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

The Basics

Wineries & tasting rooms have unique hours & some are open by appointment only. Tasting fees range from $5-$20. Dress is casual for regular tastings. Wine walks are held the 1st & 3rd Thursdays of the month, when visitors can tour & taste a number of local wines for a flat fee. Pick up a Tasting Woodinville map at many locations in Woodinville or check woodwarewine.com for current information. Details on release parties, concerts, & special events can be found at woodinvillewinecountry.com.