If you are seeking a vibrant, urban wine tasting experience, then Woodinville is your place! Located about 20 miles northeast of Seattle, Woodinville is home to more than 140 wineries, wine bars and tasting rooms. Although you won’t encounter the typical vineyard experience here, many wineries in Yakima, Walla Walla, and other AVAs have tasting rooms in Woodinville, bringing the wine directly to you in a dynamic atmosphere.
Woodinville was the first stop on our two-week Washington wine tour and we had a single action-packed day. With only one day, it was hard to narrow down our choices so in hindsight, I would have added another day or two. We visited EFESTĒ and Kestrel in the Warehouse district, Gorman and Alexandria Nicole in the Hollywood area, and we included a stop for lunch in between at the Barking Frog at the Willows Lodge.
EFESTĒ winemaker, Peter Devison, is producing beautifully handcrafted wines, using minimalist Old World winemaking techniques, to include native fermentation and limited oxygenation. His bold reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot, are velvety, complex, and have lots of fruit-laced layers. Our favorites were the 2013 Estate Petit Verdot and 2012 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon. We also liked the 2015 Feral Sauvignon Blanc. The Feral—named in homage of the wild yeast Devison uses in his winemaking—was floral, fresh, and almost reminiscent of a Riesling.
Nancy, whom I met on Twitter (I know, sounds weird, but true) manages marketing for the winery and provided a welcoming, informative experience for us. She walked us around the tasting room with its soaring ceilings, thanks to EFESTĒ ‘s warehouse-style building, and described the rich history that is visually represented by black-and-white photos that cover the walls like wrapping paper. And, the original wine press (as seen in the top right image in the collage above) is also proudly displayed for guests to view.
Pronounced F-S-T, the name is an acronym for the winery’s original three founders, and the unique logo is the aboriginal symbol of a kangaroo. The EFESTĒ team had traveled to Australia to learn about Shiraz winemaking and learned that the kangaroo, albeit adorable, is a pesky grapemonger!
After leaving EFESTĒ, we made the short 5-minute drive to Kestrel Vintners, also in the Warehouse area. Some of you may have had, or are familiar with, the winery’s widely distributed Lady in Red. Oh, but they make so much more. Kestrel, whose 126-acre estate vineyard is located in Yakima, has several wine collections. We were impressed with wines from each one. From the more value-based label, the Falcon Series, we particularly liked the 2011 Estate Sangiovese and the 2012 Merlot. From the Winemaker’s Select collection, we loved the 2012 Mourvèdre. From the Signature Series, we loved the 2012 Petit Verdot.
In addition, Tasting Room Manager, Bradley, also let us join the staff in trying the winery’s new Old Vine Chardonnay, to be released this weekend to club members. It was delicious, with just enough oak to balance the soft fruit and create either a good sipping or food wine.
Karen, who had greeted us upon our arrival and was busy tearing down Halloween decor (looks like they had an awesome party), showed us a super cool feature of the tasting room. When you first walk into the tasting room, it is small, but welcoming. However, it has a magic door (pictured on right in the collage above) that looks like wine storage. A simple push and it opens up into a large party room complete with a special private tasting room for members. Overall, this winery simply has a fun, energetic vibe. You can’t help but like it, thanks to great staff like Bradley and Karen.
Although Kestrel is located in a block of buildings that has plenty of other wineries as well, most were not open on Thursday so we opted to move on to the Hollywood area. A friend of our’s had recommended the Barking Frog for lunch at the Willows Lodge, which is in this area, so we hopped in the car and headed that direction.
When you enter the Willows Lodge property, you are greeted by a huge, hollowed-out 1,500 year-old Western Red Cedar that bifurcates the entrance. On the left of the tree is the Herbfarm restaurant and the Barking Frog, and on the right is the hotel. We went into Barking Frog and sat at a large round table whose focal point was a fire pit. Our server, Claire, not only provided great service, but then walked us around the grounds of the property afterwards, showing us the gardens, resident pigs, and the bar area that has a great happy hour and live music. We decided to leave our car at the property, take the 5-minute walk into the main area of town, then come back afterwards to enjoy the music.
The short walk from Willows Lodge to the wineries in Hollywood was beautiful. We got lucky with weather, which was unusually dry and sunny. We headed into Gorman Winery, which is the perfect place for fans of big, in-your-face reds with names like the Bully, Pixie, Zachary’s Ladder, and the Evil Twin. Rock music afficionados will appreciate walking around the tasting room and viewing the guitars signed by members of Van Halen, AC/DC, and other musicians. On a beautiful day like today, the garage door is open, ushering in the expansive views and crisp fall weather.
There honestly was not a wine on the list we didn’t like and Renee was a great ambassador for the winery. It was like we were all old friends! Gorman does a lot with Syrah and Cabernet, and they are powerful, rich, and punchy. All of the ones we tasted are from the Red Mountain AVA. Our favorite of the line up was the Bully, a Cabernet kissed with a bit of Petit Verdot. These are wines that taste awesome now, or can be aged as well.
After our tasting at Gorman, we walked across the street to Alexandria Nicole. Todd and I had featured a Merlot from this winery many years ago at one of our Wines4Causes events so we were looking forward to experiencing the wine portfolio.
The tasting room resides in the old Hollywood schoolhouse building, but the actual winery is located on the bluffs of the Columbia River, where Alexandria Nicole has its own estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge, located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. For those of you who are HGTV fans, you may have seen the winery’s Tiny Houses, available for rent, featured on this network.
The winery offers a wine collection available to the general public, as well as one only available to wine club members, which is featured in a private room that is the old basement of the schoolhouse. Bill and Taylor each did a nice job walking us through each collection. From the wine club, we most enjoyed the 2014 Tempranillo and 2013 Alderdale Cab, and from the general collection, we loved the 2013 Quarry Butte, which is a Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc. The runner up was the 2014 Jet Black Syrah.
Après Wine Tasting
At the end of the day, we walked over to Purple Cafe and Wine Bar and met up with a group of friends. We particularly enjoyed this area because there are so many places accessible by foot. Purple was recommended by my friend Mark, a local of the area. The food was great and, of course, it had a varied wine menu with a good selection of Washington wines!