Woodinville Tasting Recap

About a 30 minute drive east of Seattle, the cozy town of Woodinville offers a magnificent getaway for lovers of food and wine. The Willows Lodge is the place to stay, as it is positioned midway between some twenty tasting rooms and a dozen restaurants, all close enough to travel on foot. The late autumn trip we took offered a chance to take in the colors of the season and to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace. With great farm to table dining options such as the Barking Frog and Purple Cafe nearby, it’s hard to go wrong for a long weekend trip.

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The milk-braised pork short rib at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar is to die for, and pairs perfectly with the Sparkman Syrah Untamed 2014 (91 Points, $35), an impressive value wine available right next door. The staff happily opened it for us without a corkage fee. 

For those who love to seek to taste as many wines as possible such as myself, the ability to walk from tasting room to tasting room without ever needing to drive is a dream come true. Be warned that this isn’t exactly wine country- there are no vineyards here and no wine production occurs on the premises- but the massive collection of tasting rooms offers a great opportunity to sample high end wines without making a four hour trek to Walla Walla Valley, and the scenery doesn’t disappoint either.

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The view off the back lobby at Willows Lodge is a picture of serenity, as late autumn colors abound.

For drinkers, Washington wine offers an alternative to the somewhat over saturated (and overpriced) California wine market. Often times those with a keen palate will be able to locate standout offerings in this region at less than half the price of their highly sought after neighbors to the south. There’s a substantial difference in terroir and flavor profile here as well, thanks in large part to the cooler temperatures and forest soils, and some may find this style preferable and more complex. I was able to taste 75 wines in somewhat of a whirlwind two day adventure here. I’ve decided to count down my Top 10 favorites, using my typical combination that considers both price and quality. Spoiler alert: There’s a LOT of Syrah.

Honorable Mention:

DeLille Syrah Grand Ciel Red Mountain 2013, 92 Points, $68: Black fruit, leather and herbs on the nose. Velvety body of blackberry and black cherry that carry an herbal edge are layered above deeply complex undertones of briar, violet and orange peel, lingering long on a black pepper spice note. Lots going on here through the long finish. Texture is weightless relative to the overall power.

#10:

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A seated tasting at the shared Pepper Bridge and Amavi tasting room is a great way to start the day.

Pepper Bridge Trine Walla Walla Valley 2013, 92 Points, $65: Inky purple fruit and leather aromas above hints of herb and cedar. Velvety body of dark plum and black cherry above complex undertones of rosemary, thyme and minty cedar. Finishes with a blast of dark chocolate. Silky but powerful through the long finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec.

#9:

Bookwalter Conflict Columbia Valley 2013, 92 Points, $60: Deep, intense and perfumey aromas of wild berry, underbrush and cedar. Full-bodied, rich and spicy, with acidic red cherry, raspberry backed by briar, herbs and cracked pepper through the long, long finish. The texture is amazing. One of the most sustained finishes on this entire tasting trip, but that finish is all herbs and briar. Unique. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

#8:

Januik Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2015, 92 Points, $55: Cedar, wet limestone and black currants on the nose. Silky and deep on the palate, with elegant blackberry and dark plum fruit notes above toasty vanilla and milk chocolate notes. Supple and substantial, with baking spices adding complexity through the long finish.

#7:

Gorman Cabernet Sauvignon The Bully  Red Mountain 2013, 90 Points, $50: Shows some cool climate influences on the nose, with olive, cedar and wet rock above black currant aromas. Silky and elegant, with explosive blackberry and dark plum above cracked pepper, cocoa, cedar and tobacco. Spices linger long underneath.

#6:

DeLille Metier Yakima Valley 2014, 92 Points, $46: Ripe red berry and smoke on the nose with a hint of an herbal tinge. Ultra-silky and approachable, with a pure core of raspberry pie and red plum that picks up complex undertones of white pepper spice, clove, bacon fat and rosemary. Long, zesty finish. This cries for food as cracked pepper lingers for minutes. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

#5:

Gorman Syrah The Pixie Red Mountain 2013, 92 Points, $45: Rich aromas of purple fruit and brown sugar. Big and ripe up front, with fig, licorice and blackberry above smoked meat, leather and black pepper. This is chewy and powerful, my kind of Syrah. Long, intense finish. Thick and tannic, with dusty mocha creeping in late.

#4:

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Fun with friends at the shared Januik and Novelty Hill tasting room, where you can pair pizza with the top notch Syrah and Cabernet offerings, all while watching the football game. 

Januik Syrah Ciel du Cheval  Red Mountain 2014, 92 Points, $35: Huge aromas of smoked meat above mocha and perfumey, violety fruit. Velvety and deep, with black licorice, dark plum and blackberry cascading into rich mocha, leather, smoke and white pepper spice. Displays an incredibly impressive texture throughout the long finish.

#3:

Bookwalter Cabernet Sauvignon Chapter 7 Conner-Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2014, 93 Points, $100: Gorgeous aromas loaded with minty cedar, chocolate and black currant. Ultra-silky on the palate, with explosive and intense blueberry, blackberry and black cherry above dark godiva chocolate and wet cedar undertones. Long, long finish.

#2:

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Col Solare offers tastings tucked inside a VIP-style glass enclosure within Chateau Ste. Michelle’s modern tasting room. We were impressed by the quality of wines poured here and were not ashamed to display purple lips after our first stop of the day! (It’s one of the few places where you need an appointment). 

Col Solare Syrah Component Selection Red Mountain 2014, 93 Points, $85: Explosive aromas of dark fruit above leather, smoke and mint notes. Silky and elegant on the palate, with black licorice and dark plum flavors above expressive forest floor, cracked pepper, leather and smoldering charcoal notes that dominate the long finish. Refined but present tannins add grip. This straddles the line between masculine and feminine styles.

#1:

JM

There’s not a more inviting tasting room in America than JM Cellars, which combines friendly service with campfires, fireplaces and country music all perched above lovely scenery. Oh, and the wines are on point too. 

JM Cellars Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2015, 94 Points, $48: Purple fruit, smoked meat and wet leather on the nose. Velvety and intense, with dark plum and black licorice flavors above rich chocolate, black pepper, leather and bacon fat. Texture is amazing, with a long, persistent, creamy finish. Wet limestone lingers while blackberry jam notes keep pumping; this is tops now but will be even more amazing with time.

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