Warehouse Wines in Washington Act I


By Lisa Stefan*

When plans to visit a friend in the Okanagan fell through last week, we found ourselves with a wide open weekend.  Being the kind of people that love to go-go-go, the Sunshine Coast was not going to work for us – it’s too sleepy, Whistler – too busy, and Vegas just a little over budget after the holidays. So with wine on the mind, as usual, I was quick to hop on the internet and search out a weekend get-away for us that met these three criteria: inexpensive, within reasonable driving distance, and something different.

What I found was Washington, our neighbour to the South.  With over 700 wineries and growing, Washington is #2 (behind California) in wine production in all of the United States.  And only 25 minutes North East of Seattle is the small community of Woodinville.  The Woodinville area is home to about 50 small wineries and tasting rooms, and after only a 2.5 hour drive (from Vancouver), we found ourselves in a wine lover’s paradise.

The first on our list were the large production operations of Columbia Winery and Chateau St. Michelle.  Located across the street from one another, how convenient, and with gorgeous grounds, grand tasting rooms, boutique shops and an array of flatbreads, cheese and crackers for purchase – these two wineries were very much what we are used to from our many visits to the Okanagan and Niagara regions in Canada.  There was however, one huge difference…. NO VINEYARDS?!?! That’s right, all of Washington’s wine grapes are grown in the south eastern part of the State, where the climate is much warmer and dryer than the cool and wet North West. So, to pull up to a winery where there were no gorgeous grapes or vineyard vistas was a little foreign to us, but what they lacked in scenery, they certainly made up for in service and selection.

At Columbia Winery the knowledgeable tasting bar staff provided us with a full sampling of what was available, waived our tasting fee, and gave us a 30% discount on any purchases – as we came to find, this is an industry standard, as long as we provided a business card, we were completely taken care of – talk about Southern hospitality! Our wine educator even gave us a map of the area and circled a few competitors to check out.  We ended up falling in love with the Semillion Ice Wine, 375 ml for only $20, what a steal!  Flavours of sweet apricot and honey abound, and with great acidity and a clean finish this is an exceptional value ice wine!

Chateau St. Michelle staff was equally friendly and knowledgeable and we were able to taste the entry level wines compared side by side with the Ethos and Eroica wines.  The Chateau has quite the line-up of wines, including collaborations with Antinori and Ernst Loosen.  Our favorites were the entry level dry Riesling which sells for $8.99 and is definitely comparable in terms of value with some of the $15-20 Canadian Rieslings, the 2005 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon $38, and the 2006 and 2007 Limited Release Mourverdre that we tasted side by side and spent at least 20 minutes savouring and comparing the very different noses.  Mesquite bar-b-que on one vs. goat cheese on the other – unique and interesting.

After 2 hours of tasting at only 2 wineries, our palates were tiring, and our stomachs growling, so we stopped in at the Barking Frog restaurant at Willows Lodge for lunch.  Ambiance = A+, service  = A+, food  = A, wine selection  = A, highly recommended and definitely a must visit if you are in the area.  I had the chicken breast served with butternut squash stuffed spinach ravioli, swiss chard and pearl onions in a gorgonzola cream sauce.  Fabulous Gourmet for $16.

Note of Winecouver.  More to come in the second installment of Lisa’s wine explorations South of the border soon.

*Contributing writer Lisa Stefan has a passion for travel, wine, food and all things combining the three! Besides writing Lisa works part time as a wine sales consultant at Everything Wine in North Vancouver.  Lisa completed her Intermediate Certificates through the International Sommelier Guild in 2009.  Full Sommelier Diploma certification, wine travel, wine writing and more wine tasting  are part of her plans for the near future.

ps. Photos: Chicken butternut squash, Lisa Stefan Headshot, Dan Collins

 

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One Response to “Warehouse Wines in Washington Act I”

  1. Warehouse Wines in Washington Act II « Winecouver Says:

    […] Jump to Warehouse Wines in Washington Act I […]

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