A wine lover’s guide to Seattle

December 18, 2017 

Seattle has always been a magical place. I grew up just west of the city and spent most of my summers playing along the shore of Lake Washington.

And I think strolling through Seattle Center is fun. When I envision the perfect day, it probably includes spending most of it in the Pike Place Market. Maybe with a light drizzle outside, so I have an excuse to stop for coffee.

On the Northwest Coast, we are blessed with three great cities. Getting lost in downtown Portland — especially near Powell’s Books — sounds magnificent. I love the city’s vibe, its restaurant scene and how close it is to wine country. I spent a lot of time in Vancouver, B.C., in college — it was just 60 miles away. Its natural beauty, the magnificent restaurant scene and the vigorous food culture are unmatched.

But Seattle has my heart. And today, it has more to offer than ever, but retains a pioneer spirit that never quite gets rinsed away by rain. Its winery scene has matured in the past two decades, becoming far more than Woodinville and evolving into an urban winemaking culture that adds to the city’s heartbeat. Its mature food scene continues to innovate and remains vibrant. The industries and the city surrounding its wine enterprises have embraced the wine culture and cherish its role in our state.

Here is my latest exploration of a wine lover’s guide to Seattle.

Wineries

In addition to the vibrant urban winery scene in Seattle, city dwellers also can head to Woodinville, where about 130 tasting rooms await or catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island where several wineries nestle into a more bucolic setting. But in the city itself are several days of wine exploration:

Charles Smith Wines Jet City: Near the northern edge of Boeing Field, Charles Smith has created a new atmosphere in Seattle wine touring with this facility. You can see the entire winemaking process here. Make it easy on yourself by taking Uber from downtown so you don’t need to hassle with parking.

Nine Hats: This sister winery to Long Shadows Vintners has moved to Seattle’s SoDo from Woodinville and plans to add Nine Pies Pizzeria this fall, making this a spectacular stop on the Seattle wine trail.

Wilridge Winery: Seattle’s original urban winery is owned and operated by active wine industry lawyer Paul Beveridge. The wines are made in Eastern Washington near his estate vineyards in the Naches Heights American Viticultural Area, and he runs tasting rooms in the Pike Place Market and at the vineyard near Yakima.

Mercer Estates: Wine Press Northwest magazine’s 2016 Washington Winery of the Year now has a tasting room near Beacon Hill, not far from Jet City’s tasting room.

Cloudlift Cellars: Artisan furniture maker Tom Stangeland produces his wine in a cozy location in the Georgetown neighborhood. His award-winning reds and whites are worth the short trip from downtown.

EFESTE: This longtime Woodinville winery with estate vineyards on Red Mountain is opening a Seattle tasting room on First Avenue. The thoughtfully crafted wines enjoy near-cult status, so this is great news for urban wine lovers.

Nota Bene: Tim Narby’s highly regarded work with Bordeaux varieties makes this a must-visit for lovers of big reds. You’ll find the wines in south Seattle’s South Park neighborhood or at the Tasting Room in the Pike Place Market.

Robert Ramsay Cellars: This winery with tasting rooms in Woodinville and on Queen Anne Hill focuses on red Rhône varieties and does them well, making some of the state’s best examples of little-known reds.

Viscon Cellars: This small producer in West Seattle focuses on small lots of wines from top Columbia Valley vineyards. Owners Ben and Susan Viscon make a wide variety of red, white and pink wines.

Ward Johnson Winery: This small urban winery on Elliott Avenue near Queen Anne produces a number of high-end, handcrafted reds, focusing primarily on blends. It’s also one of the few wineries to offer a wine storage facility.

Welcome Road Winery: With a focus on Bordeaux varieties, this small producer in West Seattle offers free delivery to Seattle residents.

Northwest Wine Academy: This is the student-run winery at South Seattle Community College in West Seattle. A wide variety of award-winning wines are produced here from some of the state’s top vineyards.

Laurelhurst Cellars: This little Georgetown winery crafts a range of wines, often focusing on grapes from Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills.

Latta Wines: This winery not far from the West Seattle Bridge is a rising star, thanks to some outrageously good wines using grapes from storied vineyards.

Kerloo Cellars: Ryan Crane founded this Walla Walla winery in 2007 and now has a tasting room in downtown Seattle.

Rôtie Cellars: Owner/winemaker Sean Boyd focuses on Rhône-style wines at his Walla Walla operation. He recently added a tasting room in the SoDo district.

Waters Winery: Winemaker/musician Jamie Waters runs this Walla Walla winery that has added a SoDo tasting room.

Sleight of Hand Cellars: Longtime Walla Walla winemaker Trey Busch owns this popular winery in the southern Walla Walla Valley and has now opened a second tasting room on First Avenue near the West Seattle Bridge.

Elsom Cellars: Jody Elsom focuses on Bordeaux and Rhône varieties from top vineyards, at this small winery on Fourth Avenue.

Structure Cellars: Brian Grosso worked for several Woodinville wineries after falling in love during a tasting room visit. Now he and his wife, Brandee, run this boutique producer south of CenturyLink Field on First Avenue.

Bartholomew Winery: Bart Fawbush recently relocated his production to the Tri-Cities but will maintain his tasting room in the old Rainier brewery building in Georgetown. Its interesting lineup of wines is well worth checking out.

The Estates Wine Room: This fairly new tasting room in Pioneer Square is owned by Crimson Wine Group, which owns such Northwest wineries as Seven Hills (Walla Walla), Double Canyon (West Richland), Pine Ridge (Napa) and Archery Summit (Dundee).

The Tasting Room: Owned and operated by Wilridge Winery, this tasting room in the Pike Place Market also features wines from eight wineries across the state.

Aluel Cellars: This small producer on Capitol Hill crafts a wide variety of artisanal wines and blends under the talented guidance of winemaker Bart Fawbush.

Almquist Family Winery: This operation near the Ship Canal in Fremont includes award-winning wines, a distillery and an on-site restaurant.

Domanico Cellars: Jason Domanico bought one of the oldest vineyards in the Yakima Valley and move his production to Prosser, but he still maintains a tasting room in Ballard.

Eight Bells Winery: This small and respected producer in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood makes collectible wines using grapes from Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Ex-Navy personnel will appreciate the nautical themes.

Restaurants

Canlis: One of the city’s great eating establishments, this is a bucketlist-level dining experience, not only for the Northwest-centric cuisine but also for one of the most magnificent wine lists in America.

Purple: With three locations dotting both sides of Lake Washington, you’re never far from a great meal and a superb wine selection. If you’re touring Woodinville, call for reservations, sit outside and relish the wine and food scene.

Hitchcock: Alaska native Brendan McGill operates this award-winning cuisine on Bainbridge Island. The half-hour ferry trip across the sound is worth the effort.

Cafe Munir: This Ballard eatery is perfect if you’re in need of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Joule: This Korean-fusion steakhouse is a few blocks from Gas Works Park, just launching into its second decade of business, Joule is a delicious menu with a comfortable, modern setting.

Taylor Shellfish Farms: With three locations in Seattle, this longtime aquafarmer provides patrons with fresh seafood.

Le Pichet: This French-inspired bistro inside the Pike Place Market has charmed patrons for nearly two decades and now has a second location on Capitol Hill.

Matt’s in the Market: Relying heavily on its location in the Pike Place Market, this Seattle icon focuses on ingredients that are fresh and in season, prepared in the Northwest’s style.

Nirmal’s: Based on the 5,000-year history of Indian cuisine, this Pioneer Square restaurant will challenge the senses. The wine and whiskey list is as deep as it is wide.

AQUA by El Gaucho: On the iconic Seattle waterfront, the panoramic views of the sound and the Olympic Mountains are nearly as satisfying as the seafood-centric menu.

The Butcher’s Table: As the name suggests, this restaurant in South Lake Union focuses on prime cuts of beef, particularly Wagyu. For larger events, there are several options for private dining.

El Gaucho: When you eat at El Gaucho, you join in a Northwest dining experience that should be cherished. With four locations — three in the greater Seattle area — the wine list takes in the entire Northwest, especially in by-the-glass options, as well as a full complement of cocktails.

The Herbfarm: Based not far from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, this Northwest icon of cuisine expertly combines the art of food and wine to new heights. It’s important to plan your visit by making a reservation well in advance.

Ray’s Boathouse: This location in Ballard is a monument to Seattle’s love affair with fresh seafood. Commanding views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Anthony’s at Pier 66: Anthony’s restaurants are dotted throughout the waterways of the Northwest, but for seafood and seaside views where you can smell the ocean, this one’s hard to beat. If you’re there in March, check out the oyster sampler and oyster wine specials.

RN74: Relying heavily on Seattle’s bounty of fresh seafood and produce available to its culinary team, this well-regarded French restaurant creates haute-cuisine with a Northwest twist. Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen of W.T. Vintners serves as the lead sommelier.

Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar: If you’re drawn to fresh local seafood, there’s no reason to look further than Seastar in Bellevue.

Spinasse: A delicious selection of cuisine inspired by northern Italy’s Piedmont region with a selection of wines of that classic region.

Wild Ginger: Combining the cuisine of southeast Asia and China with a wine list that’s among the deepest collections of glorious Riesling anywhere makes this Seattle favorite an important stop on the Northwest wine trail.

Metropolitan Grill: Generally considered Seattle’s best steakhouse, this tony downtown eatery also has a wine list that rivals any in the state. It’s not a bad choice for fresh seafood either.

Cafe Campagne: In the Pike Place Market’s Post Alley, Cafe Campagne is Seattle’s foremost French eatery. While the winelist is unapologetically Francophile, there are just enough Northwest selections to remind you that you’re in the Pacific Northwest.

Tulio: Inside the Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle, this classic Italian restaurant focuses on the delightful cuisine of Northern Italy. The thoughtful wine list leans, of course, toward Italian selections, but includes many West Coast selections.

Ruth’s Chris: This classic steakhouse has two locations in the Seattle metro area (downtown and Bellevue). You’ll enjoy regionally inspired cuisine accompanied by a thoughtfully deep global wine list.

Cafe Presse: This French café on Capitol Hill is brought to you by the owners of Le Pichet in the Pike Place Market. Enjoy casual dining with a full complement of French wines and French newspapers. It’s as close as you can get to Avenue des Champs-Élysées without the bother of an airplane.

Salty’s: With three locations (plus one in Portland), Salty’s is the quintessential Seattle seafood experience.The Alki Beach location serves up delicious seafood along with the classic view of the Seattle skyline.

Barnacle: Entering its fifth year, this Ballard bar focuses on Italian aperitivo, featuring wine by the glass and all things smoked, pickled and cured.

Jarrbar: Inspired by the small plates he found in travels through Spain and Portugal owner Bryan Jarr to create this tapas bar near the Pike Place Market.

Junebaby: If Southern-style comfort food is your scene, you’ll want to put the Ravenna neighborhood eatery on you list of stops.

L’Oursin: This French restaurant near Seattle University specializes in serving natural wines and cocktails.

No Anchor: This Belltown bar focuses on Northwest-inspired cuisine and a deep list of on-tap choices. They are happy to accommodate vegetarian and vegan needs.

Opus Co.: This creative establishment near Green Lake uses its wood-fired grill to great effect, combining it with its in-house pickling and food-fermentation program, along with a selection of regional beverages.

Lodging

The Inn at El Gaucho: Upstairs from El Gaucho in Belltown is the tony Inn at El Gaucho, studio apartments that simply drip with atmosphere. In the basement is a full-service movie theater. It’s difficult to imagine a more romantic setting.

Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle: A wine-themed hotel in the heart of downtown, what could be better for wine lovers than this Kimpton property next to the Fifth Avenue Theater, and also home to Tulio’s Italian restaurant. Each room is named for a Washington winery.

Hotel 1000: With 120 guestrooms that highlight the delicious water views, this downtown hotel offers up a great Seattle experience. Also enjoy the on-site oyster bar and Belltown cocktail lounge.

The Edgewater: With a rich and colorful history that goes back to its origins with the Seattle World’s Fair, this property along the waterfront can boast that the Beatles stayed here and fished from their rooms.

Warwick: One of downtown Seattle’s top luxury properties, the Warwick is a great location from which to launch your exploration of the city, especially if that’s going to take you to the Pike Place Market or the original Starbucks coffeehouse.

Fairmont Olympic Hotel: Since being built in the 1920s, The Olympic Hotel has defined luxury in Seattle. With two on-site restaurants, you may be tempted to explore no farther.

Inn at the Market: The world-famous Pike Place Market is the beating heart of Seattle, and the Inn at the Market offers the only accommodations in the market. With great views of the Sound and the Olympics, this is the quintessential Seattle lodging experience.

Hotel Monaco: Nestled in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Kimpton-owned Hotel Monaco is a playful throwback to another era. With great on-site restaurants and atmosphere that won’t quit, a stay at Hotel Monaco will not soon be forgotten.

Pan Pacific Seattle Hotel: If you seek luxury and a four-star experience, then Seattle’s Pan Pacific Hotel will be sure to satisfy.

Wine bars

Bottlehouse: Enjoy local wines, beers and artisan cheese plates at this stop near Lake Washington.

Vif: This Fremont coffee/wine bar focuses on providing natural wines and organic coffee, along with small bites.

Lower Bar Ferdinand: This wine bar near Seattle University focuses on providing access to small-production wineries alongside small plates featuring dried and cured meats.

Locöl Barley & Vine: This cozy West Seattle bar focuses on wine, craft beer, small plates and live music.

Grand Cru: This Bellevue establishment combines a wine bar with a wine shop in an delightful Old World setting.

The WineBar on 24th: This vodka and wine bar in Ballard is for those who appreciate artisan craft distilleries.

Le Caviste: This downtown wine bar is well-known for its deep, wide, knowledgeable international wine selection. If you’re looking for a bite, you’ll enjoy their cheese selection.

Revolution Wine Shop & Bar: This downtown wine bar and bottle shop, home of the rosé slushie.

The Barrel Thief: This casual wine and whiskey bar in Fremont offers 175 wines by the glass, small plates and desserts in an intimate and bustling setting

Crepe Cafe & Wine Bar: This restaurant and wine bar in North Seattle specializes in crepes of all types and styles, from breakfast to dessert.

Artusi: This Aperitivo Bar in Central Seattle is a great way to explore Italian cuisine and lifestyle without leaving the city.

La Buona Tavola: A visit to the truffle cafe in the Pike Place Market is a must stop for any true foodie, as well as anyone who loves Italian wines.

Wine shops

Pike & Western: This wine shop in the Pike Place Market began in the early 1980s by Ron Irvine, who led the drive to save the market then later wrote the definitive history on the Washington wine industry. In 1981, he sold the business to Michael Teer, an employee, who continues to fill the shop with interesting bottles from around the world.

Esquin: Now at age 50, Esquin is the oldest wine shop in the Northwest. The only interruption came when it had to move to make way for Safeco Field in the 1998. It’s a great space that allows customers to get lost amid the stacks of wines, discovering hidden gems.

DeLaurenti: In the Pike Place Market, this Italian deli, spice shop and wine store is a great stop for lovers of all things Italian.

West Seattle Cellars: Bear Silverstein, one of the great wine minds of Washington, ran this shop until his death in 2010, and the store continues to be one of the Seattle market’s great little retailers.

McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants: With locations on Queen Anne Hill and Ravenna, this longtime retailer is renowned for its deep interest in top Italian and Washington wines.

Champion Wine Cellars: French expat Emille Ninaud has provided Seattle with great wine selections since 1969. Just down the road from the Space Needle, Champion has been the go-to wine shop for two generations.

Andy Perdue writes about wine for The Seattle Times each Sunday. In addition to being a wine journalist, author and wine judge, he’s also the founding editor of Wine Press Northwest.

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