One of the more fascinating developments within the world of Washington wine is the emergence of Woodinville as a destination.
This suburban corner of King County on the east side of Lake Washington has developed into a home for more than 130 wineries and tasting rooms. Some are within walking distance of each other, but all are just a short drive away and within easy reach of the 3.8 million people living in the Seattle metropolitan area.
So yes, the 14th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S. is officially wine country, even though nearly all of the 58,000 acres of vineyards are under the blue skies of the Columbia Valley — a three-hour drive east over the Cascade Mountains.
Several factors turned Woodinville into a wine destination:
— In 1976, Chateau Ste. Michelle built a $6 million winery in Woodinville, creating a facility that draws 300,000 visitors a year as well as music lovers to its annual summer concert series.
— In 2000, the state Legislature passed a law allowing wineries to open satellite tasting rooms. Until then, a winery could only operate a tasting room if it had wine production on the premises. This provided a way for wineries to take advantage of consumer interest in Chateau Ste. Michelle as well serve as a way to access the population west of Lake Washington.
— In 2008, crude oil spiked to $147 per barrel, and the price for regular gasoline soared above $4 per gallon. That summer, fewer Seattle-area wine lovers were driving across the state to visit Columbia Valley wineries, prompting producers in Walla Walla Valley and the Tri-Cities to bring their wines closer to their customers.
Here are six award-winning wines from vintners with a presence in the Woodinville area. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly. All of these earned a gold medal this year at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, the Washington State Wine Competition or the Cascadia International Wine Competition.
Cedergreen Cellars 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $17: Kevin Cedergreen brought in Sauvignon Blanc grapes from historic Solstice Vineyard and young Meek Vineyard — both in the Yakima Valley — to craft a wine with aromatics of lime and gooseberry that lead into flavors of lime, gooseberry and a hint of Asian pear. Sauvignon Blanc is Cedergreen’s flagship wine, and suggested pairings include Caesar salad, grilled fish or oysters on the half shell.
Andrew Januik Wines 2016 Lady Hawk Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills $50: Second-generation winemaker Andrew Januik reaches into a storied neighborhood for this Cab, the 5-acre Lady Hawk Vineyard that owners Paul and Judi Champoux established next to historic Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Januik’s fourth vintage of Lady Hawk Cab soars with dark cherry and dark berry aromas, plus a hint of spice, then alights on the palate with a rush of black cherry, blueberry and blackberry fruit. Generous tannins linger into a juicy finish.
Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2017 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley $20: Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle and German icon Ernst Loosen began their collaboration surrounding this noble white grape with the 1999 vintage, and it continues to serve as the 21st century benchmark for Riesling produced in the United States. The two friends have since branched out to four distinctive examples of Riesling as part of the partnership, but this flagship Eroica remains a classic — just a touch off-dry, redolent of orchard fruit and bright citrus while backed by a fascinating hint of minerality. Enjoy with seafood and Asian-inspired fare.
Maryhill Winery Tasting Room and Bistro 2016 Elephant Mountain Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $38: Aromas of ripe red fruit and vanilla welcome drinkers to this Sangiovese grown by Joe Hattrup for Columbia Gorge winemaker Richard Batchelor. On the palate, expect red cherries, raspberries, cedar, baking spice and a long, lingering finish. This earned best of class at the 2019 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, and the Maryhill wines soon will be poured at the new tasting room and bistro that owners Craig and Vicki Leuthold are opening at the historic Hollywood Schoolhouse.
Passing Time Winery 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $85: Woodinville winemaker Chris Peterson calls the signals on this young program for retired NFL quarterbacks Dan Marino and Damon Huard. None of them could pass on the opportunity to make Cab from two stalwart vineyard sites in the Walla Walla Valley — Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge. Currants, plum, fennel seed, tobacco and leather burst from the glass. Pomegranate-tinged acidity leads the palate, which is elegantly structured with long-lasting, steadily growing tannins. It earned a gold medal earlier this month during the Great Northwest Invite staged at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel.
Tertulia Cellars 2015 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carménère, Horse Heaven Hills, $48: Walla Walla winemaker Ryan Raber reaches west to the Horse Heaven Hills and Phinny Hill Vineyard for the fruit for his Carménére. An award-winning example of this obscure red Bordeaux grape, it opens with aromas of herbs and a bit of spice, then evolves into juicy blackberry and blueberry flavors with a bit of black cherry. It’s capped by pleasing chocolaty tannins. This wine earned gold medals at both the Cascadia International and the Great Northwest Invitational judgings.