“My customers are amazing,” Bowen said. “I hug everybody. It’s really like a local ‘Cheers.’ I see some of these people a couple of times a week. I never wanted a bottle shop where people didn’t come and hang out.”
Bowen manages the restaurant/wine bar/wine shop she owns with her husband, Tim. On this blustery day near the Hollywood Schoolhouse, neither Norm nor Cliff were planted on one of the barstools in the center of Village Wines, but Lisa greets everyone as they walk in and knows many by name.
“It truly has becomes a place where everyone knows each other, and everybody knows my kids,” she said. “The wine community here is amazing, and it’s pretty tight-knit. Everybody supports each other.”
The Bowens are enjoying a nice run in Woodinville, and operating a wine shop isn’t overly intimidating to them.
“I was a real estate agent, and when you have three kids in diapers, you don’t really go out, so Tim and I would have friends come over and get together with them in the kitchen and cook,” she said. “We grew Village Wines out of that concept. We enjoyed doing that, and what we want is for other people to be comfortable and enjoy what we’re doing, too.”
But a year after Village Wines 1.0 opened, the Great Recession of 2007-09 arrived and brought gas to $4 per gallon. There have been obstacles and challenges, but the turning point for the Bowens was moving their bottle shop from their low-visibility basement space off 148th Avenue.
“Woodinville has changed a lot since then,” she said. “We didn’t have all these tasting rooms. When I opened, there was Brian Carter Cellars and the big guys - Columbia, the Chateau, Januik. We did a lot more tastings because there weren’t that many tasting rooms yet.”
There are now more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville. She shares a parking lot with Long Shadows Vintners, Chandler Reach, Goose Ridge, Airfield Estates and Darby. Next year, Milbrandt Vineyards and Ryan Patrick are set to move in.
“As we watched the corner change, we either had to decide if we were going to get lost among all the tasting rooms or change our business plan and move over here,” she said.
Sandra Lee counts herself among the regulars at Village Wines. It’s not unusual to see the executive director of Woodinville Wine Country working on her laptop or meeting over a glass of wine with a member of the winery association.
“Lisa goes out of her way to make people comfortable,” Lee said. “And while it's not a family restaurant per se, it also feels like more than a tasting room.”
And having Lee conduct business at Village Wines also serves as an endorsement.
“My relationship with her and the other people involved in the wine community has been really great, and it’s uplifting, too,” Bowen said. “Everyone around her is positive, and we’re all supporting each other. You are not going to get rich in this industry, but you can definitely do well enough to be happy.”
Terry Wells of Love That Red Winery said, “Lisa has been such a great backer and always supportive of our winery and wines. She's got a great team that visits the winery and keeps current on our releases. They really want to understand the nuts and bolts of each of our individual wines and their styles.”
On this afternoon, a winery manager swung in to set up a meeting, and a pair of local sommeliers staged an impromptu meeting over a beer. Indeed, Village Wines serves as a delicious getaway for winemakers and tasting room managers, and the arrival of chef Carlos Jimenez a year ago took the menu to another level.
“This is the first place where I’ve worked mostly with wine. Before it was cocktails and beer,” Jimenez said. “This is a good challenge for me. I’m learning about wine, and I ask Lisa for a lot of insight. She does a good job of explaining.”
The list of menu options is rather amazing considering the size of the kitchen Jimenez works in, and he’s restricted to convection ovens. “We know our limits,” he said with a smirk.
Bowen said, “He’s one of the reasons we have so many regulars. His soups are ridiculously good, and he always wants to think outside the box. The seasonal menu changes frequently. He does a lot of different things, and he’s made a lot of little tweaks to things we’ve had on the menu for a long time.”
She grew up on the Oregon coast, raised in a family of loggers and dairymen. Her path took her to Las Vegas before landing in Woodinville, where she wanted to develop a business that would allow her to be near if their three children needed them.
And while the theme of Village Wines is on alcohol and walls are stocked with thoughtfully selected bottles of wine, Lisa wants families to always feel welcome. The configuration of the restaurant and her liquor license allows children to sit almost anywhere.
And for her wine club members and guests, Villages Wines is akin to a candy store.
“Sure, there are lot of wine clubs around me, but mine is unique because you get wines from different wineries every month,” Bowen said. “For me, that brings my guests back in and we get to know them better.”
Village Wines seats about 70, and the outdoor patio comes into play virtually year-round. She’s open everyday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There’s live music several nights a week, and the lineup includes singer/guitarist Robbie Christmas, who performed the Star-Spangled Banner at a Seahawks game in 2014.
And yet, the bottles that line the walls provide a source of entertainment for wine geeks.
“People can come into to have dinner, and if they are a wine club member, they don’t get charged an on-premise price corkage fee. They are drinking wines off the shelf at retail,” Bowen said. “They can come in and have lunch or dinner, have a bottle of wine and are drinking it as if they were at home — only someone is waiting on them.
“That’s been my favorite part of the business plan,” she continued. “You have to offer diversity in this day and age, so we have an extensive by-the-glass list. I love having a bunch of Washington and Oregon wines on the list rather than having a bunch of stuff that nobody identifies with.”
For wine tourists hunting for a quick and convenient snack, options include the plate of smoked salmon ($18) with gluttonous portions seemingly inspired by cruise ship living. There’s also a cured meat platter, stacked to Jenga heights. It can be ordered ahead and prepared for takeout.
“The meat and cheese plates might be the signature thing we do because people are out tasting and they just want something quick to eat,” she said.
Jimenez’s background shows in his Match Maker pairing of the Tacos Carnitas with the Love That Red Winery 2014 Dead Heat Syrah, which boosted the black cherry profile of the Syrah to amazing proportions.
“I struggle with finding a Syrah that people want,” Bowen said. “Syrahs and Merlot are sometimes not on our list, but Terry’s seems to sell really well.”
Jimenez, inspired by his mother’s cooking while growing up in the Mexican state of Puebla, applies a personal touch to that dish.
“My roasted green salsa verde is something that I take pride in, and my father used to make carnitas, so I’ve adjusted that from Mexico,” he said.
For the white wine pairing, there’s another Rhône grape embraced by another Woodinville winemaker. The Two Vintners 2016 Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc showcases the enterprising work of Bowen, whose ingenuity comes across in Lisa’s Favorite Flatbread.
“With our convection ovens, we couldn’t get the crust to come out the way we want,” she said. “We tried a lot of different things, but a friend told me she uses the Trader Joe’s lavash bread on the barbecue. It cooks up great. Now, with the lavash bread as the crust, pizzas are one of our most popular items.
“It’s a big company secret,” she joked. “Don’t let it out. Everybody wants to know what the secret is with that crust.”
As for pairing, the Grenache Blanc’s natural zippy lemony acidity mirrors that of a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, and it works well with that smoked salmon. It also complements the flatbread’s chopped artichoke, prosciutto and savory tapenade.
“It’s a wine that’s not going to put anybody off, and we’ve been pouring that for a solid four years,” she said. “There are people who tell me they don’t like Chardonnay and don’t like Pinot Gris. This is in the middle of them with good balance. I just love it, and we do really well with it. Morgan (Lee) does a pretty fabulous job for Two Vintners and Covington Cellars.”
And for those wine tourists whose entourage includes a suds-loving Cliffy or Norm, Bowen will happily offer them a choice of eight regional beers on tap. At the other end of the spectrum, she supports Urban Us Coffee, Co., a Woodinville roaster.
“Honestly, everybody — including financial institutions — told me this wouldn’t work because it’s different,” Bowen said with a smile.
Love That Red Winery 2014 Dead Heat Syrah, Columbia Valley - $32
— 122 cases, 14.2% alcohol
Prior to Bellevue entrepreneur Terry Wells, Jr., becoming a commercial winemaker in Woodinville and before he launched his lineup of TOWELDRY hair care products, there was a racehorse.
Love That Red was a thoroughbred of some renown and owned by Wells’ parents. He ran at stately Santa Anita near Los Angeles and was fast enough to be trained by Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. Foaled in 1996 with bloodlines that featured Native Dancer, Love That Red made 20 starts for the Wells family, winning nine times - including the 2000 Pat O’Brien Stakes with Baffert - and earning nearly $800,000.
“We're the first and only completely horse racing-themed and branded winery nationally. Our niche,” Wells said. “The winery is both a tribute to the horse and my Dad - my life mentor.”
These now are the days of wines and rosés for Terry and Kriss Wells, but they continue to share ownership in a few race horses. Lately, it’s been quite a ride with Rhône varieties — namely Syrah.
This fall, the 2016 Love That Rosé finished runner-up in Wine Press Northwest’s spring judging of rosé. His inaugural rosé was an homage to the Southern Rhône with the blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre. It even earned a spot on this year’s Seattle Times’ Top 50 wines of 2017.
“We’ve been working with Syrah since 2010 as a winemaker and our first commercial release — our very first wine — was the 2013 Stakes Race Syrah,” Wells said.
The 2014 Dead Heat Syrah trots out bright purple fruit tones of Bing cherry and blueberry that include boysenberry, cured meat and some dusty minerality. Down the stretch, it’s big yet soft as black currant and Marionberry flavors are met by fine-grained black tea tannins and black licorice that draws out the finish. Its heritage leads with Milbrandt-owned Clifton Hill on the Wahluke Slope as petite Patina Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley fills in the gaps.
“As you know, we have two wines dedicated to Syrah as I love working with it and Washington state is so great at growing it,” Wells said. “Dead Heat Syrah is our riper, brighter, more fruit-forward style Syrah. Warmer climate vineyards comprise the majority of this blend (Clifton Hill) and not much new oak.
“The 2014 Stakes Race from the Walla Walla Valley goes with Les Collines and Patina.
“We’re always trying to show off the vineyard/fruit in this wine,” he added.
There’s more to Love That Red than Rhône, namely a Bordeaux-only blend called Daily Double Red. Fittingly, it won a double gold medal at the 2017 Cascadia International Wine Competition.
“Love That Red is deceased,” Wells said. “He died relatively young (2008) shortly after his racing career was over. He obviously didn't like standing around the pasture and missed the thrill of racing.”
Carnitas Tacos with Roasted Green Salsa
24 corn tortillas
Shredded slow-braised pork (carnitas recipe below)
Roasted green salsa (recipe below)
Pico de gallo for garnish
Cilantro, chopped for garnish
4 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces chipotle in adobo
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/4 tablespoon ground chipotle
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon fine salt
1/4 cup orange juice
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1. Mix the oil, spices, herbs and orange juice.
2. Cut the pork shoulder into pieces, place in baking pan or casserole dish, and cover with the mixture.
3. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.
4. When fully cooked, skim off fat and shred the pork.
Roasted Green Salsa
8 ounces tomatillos
1/2 clove garlic
1/8 yellow onion diced
1 fresh jalapeño (according to taste - 1/2 to 1 jalapeño recommended)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons cilantro
1. Roast the tomatillos and jalapeño in the oven until charred
2. Blend all ingredients together.
Two Vintners 2016 Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley - $25
— 490 cases, 12.3% alcohol
Morgan Lee has earned an award-winning reputation for his talents with mainstream varieties such as Merlot and Syrah, but it’s the work on the wild side beyond Zinfandel that feeds the following for Two Vintners in Woodinville.
His annual O.G., an “orange” Gewürztraminer made with extended skin contact, is a standout example. Lee is also all in on Grenache Blanc, and there might not be a better source in Washington for the fourth-most planted white grape in France than Dick Boushey in the Yakima Valley.
It might seem odd that Lee judges at the Indy International Wine Competition. However, the event, among the most respected on the nation’s judging circuit, is staged on the campus of Purdue University. And Lee is a product of the hospitality management program at the West Lafayette, Ind., school, but it was a wine appreciation class that rocked his world. Then an internship at Columbia Crest led him to Washington state in 2006.
Before long, Lee made his way to Woodinville, and this year, he and Covington Cellars co-owner David Lawson celebrated the 10th anniversary of Two Vintners.
Grenache Blanc doesn’t fit the Covington program of mainstream reds. It’s a different story for Two Vintners. In 2010, they sought a geeky Spanish-themed white wine and found a thirsty fandom among their Two Funk Nation.
There’s name recognition on the bottle as Lee brands it as Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc. The affable Boushey might be the state’s most identifiable and in-demand viticulturist, a grower whose reach extends beyond the 160-acre vineyard he planted near Grandview in 1980.
Grenache Blanc’s scintillating acidity can be over the top if bottled on its own, so Lee blends in Roussanne – another Rhône Valley white grape – which is grown not far from Boushey at historic Olsen Vineyard near Prosser. The Olsen brothers, feted as the Honorary Growers for the 2014 Auction of Washington Wines, established their vineyard in 1979. Sons have helped grow their plantings beyond 1,100 acres, making it one of the largest family-owned operations in the Yakima Valley.
Depending upon the vintage, Lee uses Roussanne for 5 to 25 percent of the bottling. (On the other hand, Roussanne drives the blend in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.) It rounds out the acidity just a touch. Two thirds of Lee’s Grenache Blanc spends six months in predominantly neutral oak barrels and undergoes weekly lees stirring to further build the midpalate.
Grenache Blanc is a relative newcomer to the U.S. Tablas Creek in Paso Robles celebrated in 2017 the 25th anniversary of its importation of Grenache Blanc from Beaucastel. And there’s no denying the success that Two Vintners — Wine Press Northwest’s 2013 Washington Winery to Watch - has enjoyed with its Grenache Blanc program. In 2016, they produced nearly 500 cases, almost double that of the 2015 vintage.
Lisa’s Favorite Flatbread
1 sheet of Trader Joe’s lavash
White barbecue sauce
2 cups prosciutto, diced
1 cup artichoke, chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup olive tapenade
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
White barbecue sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
3/4 teaspoons salt
1. Combine and mix ingredients for barbecue sauce.
2. Spread out lavash bread.
3. Apply the barbecue sauce to amount preferred.
4. Mix the two cheeses and sprinkle over the sauce.
5. Apply the tapenade, tomatoes, artichokes and prosciutto.
6. Bake at 425 degree for 10-12 minutes until cooked to desired crispiness. It can also be cooked on the barbecue for 3-5 minutes.