Fall 2020

Abundant wine quality spreads throughout Snoqualmie Valley

Château NoElle Vineyards & Winery is home to the lone commercial vineyards in the Snoqualmie Valley. The vineyard is surrounded by tall cedars and a short drive from Highway 18 near Snoqualmie Ridge.
Château NoElle Vineyards & Winery is home to the lone commercial vineyards in the Snoqualmie Valley. The vineyard is surrounded by tall cedars and a short drive from Highway 18 near Snoqualmie Ridge.

Seattle-area wine lovers have an emerging region to explore beyond Woodinville and between Snoqualmie Pass.

The Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience provides a nine-winery adventure stretching from Cherry Valley Winery in Duvall to the Pearl and Stone Wine Co., tasting room in downtown North Bend, less than five minutes from Interstate 90.

There is just one commercial vineyard in the charming “Sno Valley,” but the remarkable emergence of Woodinville during the past two decades showed to the rest of the state that Washington wine country can take root anywhere.

“What happened in Woodinville has been great, cool and awesome, and it also got Western Washington established as a wine destination,” said Chris Stone, vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington State Wine Commission, who is also co-winemaker and co-owner of Pearl and Stone.

Reputations and repeated trips to a wine region are built upon what is poured in the glass. That starts in the vineyard. Fortunately, there is an abundance of world-class grapes grown throughout the state, and the investment by Snoqualmie Valley winemakers is reflected in the quality of wines at every stop along this trail.

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Tom Wilson, owner/winemaker at Château NoElle Vineyards and Winery in Snoqualmie, said, “The last few years some folks have put some points on the board with competitions and scores, which is good to see.”

At one end is Cherry Valley Winery in Duvall, about 40 minutes from North Bend, but most of the group is between Fall City and historic downtown Snoqualmie. They are linked by country roads, pasture and farmland with Mount Si looming throughout.

“It’s a beautiful little drive between North Bend to Duvall,” said Mount Si Winery co-owner Elaine Larsen in downtown Snoqualmie. “It’s gorgeous. There are cutesy little towns. There is food. I think it’s a great little wine route.”

2 Convergence Zone with barrels
Convergence Zone Cellars owner/winemaker Scott Greenberg’s tasting room is only six blocks from downtown North Bend. Richard Duval

Most of the award-winning wines made in the Snoqualmie Valley start in the warm Columbia Valley with decorated vineyards such as Boushey, Cave B, Ciel du Cheval, Dineen, Elephant Mountain, Gamache, Kiona, Olsen, Stillwater Creek, Upland on Snipes Mountain, Coyote Canyon and Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills and acclaimed blocks at historic Sagemoor along the Columbia River and Weinbau on the Wahluke Slope.

And the region — similar to Lake Chelan — has enjoyed the benefit of built-in tourism with natural features such as Snoqualmie Falls and Mount Si. There’s also the enduring buzz from the 1990s hit television series Twin Peaks, which brought film crews to Fall City, North Bend and Snoqualmie and starred future Walla Walla winemaker Kyle MacLachlan.

In fact, the tasting room for Pearl and Stone Wine Co., is kitty-corner from Twede’s Cafe, which has Twin Peaks Cherry Pie on the menu. Stone and a group of friends launched their winery in 2013.

“We were all born and raised out here,” Stone said. “We looked at the proximity to I-90, this outdoor recreation playground and saw that we’ve got a chance to establish something really cool and pretty tight. There are now nine wineries in the Sno Valley.”

Each winery offers a different experience. Some owners can be found offering their wines at farmers markets, and in many instances they pour for you in their garage or in the backyard of their home.

“It’s a big deal to sell someone a local product,” said Scott Greenberg, owner/winemaker of Convergence Zone Cellars. “And if you live in North Bend, there is someone just down the street who is making the wine in town.”

2 Mt Si exterior
Visitors to Mount Si Winery, a block away from downtown Snoqualmie, are immediately introduced to owner/winemaker Jim “Lars” Larsen’s affinity for motorcycles. Richard Duval

Larry Lindvig was a Boeing Employees Wine and Beer Makers Club member when he and wife, Birgit, helped blaze the Snoqualmie Valley wine trail in 2001 with Pleasant Hill Cellars. A few years ago, he sold the former dairy created by railroad tunnel engineer James Horrocks to Amazon executive Xander Kent and his winemaking wife, Samantha.

“Out here in the valley, it isn’t warehouse after warehouse after warehouse,”Xander said. “We have a story that includes bees and cows and a beautiful landscape.”

And while Samantha is doing the punchdowns, the chemistry and doting on the barrels, Xander tends the beehives that allow them to also produce the estate honey they sell in their tasting room and at farmers markets.

“We both really thrive on high-touch interaction with customers,” Samantha Kent said. “I love it when our ‘Riesling couple’ comes in and plays cribbage. It’s not just a stop along a path where you are about to taste wine next door. This is more of a destination where people come out to spend the afternoon with us.”

Orenda’s immediate success with grapes from Dineen, Stillwater Creek and old vine Cabernet Sauvignon off Konnowac Vineyard earned them Wine Press Northwest’s award for 2020 Washington Winery to Watch.

This summer at the Cascadia International Wine Competition, Orenda wines earned three gold medals. Last fall, the Château NoElle earned a Platinum from Wine Press Northwest for its work with Pinot Noir that they farm. This spring, Roger and Cathy Porter at Cherry Valley received four gold medals from the Seattle Wine Awards. A common thread between Orenda and Cherry Valley would be with the Lindvigs, who also befriended the Porters when they started in 2012.

“We told them about our idea and they graciously took us under their wings and mentored us throughout the entire process,” Cathy Porter said.

2 Orenda winemaker portrait
Winemaker Samantha Kent and her husband Xander opened Orenda Winery tasting room in Carnation in June 2019 and immediately began to rack up a number of gold medals in regional competitions. Wine Press Northwest named Orenda Winery as the 2020 Washington Winery to Watch. Richard Duval

And there’s an important feature that Woodinville and the Snoqualmie Valley share — a destination hotel, only the Salish Lodge & Spa offers a view that’s unparalleled with breathtaking and romantic Snoqualmie Falls.

“The Salish does a great job of sending folks down toward us,” said Ryan Seal, co-owner of Sigillo Cellars.

Each year, more than 1.5 million visitors cast their eyes on the 268-foot waterfalls, which places it just ahead of the Space Needle. Snoqualmie Falls is featured on the landing page of ExperienceWA.com, the official tourism site for the state of Washington.

Mount Si, at 4,167 feet elevation, is named after Josiah Merrit, a farmer and hog rancher who lived near the base of the mountain in 1862 and sold his goods in Everett and Seattle. During the next three decades, logging companies began to use the Snoqualmie River and the railroad to ship timber around the world.

Last fall, the Snoqualmie Tribe purchased the destination hotel and adjacent 45 acres from the Muckleshoot Tribe for $125 million. Combined with its Snoqualmie Casino, the tribe now owns 100 acres. Members of the Snoqualmie Tribe believe spray from the falls transports prayers to forefathers.

Columbia Hospitality, a longtime friend of the wine industry and operator of The Inn at Abeja in Walla Walla, will continue to manage The Salish, which is viewed as a supporter of the Snoqualmie Valley wine industry.

While stretches of the Snoqualmie Valley remain bucolic farm land and forest, development continues — particularly between the historic town of Snoqualmie and bustling Interstate 90. And there’s an environmental review pending for a series of wineries and breweries that would be built as part of the first phase of a 261-acre project called Snoqualmie Mill. The proposal for the former Weyerhaeuser lumber mill is being led by North Bend developer Tom Sroufe, who began rolling it out in 2017. It includes plans for a 5,000-seat amphitheater, but there’s already concern about how Snoqualmie Mill could change the valley’s complexion.

“I still think it’s going to happen. They’ve got too much invested,” said Bill Grassie of William Grassie Wine Estates in Snoqualmie. “It’s going to be a cool thing, and it should bring at least 20 wineries to the area. Maybe more.”

2 Pearl team
Co-owners/co-winemakers Chris Stone, left, and Paul Ribary launched Pearl and Stone Wine Co. in 2013. The tasting room is kitty-corner from Twede’s Cafe, which offers Twin Peaks Cherry Pie in tribute to the 1990s hit television series Twin Peaks filmed in the area. Richard Duval

WINERIES

Château NoElle Vineyards & Winery – Snoqualmie

There are indeed estate vineyards in the Snoqualmie Valley — two acres established across three blocks that are meticulously groomed by Tom and Lorrie Wilson, who named their passion project for their grown children — Nolan and Elle. Château NoElle is surrounded by tall cedars between Snoqualmie Ridge and Snoqualmie Casino, about a seven-minute drive from the Highway 18 exit off I-90.

“Most of the tasting rooms on this side of the state are basically wine bars,” Tom said. “We’re not a wine bar. We’re a small estate winery that happens to make wines from both sides of the state.”

Tom, a 55-year-old real estate broker and graduate of Whitman College, grew up farming in the Walla Walla Valley near Milton-Freewater, Ore. A high school graduation party in the Wilson backyard near Snoqualmie Ridge sparked Tom into researching maritime grape growing. By 2016, Meadow Vineyard got its start.

“It’s our show-and-tell planting immediately proximate to the ‘wineyard’ for visitors to experience while tasting our wines,” he says.

The Wilsons followed up with Elle Block a year later and Nolan Block in 2019. The Wilsons lead brief tours in advance of tastings. Their project includes cool-climate varieties such as Auxerrois, the Russian white grape Iskorka, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Siegerrebe, Rondo, Zweigelt, Dijon clone 76 and 95 Chardonnay, the early-ripening Pinot Noir clone Precoce and Dijon clones 113, 115, 667 and 777.

“Rondo is a German hybrid that takes only 1,600 heat units to ripen,” he said. “Some of our guests will ask how much wine does all that make? The answer is, ’Not much,’ but they can sit here, taste wine and hear the story to make for a unique experience and interaction.”

All combined, the Wilsons produce about 650 cases on average, with a third of that Pinot Noir.

“Our heart lies in farming the vines, making good wine and building community,” Lorrie says. “We want people to come and fall in love with this place, share some stories with one another and take some wine home. This summer, even with the social distancing, we’ve gotten a glimpse of what we can be as we watch people make connections.”

The select but small assemblage has allowed the Wilsons to rapidly achieve the goals for their estate program, as well as the Pinot Noir they’ve personally farmed along Hollywood Hill near Woodinville. He’s used grafted rootstock in his own vineyard to promote early ripening, which helps him to apply the knowledge he gleaned from South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy. And there’s no new oak involved in his Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

“This allows us to produce truly food-friendly wines featuring nuanced flavors and aromatics that emphasize diversity of both fruit and earth while balancing palate-cleansing acidity with moderate alcohol,” he says.

Recently, they’ve focused their Columbia Valley program on Sagemoor Vineyards, where they work with vineyard manager Kent Waliser and rising star viticulturist Lacey Lybeck on fruit for their bold reds at Gamache and Weinbau and Riesling from venerable Bacchus.

ChateauNoElle.com

Cherry Valley Winery — Duvall

It’s been a rather rapid road to success for Roger and Cathy Porter, who launched Cherry Valley Winery on Cherry Valley Road in 2013.

“We had kicked around many names and nothing screamed Duvall or Snoqualmie Valley,” Cathy says. “So we made it easy on ourselves by naming it after the road we live on.”

The Porters moved to Duvall in 1997, prompted by Roger’s career in computer science.

“In 2012, we decided to look for property as we had three boys and wanted space for them to run,” she says. “Though we had talked about having a winery before, we had no intention at the time of purchase to start a winery. After moving in, we looked at the property and realized that it would make the perfect destination winery.“

They have no plans to increase their annual production beyond 1,000 cases. In terms of critical acclaim, Cherry Valley deserves the attention after receiving four gold medals in competitions this year, three of them from the 2016 vintage led by their flagship red, a Cabernet Franc they call The Mountains. The Sangiovese and Iberian-inspired Tempranillo/Mourvèdre blend each received gold medals this year. The 2015 Fifteen Finale, a Meritage-style red led by Cabernet Franc, also earned a gold medal. A standalone expression of Petite Sirah also is a favorite, while their white program includes a Rhône blend. Vineyard relationships take in Cave B Vineyards in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, Elephant Mountain, Lonesome Spring Ranch and little-known Allechant Vineyards, a site in the Rattlesnake Hills introduced to the Porters by Larry Lindvig, their friend who won awards at Pleasant Hill Cellars before retiring.

“Our focus is mainly on red wines and we source mostly Boudreaux-style varietals,” she says. “We do love to tinker with different varietals every once in a while, which adds a bit of fun to our tasting list for our customers.”

CherryValleyWinery.com

Convergence Zone Cellars - North Bend

Scott Greenberg spent his career as a city planner, much of it dealing with the zones for Seattle bedroom communities Mercer Island and Des Moines. Along the way, he began making wine, studied at South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy and went commercial, launching Convergence Zone Cellars in the Woodinville Warehouse District while living near Totem Lake. Their first commercial vintage was 2008. In 2012, they moved a few blocks to the Artisan Hill region. Four years later, they were ready to leave Woodinville.

“My wife said to me one morning, ‘I think I want to move. And I really want some chickens and a big garden,’ ” he recalls. “We couldn’t do that where we were living, but when Monica told me that if we found a big enough property, ‘What do you think about starting a winery?’ — that got my attention.”

They looked from Monroe to Maple Valley before finding a prime 2-acre parcel in North Bend about 6 blocks from the heart of town. He looks up and sees Mount Si, and he’s learned that 75 percent of his tasting room traffic is local — as in very local.

“They primarily walk over to see us, but some come on their bikes,” he said.

He pulls his Drizzle Pinot Gris from Red Mountain icon Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. There’s also a Pinot Gris rosé from Gamache Vineyard and a brisk Chenin Blanc from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain. His flagship wine is the Storm Front Red Wine, a blend inspired by Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The Mistral is a GSM blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre from Red Mountain. Squall Line is all Cabernet Sauvignon, while Downburst is dominated by Cabernet Franc.

The Greenbergs have planted one vine — Niagara, the winter-hardy white from New York — but a few volunteers popped up near the crush pad. Those seeds that sprouted vinifera vines prompted Greenberg to create a tiny trellis. There’s a weather station on the property, too.

“The winery is named Convergence Zone,” he dead-panned. “There’s got to be a weather station.”

In addition to his own brand, there’s Fly Rod Cellars, which is produced by son-in-law Troy Mandeville and John Richardson.

CZCellars.com

Fivash Cellars - Fall City

Prior to the Great Recession, Scott Fivash launched his brand out of his home in Sammamish. In 2018, the real estate agent doubled down on the wine industry by purchasing acreage in Fall City and opening a tasting room.

His formal education in business took him to the University of Southern California and Stanford, and he spent more than 20 years as an executive in publishing. The same year he stepped down as editor-in-chief of Washington CEO magazine, 2007, is when he started Fivash Cellars. His first hands-on education came on the crush pad and cellar as an intern at Walla Walla Vintners for founders Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri and winemaker William vonMetzger.

A decade ago, Fivash took more classes, this time through University of California-Davis, in the vaunted viticulture and enology school’s Wine Executive program.

He maintained relationships with Walla Walla Valley growers, and his lineup includes a Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 35 months in French oak and the Right Bank-inspired C-Star Blend.

Activities they normally offer at Fivash Cellars — just a few blocks southeast of the Farmhouse Market — include badminton, bocce ball and a “glampfire” evening.

Fivash-Cellars.business.site

Mount Si Winery — Snoqualmie

It takes only two hours for Jim “Lars” Larsen to leave his garage/winery and be on the Wahluke Slope in Arianses Vineyard. Rather than figuring out the price per ton of fruit he gets, “We pay about $1.20 per pound for grapes,” Larsen said.

That form of measurement, essentially the same scale as someone buying table grapes at the grocer, is unheard of in the wine industry, but then the grower playfully refers to this customer, a self-taught winemaker as “a grape whore,” Larsen said with a chuckle. “There’s not a grape I don’t like.”

Still, he’s investing more than $2,000 per ton on grapes, which means he pays more than average when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon in Washington.

Anyone who visits their home/winery/tasting room, just a block from downtown Snoqualmie, can see there’s no room at Mount Si Winery beyond the typical production of about 600 cases. And Lars has come a long way from making “terrible” wine out the plums from the tree in his Snoqualmie backyard. Next came cider before a winemaker told him it’s easier to make fruit wine from a vineyard rather than from an orchard.

His wife, Elaine, says, “I keep telling him, ‘That’s it! We’re at capacity. But harvest is coming up, and he gets excited.”

As a result, among the wines he produces from Arianses or acclaimed Elephant Mountain or historic Portteus in the Yakima Valley include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec in addition to Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blend, a GSM rosé and a red blend called Le Rouge. The Kiss of a Rose rosé features a photo of Lars’s parents when they were high-school sweethearts.

“I think GSM is coming into fashion,” he said.

By day, Lars is an independent general contractor with longtime clients in and around Seattle. On evenings and weekends, he’ll be at the winery. He and Elaine have given up taking vacations and boating in order to make award-winning wine. They’ve been making wine in the garage, crushing grapes in their driveway, since 1993. It wasn’t until 2013 when the Larsens went commercial with 200 cases — eight barrels.

“I went around to all the neighbors and virtually every single one would say, ‘I didn’t know you made wine,’ ” Lars said. “They all think it’s great. Of course, I do grease the skids a little bit.”

And the story of how Mount Si Winery came to life fits the small-town charm often found in the Snoqualmie Valley. The Larsens wondered about the legal hurdles they would face if they wanted to start a winery in their cul de sac. City Hall is just a block away from their home, on the other side of the historic railroad tracks, so they walked over to ask questions.

“Oh, that sounds great!” they were told by a receptionist. “Now, go talk to that guy.”

“So we did,” Elaine said, “and that guy said, ‘Oh that sounds great! OK, can you sign right here — and what’s the name of the winery?”

Lars recalls, “We hadn’t even discussed that, so we just blurted ‘Mount Si!’ How about Mount Si Winery?’ And we walked down the street and back home with this paper that said ‘Mount Si Winery.’ We thought it would be months of paperwork, but the city has been great.”

MtSiWinery.com

Orenda Winery - Carnation

Few wineries in the Pacific Northwest have been as successful as suddenly as Orenda. The Kents opened their tasting room on June 22, 2019. Before their 2016 Cabernet Franc was street-legal with its label, they’d received a double gold medal at the Seattle Wine Awards. That wine, produced with fruit from Stillwater Creek Vineyard, went on to earn the award for Best Red Wine at the 2019 Great Northwest Wine Invitational. Their 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon won a double gold medal.

This year, they received three gold medals at the Cascadia International Wine Competition for the Orenda 2017 Cabernet Franc, 2017 Merlot and 2016 Balance Red Wine.

“This is pretty darn close to our dream, but we no longer understand the concept of a weekend,” Samantha says.

This harvest, they will nearly double the production from their first vintage, growing from 650 cases in 2016 to about 1,200 cases per year as they focus on Bordeaux and Rhône varieties from Stillwater Creek in the Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley plantings Elephant Mountain/Sugarloaf, Dineen and Konnowac, which is now controlled by their friend Javier Alfonso of Pomum Cellars and Idilico.

“It’s more work than we expected,” Xander said. “We were up until midnight a couple of nights ago making blending decisions about Cab. And then people come out and say, ‘It’s so peaceful here. You must just sit around and drink wine.’ ”

OrendaWinery.com

Pearl and Stone Wine Co. - North Bend

When it comes to homegrown, no winery’s roots go quite as deep and wide as Pearl and Stone.

“We are a partnership of three local families, all deeply rooted in the local community with a shared love of wine,” said co-owner Chris Stone. “Pearl stands for Paul, Erika And Rob & Laurie. The wives were all teachers together at Fall City Elementary, and we were all having kids at the same time and hanging out. Wine was always at the heart of those gatherings.”

Paul Ribary, who owns a construction company, said, “We all live vicariously through Chris.”

That’s because Stone is the longtime vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington State Wine Commission. On Jan. 12, 2013, the group, which includes Stone’s wife, Wendy, gathered to celebrate Ribary’s birthday. This time they began to talk more seriously than usual about launching a winery.

“I’d registered the LLC by the end of the party,” said Ribary, who handles operations and logistics. Rob Wesorick, a Microsoft employee, serves as the general manager.

Stone had made a barrel or two of wine previously, but he knew he also needed help so he asked one of his golfing buddies — acclaimed winemaker Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery on Vashon Island - to be the group’s consultant.

“He didn’t make the wine for us,” Stone says. “We made it 100 percent ourselves. He was a guide to help us make sure we didn’t do anything wrong and to read our lab stuff.”

That five-year agreement ended in 2018, but the connection is still there if Stone needs it.

“It was Chris who taught us the style of the wines that we want to make,” Stone said.

After all, much of the foundation of the P&S program continues to be fruit from Two Blondes Vineyard — an estate planting in the Yakima Valley for Andrew Will. And that growing region fits the understated and elegant approach behind the wines of Pearl and Stone, which has since gotten into vineyards such as Boushey, Elephant Mountain/Sugarloaf, Olsen and Sagemoor.

“After talking with winemakers in this state for the past 20 years, I’ve come to understand that 80 percent of this business is just getting good fruit and getting out of the way,” Stone said.

The resulting wines include Grenache Blanc, a GSM of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, red Bordeaux blends and a rosé of Cabernet Franc. If the wine was made from a Rhône grape, it will be named after a nearby hiking trail. If it is Bordeaux, then it’s a local mountain.

“Resolution Peaks is also known as Mount Si and Little Mount Si,” Stone pointed out.

Some might see the potential for a conflict of interest to emerge, but Stone spent enough time going over the parameters with the commission and the state attorney general’s office to avoid risking his job. Besides, none of the owners said they’ve taken a dime out of Pearl and Stone just yet.

“There were some nervous moments early on getting the approval to do this, but I’d say almost without exception that the industry has seen me being involved in a small winery as hugely beneficial from a commission standpoint,” Stone said. “I know the pain some of these producers go through to make a bottle of wine. I’ve walked their shoes, and I understand their business better now.”

They earned favorable scores from critics and have been warmly embraced by friends, colleagues and their peeps in the Snoqualmie Valley. That debut vintage of 2013 led to 300 cases of wine. The goal from the 2020 harvest is 2,200 cases.

“We’ve had no trouble selling out of every vintage,” Stone said. “We’ll see about this year with the COVID situation.”

And the young tasting room for Pearl and Stone should be easy to find.

“We’re kitty-corner from the Twin Peaks café,” Stone said. “Twin Peaks cherry pie and ‘a damn fine cup of coffee!’ ”

PearlAndStone.com

2 Sigillo sign
The downtown Snoqualmie tasting room for Sigillo Cellars, in the historic Sunset Theater, is topped by a Snoqualmie Fire Department siren that sounds at noon every day but Sunday. Richard Duval

Sigillo Cellars - Snoqualmie

The Seal family and their friends, Scott and Christie Hussey, continue to pour their wines in downtown Snoqualmie, along Railroad Avenue, not far from their production space near the high school.

However, their success prompted them to recently open a satellite tasting room in Chelan’s historic Lakeside School for Sigillo — pronounced see-GELLO, an Italian word for “seal.”

Peers in the Snoqualmie Valley view Sigillo Cellars as “the big dog” of their loosely formed young group. What began in 2010 with 470 cases has grown into about 6,000 cases annually, making Sigillo easily the largest producer in the valley.

“I was in health care sales for 20 years,” Ryan Seal said. “Before that, I owned a coffee company for 11 years. I love the entrepreneurial side of life and never wanted to work for somebody. I didn’t sleep very much for a few years while we were getting the winery going.”

His early mentor was Woodinville winemaker Matthew Loso, founder of Matthews Winery. In recent years, it’s been Linn Scott of Sparkman Cellars, who shares advice if there’s a question surrounding one of the nearly 30 wines in their portfolio.

“And he’s helped us to get into some vineyards that we couldn’t touch before,” Seal said.

When your wines are as clean, balanced and fruity as these are, and you operate tasting rooms on both sides of the Cascades — this year they traded Leavenworth for Chelan — there are reasons why a winery with nearly 1,500 club members also plans to move into a larger building in downtown Snoqualmie.

“We’ve been community-focused since Day One,” Seal says. “In 2011, we were the only ones out here. People just accepted us. Wine club was always my focus. Up until now, our wines haven’t really been in wholesale. We’ve always sold out through our wine club and the tasting room.”

They’ve enjoyed remarkable success in the historic Sunset Theater, which is topped by the candy red Snoqualmie Fire Department siren that sounds at noon each day except Sunday. It came over from the old firehall, which was built in 1956.

Seal’s father, Mike, oversees the winemaking. The fruit they work with comes from historic vineyards such as Sagemoor, first planted in 1968, and 40-year-old site Rosebud Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. There are nearly 30 wines in the portfolio, including standalone bottles of Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo as well as a GSM. A Right Bank-Bordeaux blend is named after the Sunset Theater. Their white proprietary blend of Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne is called SnoValley. White Caps is a 100% Pinot Gris grown near Lake Chelan, a tribute to the Seal family’s cabin at Lake Chelan.

SigilloCellars.com

William Grassie Wine Estates - Snoqualmie

Less than a month before the COVID shelter-in-place orders, Bill Grassie opened his new tasting room along Center Boulevard on Snoqualmie Ridge.

“They were dying to have a tasting room open up here,” he said. “There are plenty of people who just walk here.”

As a result, his Fall City estate, which includes a vineyard he planted soon after arriving in 2007, will be limited to special events. His first commercial vintage was 2011 when he shared space and equipment in Woodinville with Ancestry Cellars and Lauren Ashton Cellars.

“I’m a master gardener, and I had this big patch of land in my front yard that I couldn’t figure out what to do with,” Grassie said. “Since I like wine, I thought it would be fun, if for nothing more than landscaping, to have a vineyard in my front yard.”

Soon, the graduate from the University of Kansas wanted to do something with those grapes, so he went to South Seattle College’s Northwest Wine Academy.

“Two years later, I then knew how to make wine,” he said.

He’s worked in sales with corporations such as Sprint, Microsoft and Dell, but a change in management prompted Grassie to think more seriously about life as a professional winemaker and prepare to flee the corporate world.

“Instead of one barrel that first year, I made 20, and the rest is history,” he said. “But because I’ve had a day job up until 2017, I’ve been able to afford to not cut corners. I age my wines three years in barrel and another year in bottle. It costs a little more, but for me, it makes a wine that I enjoy more. And they are ready to drink the day you buy them.”

Each of his dry white wines — Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and a Bordeaux-inspired blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Sèmillon — are under $20. His penchant for nicely aged work with Cabernet Sauvignon takes up six spots on his portfolio. There’s also a Merlot blend and standalone bottlings of Malbec and Syrah named after granddaughters.

There seems to be no shortage of walk-in tasting room traffic, particularly late on a weekday afternoon with folks getting off work, but until the pandemic, he was maintaining a tasting room presence in Woodinville.

“At some point, I would like to move my production out of Woodinville and out here,” he said. “I absolutely love it out here, and until or unless I sell the winery, I will be out here the rest of my life.”

WMGrassieWines.com

LODGING

The Salish Lodge & Spa overlooks Snoqualmie Falls and blends the room experience of Willows Lodge with a bit of the historic feel found at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. There’s also Hampton Inn and Suites on Snoqualmie Ridge.

RESTAURANTS

The Grange in Duvall, established in 2018, provides seasonal farm-to-table dining, much of the ingredients coming from the farm run by restaurant owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward.

Flavor Bistro in Duvall is dinner-only by chef Sean Langan.

Gianfranco Ristorante Italiano was founded in Snoqualmie by Calabria chef Gianfranco Bafaro, and it is closing in on 20 years in business with Joe Dollente as head chef.

Il Paesano Ristorante Italiano in downtown North Bend now is led by Bafaro, who moved to Seattle in 1979 and opened his first restaurant near the University of Washington’s Seattle campus in 1985.

Caadxi Oaxaca in downtown Snoqualmie is prime for Mexican.

The Woodman Lodge Steakhouse and Saloon can boast a 2019 wine list award from Wine Spectator.

Locally owned Buckshot Honey is a new barbecue pit in downtown Snoqualmie on River Street.

Executive chef Sean Quinn, a product of South Seattle College’s culinary program, owns and operates three restaurants west of Bellevue. One of those is in the Snoqualmie Valley. The Iron Duck Public House in North Bend, which opened in 2018, is devoted to beer (20 taps), whiskey (more than 350 from around the world) and cocktails.

The North Bend Bar & Grill is renowned for its pretzel burger with Beecher’s white cheddar.

Snoqualmie Casino’s options include Vista for steak and seafood, 12 Moons for sushi and Asian fare and the Snoqualmie Cafe & Deli for 24-hour dining.

The Farmhouse Market in Fall City features local produce, Painted Hills natural beef and special-order deli trays. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Store owner Jay Bluher has maintained the hometown feel and embraced the history of his location, which has served as a corner grocer since 1922.

There’s also the iconic Scott’s Dairy Freeze in North Bend, which is one of the state’s oldest continuously operated drive-ins.

At William Grassie Wine Estates, there are 11 restaurants within a two-block radius, and Grassie allows outside food in his Snoqualmie Ridge tasting room.

WINE MERCHANTS

Kimberlea Martin began writing about wine before she began to sell it. Wildflower Bistro in downtown North Bend still serves as a wine merchant. (See the Match Maker profile on Martin and Wildflower in this issue.)

Misty Valley Farm is a lavender farm and tasting room between Duvall and Carnation that serves wines made by a handful of Snoqualmie Valley producers.

Snoqualmie Valley wines also can be found at Family Grocer and Valley House Brewing in Duvall and Remlinger Farms in Carnation.

COFFEE

Those needing a pick-me-up during a wine tour or on the way over Snoqualmie Pass have invigorating choices in North Bend. Huxdotter Coffee, established in 1990, sells Pacific Northwest wines, fresh-baked goods and pastries from Macrina Bakery, North Bend Bakery doughnuts and Seattle Bagel Bakery items.

The non-profit Trail Youth Coffee Home in North Bend is acclaimed throughout Western Washington for the life-coaching program it developed since opening in 2013. Thanks to a community fundraising effort, Fall City was poised at press time to welcome its first coffee house — locally owned Aroma Coffee Co. — in the historic Prescott-Harshman Building.

Mt. Si Coffee Roasters sells its products to Whole Foods and other grocers throughout the region.

TREATS

The North Bend Bakery is a destination in the morning for doughnuts and apple cinnamon bread, but there is also lunch with a variety of sandwiches, quiches, soup and salad.

The Sno Valley is home to several craft beverage producers such as Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, No Boat Brewing Co., Volition Brewing (North Bend), Valley House Brewing (Duvall) and Duvall Distillery.

3 Orenda 2nd shot - Bee Keeper
Orenda Winery co-owner Xander Kent tends the beehives at the winery. The Kents produce and sell estate honey along with the award-winning wines crafted by his winemaking wife, Samantha. Richard Duval

Travel and touring

SavorSnoqualmieValley.org provides information on Duvall, Carnation, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend and offers a powerful interactive map for the wineries, breweries, lodging, shopping, farms, restaurants, hiking trails, information centers and even public restrooms.

DiscoverNorthBend.com is a great tourism portal managed by the North Bend Visitors Bureau. It provides a history of the Snoqualmie Valley, and a gateway for outdoors enthusiasts.

The North Bend Information and Cultural Center is a partnership with the City of North Bend, the Downtown Foundation and a strong volunteer base.

Taylor Tasting Tours in Seattle specializes in private tours.

Evergreen Escapes orchestrates group tours with a bit of exercise, typically starting at Snoqualmie Falls and including lunch in Fall City.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

Seattle suburbs continue to encroach on the Snoqualmie Valley but these Cascade foothills serve as a breadbasket and a weekend getaway. Tiger Mountain, Snoqualmie Point and Duthie Hill attract mountain bikes. Mount Si ranks as one of the region’s most talked-about challenges, but there are an abundance of hikes nearby.

Many of the PGA Tour’s most famous golfers compete as seniors on the Champions Tour, which conducts the Boeing Classic at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in late August.

There are a number of farmers markets in the valley, including Carnation (Tuesday afternoons), Duvall and North Bend (Thursday afternoons). Snoqualmie canceled its farmers markets this year.

Snoqualmie Casino opened in 2008, a little more than a decade after the U.S. government’s re-recognition of the Snoqualmie Tribe. It is the closest casino to Seattle and includes one of the region’s few cigar lounges.

The Northwest Railway Museum operates a bookstore in the Snoqualmie Depot Waiting Room and Freight Room. There’s also the Snoqualmie Valley Wine Train when available. Typically, it operates once a month from March through October. Go to TrainMuseum.org.

ERIC DEGERMAN is co-founder and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at GreatNorthwestWine.com.

GETTING THERE

Snoqualmie Falls is 30 miles east of downtown Seattle, and its proximity to Interstate 90 — about 10 minutes northwest of the North Bend exit — is just one reason why it ranks among the state’s biggest tourist attractions.

From Woodinville, it is a 10-mile or 20-minute drive east to Duvall along Northwest Woodinville-Duvall Road.

From Bellevue, it is a 20-mile or 30-minute drive east to Carnation if taking Highway 520, catching Highway 202 at Redmond and then to Highway 203 — the north/south road that parallels the serpentine Snoqualmie River and serves as the spine of the Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience.

And from North Bend, it is just 26 miles to reach the ski areas atop Snoqualmie Pass.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is 35 miles west of North Bend.

SPECIAL WEEKENDS/EVENTS

Sip Suds & Si, a late March festival, began in 2018 and gets support from the North Bend Downtown Foundation. The walking tour begins at the historic train depot.

SipFest 2021 in June, which will be the fifth year of it, already is in the works for Railroad Park.

The Festival at Mount Si traditionally is the second weekend in August.

Despite the pandemic, the Northwest Railway Museum managed to stage its annual Snoqualmie Railroad Days on time in August, and this year it rolled out the restored Locomotive 924, a $500,000 project focused on an engine built in 1899.

The Snoqualmie Winter Lights Festival is traditionally the first Saturday in December at the Railroad Park & Centennial Log Pavilion.

LEARN MORE

LivingSnoqualmie.com is the go-to resource for information on the Snoqualmie Valley community of North Bend, Snoqualmie, Fall City and Carnation. It was founded in 2010 by Danna McCall, whose passion and professional approach led to her role as the public information officer and communications manager for the City of North Bend. Learn more at LivingSnoqualmie.com.

The Snoqualmie Valley Record is a weekly publication that began in 1913 and serves North Bend, Snoqualmie, Preston, Fall City, Carnation, Novelty, Vincent and Duvall. Sound Publishing, the largest community media organization in the state, operates the site at ValleyRecord.com.

The history of Snoqualmie Falls is told at SnoqualmieFalls.com, which includes links to the renowned Snoqualmie Falls Lodge pancake and waffle mix as well as Snoqualmie Casino.

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