Never heard of Woodinville? I hadn’t either, but honestly, it’s genius. Here’s the idea- Washington state has been a major player in wine production for decades, growing their reputation internationally with every harvest. But the grape producing region is a bit remote for the average visitor, so back in 1976 Chateau Ste. Michelle opened a tasting room in a charming Suburban community only a few miles from Seattle. As Seattle has exploded in growth, their gamble has paid off dramatically and scores of other wine producers, big and small, have followed the trend and built their own tasting rooms. Naturally, great restaurants and boutique hotels were next and now it is a bonafide destination and a fabulous addition to a Seattle trip. Our family took the opportunity to check it out on our recent vacation and it was honestly one of the highlights of our time in Washington!
Considering they started it all, our first visit on the itinerary was to the Chateau Ste. Michelle, a gorgeous French inspired chateau on 105 beautifully landscaped acres. Known for their Riesling (they're the world’s single largest producer!), they make a dizzying array of wines, both white and red. The tasting included 4 wines, plus a complimentary pour of their Lux sparkling wine, and they had a variety of foods available to complement the wines. They are also very welcoming of children, encouraging of guests buying bottles or glasses and making a picnic on their grounds, and they have a great little store which sells meats, cheese and other accoutrements. During the summers, Chateau Ste. Michelle hosts an outdoor concert series on their grounds, even securing big talents like John Legend, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder!
Our next stop was Mark Ryan Wines, which we weren't familiar with beforehand but they absolutely blew us away! Mark Ryan started his wine-making journey out of a friend's garage and the tasting room is a nod to that, with garage doors and a vintage motorcycle as a defining feature. Overall it has a relaxed vibe with a rebel feel. While it's still small production, they have a serious following for their Rhone wines, cabernet sauvignon and red blends. Their Monkey Wrench red blend in particular was one of our top tastes the whole weekend.
Our last wine tasting stop was Long Shadows, which has a totally unique concept- they partner with master winemakers from every major winemaking region in the world to create a catalog of wines that highlight WA grapes. For example, Randy Dunn of Caymus fame makes a Cabernet Sauvignon and the Folonaris of Italy produce a red blend from Washington grapes. It's worth noting that this fresh idea of collaboration and synergy comes from Allen Shoup, longtime CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle and one of the greatest cheerleaders of Washington wines.
There are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Woodinville outside of just the wine. Our family stayed at the gorgeous Willows Lodge, which backs up to a paved 26 mile greenway that runs all the way into Seattle, with complimentary bike rentals on site. The grounds themselves are worth exploring, with gravel walking paths showcasing beautiful flowers, statues and fountains. They even have pet miniature pigs on site who get walked daily (my kids were big fans). There are 2 award-winning restaurants on the property, as well as a spa, so while this was a family visit for us, it would make wonderful couples escape. One other incredible nearby attraction is Snoqualmie Falls, which is only a 45 minute drive away. We started our morning at the top viewing area of this truly gorgeous waterfall, and then enjoyed a shady hike down to the bottom with plenty of scenic stops along the way.
If you make the trip, definitely check out the drive-thru coffee shop Grounds for an epic hot chocolate, excellent coffee and delicious breakfast sandwiches. Our other family favorite restaurant destination was the Hollywood Tavern, a perfect spot for happy hour specials or a casual dinner on the patio. All in all, Woodinville was a fun surprise and one of the best and most approachable wine towns I've visited- don't miss it!
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