Almost six weeks behind on posting this, but better late than never I suppose! In mid-August the Villain and I visited Seattle for a quick weekend trip. Seattle is one my favorite cities, in one of my favorite parts of the country. The Villain had never been so this trip was a perfect mix of old and new, exploring the typical tourist destinations and heading a bit out of the way to sample some Washington wines.
Though most of the wineries in the state are in Eastern Washington, Woodinville is definitely considered wine country because of the more than 90 tasting rooms that have now opened in this small town of about 12,000 people. The day that we happened to visit was the ‘Celebrate Woondinville’ festival, which worked out perfectly since my uncle is a firefighter in Woodinville and was ‘on duty’ for a few hours at the local parade. It was great catching up with Matt, getting a bunch of good recommendations from locals and watching a cheesy neighborhood parade.
Armed with a list of must-try wineries, breweries and distilleries, we headed off in search of an epic afternoon.
Places we visited:
Name: St. Michelle
Cost of tasting: $10
General opinions: Obviously the most famous winery in the area, evident by the crowds. We didn’t even end up doing a tasting here since the lines were several people deep and most of the grounds, though beautiful, were closed off for a private event.
Name: Columbia Winery
Cost of tasting: $10 for 4 small pours
General opinions: Nice patio, easy parking out front and no wait, but we didn’t find the wines to be exceptional.
Name: Novelty Hill/Januik Winery
Cost of tasting: $10 for 4 or 5 tastes, waived if you buy a bottle.
General opinions: Intended to do a full flight of tastes but tried the Sauvignon Blanc and loved it so much we bought a bottle instead and enjoyed a glass on the patio. Huge patio with bocce ball courts and wood-fired pizzas served. Really cool vibe, and would be especially fun if you had a group of friends with you.
Name: Red Hook Brewery
Cost of tasting: $7 for 5, 2 oz. tasters
General opinions: Very popular place, and much like Denver, many folks appeared to come straight in off a hike or bike ride. Tours are free on the top of the hour, but since we were in between tours we decided on a flight at the bar instead. Beer was great and all the food we saw looked delicious.
Name: Woodinville Distillery
Cost of tasting: $5 to try two whiskies, a vodka and local honey and maple syrup.
General opinions: I sat this one out but The Villain was really impressed! Smooth aged whiskeys that Bottles started around $38 for purchase.
Name: Brian Carter Cellars
Cost of tasting: $10, waived if you buy a bottle.
General opinions: Specializes mostly in reds. Oddly enough, we ended up with a pinot gris for $18. That seemed like a better bargain than paying for the tasting.
Name: Smasne Cellars
Cost of tasting: $10
General opinions: Bottles were only $14, so again we thought it to be a better deal to just buy the bottle than pay for the tasting. This winery has apparently won lots of awards and seemed to have the most variety, with over 20 types of wine available for tasting or purchase.
Name: Eye of the Needle
Cost of tasting: $5 each, waived with bottle purchase
General opinions: We really enjoyed talking with the winemaker, who seemed friendlier and more willing to talk about his wine than others had been throughout the day, despite it being near closing times. We liked most of the wines and ended up buying a couple of bottles. In hindsight, we should have started here and tried some of the others in this area as the heavy pours and more friendly nature of the folks made for a better experience. This could also be attributed to the fact that the by this point in the day the winemakers have spent the entire day enjoying their wine with potential customers.
Name: The Collective
Cost of tasting: Craft beer flights- 5 pours for $6.
General opinions: This is where we ended up eating dinner. After a long afternoon of wine tasting it was nice to make our night cap craft beer, and we were impressed with the great selection of seasonal brews from all over the country. The food was also very good, but the service was terribly slow and disorganized. TripAdvisor reviews were right on point for this place, find a way to sit at the bar if you do make it here.
Woodinville is small and the tasting rooms are all pretty close together so it’s easy to get around. There was a trolley that seemed to shuttle folks back and forth and many also were on bike or foot. In general wine tastings seemed to average $10 for four to five, one oz. pours, though the Warehouse District seemed to be a bit cheaper. It was pretty crowded on a Saturday afternoon in August, since the weather was gorgeous and it’s a quick and easy day trip from Seattle. Most wineries offered to waive the tasting fee if you bought a bottle, which can either bring your cost down or jack it up, depending on how you look at it. The tasting rooms were more crowded and expensive than I had anticipated, but it still made for a really fun afternoon!
The following week I had to road trip to Western Colorado for work and carved out an hour or two to swing through Palisade. I’ve grown up knowing about Palisade thanks to the semi truck that parked in front of the furniture store a few Saturdays every August in my hometown, bringing us juicy, fresh-picked peaches. Since living in Colorado I’ve learned that Palisade’s prime location on the Western Slope makes it Colorado’s own little wine country, home to almost 20 wineries. I pulled off I-70 for a big box of peaches, but couldn’t resist strolling around town to scope out some of the wineries. From the folks I talked to it appeared that nearly all of the wineries in Palisade offered free tastings and they weren’t crowded at all. As seems to be the trend for areas cluttered with wineries, there is also a local brewery and distillery in town. I ran into the meadery for some local honey to take home and they were offering up tastes of several varieties of meads, wine made from honey instead of grapes.
I thought Palisade was adorable and I can’t wait to bring back The Villain and our bikes for a weekend of exploring local vineyards, orchards and perhaps a quaint bed and breakfast! Palisade is not the easiest place to get to, since it’s just over a four hour drive from both Denver and Salt Lake City, but there is a regional airport in Grand Junction (15 minutes away), served by five different airlines.
Allegiant Air: Service to Las Vegas and Los Angeles
American Airlines: Daily Service to Dallas/Ft. Worth
Delta Airlines: Daily Service to Salt Lake City
United Airlines: Daily Service to Denver and Houston
US Airways: Daily Service to Phoenix
On a side note, if you are driving from Denver and are looking for pit stop to stretch your legs about half way, I highly recommend hiking to Hanging Lake in the Glenwood Canyon, just east of Glenwood Springs. It’s a little tricky to get to since you can only exit via I70 West, so if you’re coming in from the west you’ll have to backtrack a bit together there and if you’re headed east when you leave you have to drive about 5 miles back towards Glenwoood Springs before you can turn around. The hike to the lake is only two miles roundtrip (out and back), but it is somewhat difficult and pretty rocky. I was hauling since I had to get my rental car back to Denver by a certain time and had to jog part of it, which is was tricky since the trail was pretty narrow for two way traffic, and it still took me about an hour.