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The changing face of the Seattle wine scene

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reminder February's Virtual Tasting takes places this Thursday from 7-8pm Pacific Time. Read more about it here.

In the last several months the Seattle wine scene has been getting a makeover. While Woodinville has long been the center of attention in the area for wine, recently various new tasting rooms, wineries, and other businesses have opened up in Seattle giving consumers a number of new alternatives in the city.

Perhaps the most compelling of these is Urban Enoteca, which opened at the beginning of December. Located in SoDo a few miles south of Starbucks headquarters, the business is a shared tasting facility for some of Washington’s best wineries, including Fielding Hills, Fidelitas, Côte Bonneville, McCrea Cellars, Five Star Cellars, Kiona Vineyards & Winery, and Cave B Winery. The facility is the brainchild of Terry Thompson who got the idea after visiting the Press Club in San Francisco.

While the building is tucked under an overpass and is located in an industrial area of town, all this is quickly forgotten upon entering the facility. Urban Enoteca manages simultaneously to be high class without being intimidating. There is a ‘wall of water’ along the right hand side as you enter and a freestanding waterfall a short distance away. Plush chairs and couches are distributed throughout the facility.

Patrons are provided with a ‘library card’ upon entrance to sample wines so they don't have to constantly reach for the wallet. Wine may be purchased by the taste, glass, or bottle. The prices compared to, say, a glass of wine at a local restaurant, are quite reasonable. For example, on a recent visit I had a glass of 2007 Five Star Cabernet Sauvignon for $7, which retails for $35. Better yet, one can sample numerous wines before deciding which one to settle down with or bring home.

The Library Lounge at Urban Enoteca provides a variety of appetizers and small plates. The facility also has a variety of rooms for various events, including a 25-seat room, a 40-seat room, and a 230-seat room. The facility also has extended hours and is open Tuesday through Thursday until 8pm, Friday and Saturday until 10pm, and Sunday until 7pm.

Another shared tasting facility that opened recently is Vintner’s Annex Tasting Room and Wine Shop in Ballard. While scores of eastern Washington wineries have opened tasting rooms in Woodinville in the last year, here we see four Woodinville wineries - Alta Cellars, Barrage Cellars, Cuillin Hills Winery, and Des Voigne Cellars – opening up a tasting space in Seattle.

These wineries are not alone. A number of other wineries have recently opened facilities in the city as well. Last month Patterson Cellars opened a tasting room on the Pike Street Hill Climb by Pike’s Place. Bartholomew Winery recently planted its flag in the old Rainier Brewery building next to Interstate 5. These wineries join the South Seattle Artisan Wineries, which have long been located in Seattle.

It’s not just wineries and tasting rooms opening up in Seattle however. In December sommelier David LeClaire of Seattle Uncorked opened Wine World Warehouse. Located in the old Office Depot building at the intersection of Interstate 5 and 45th Avenue, the store is unmissable when driving northbound on the highway with a gigantic sign announces its presence. Wine World is massive in scale with over 20,000 square feet of floor space.

While Wine World Warehouse contains wines from around the world, the Northwest is clearly the focus here with over 500 wines from the area. The store is open 11am to 9pm seven days a week and has near daily tasting events (see current list here). The facility also has an event space.

These new businesses opening up in Seattle is no accident. While the Washington wine industry is still growing, the state of the economy means that more and more businesses are looking to get closer to consumers. With Woodinville swelling in the last year to over 80 wineries and tasting rooms, many are looking for alternatives and ways to differentiate themselves. Increasingly, many are feeling that Seattle might be the place to do it.

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2 comments

  1. Antoine Pin Says:
  2. Is Leroy Radford's Flying Dreams at Vintner’s Annex Tasting Room and Wine Shop too??

     
  3. Antoine, I don't see Flying Dreams listed on the Vintners Annex website or visa versa but will check.

     

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