The following article was written by Ryan Messer. Read other articles from Messer here.
I frequently write about wine travels in eastern Washington because that’s where I live, and what I know best. However, after a recent trip to the Westside, I have to share some Woodinville love. Most of the tasting experiences there have been part of a fun weekend getaway to Seattle, but I had one of the most incredible weekends recently for my anniversary.
For those in Central Washington, Woodinville is a mere two and a half hour drive from Yakima and you can skip the hustle and bustle of Seattle. The city has grown rapidly over the last decade, but there is still a quaint, small town feel throughout many of the neighborhoods. And, right in the heart of wine central, we found our new home away from home at Willows Lodge.
Located on the same street as Chateau Ste. Michelle and the famed Red Hook Brewery (for when you have tasted too much wine), Willows Lodge is perfectly situated for your tasting experience. The rooms are the epitome of Northwest elegance with the perfect pairing of a stone fireplace surrounded by natural wood accents. Each room includes its own private deck or patio and a Jacuzzi tub for two. The lodge is quite well known for their spa services as well. We did enjoy a nice couples massage, which I’m not normally accustomed to, but it was relaxing nonetheless.
When considering dining options at Willows Lodge, you need look no further than out the lobby door to either Barking Frog or The Herbfarm. On this particular trip, we only had time for the Frog, but both are incredible in their own right. The service is impeccable, the food is to die for and they feature an extensive wine list that highlights some of the best that Woodinville has to offer as well as spanning the globe. Based on past experience, I can say that The Herbfarm wouldn’t disappoint either. The Executive Chefs at both restaurants are brilliant, but the wine list at The Herbfarm is what dreams are made of; over 26,000 bottles from over 4,500 selections with staggering verticals of some of the most sought after wine in the world. I highly recommend you check it out.
For the most important part of the trip, we move on to the wineries. With nearly 100 tasting rooms and wineries in the area, you’re sure to find something for even the most particular of wine drinkers. We opted to try a few we had never visited before, and we were thrilled with the choices.
To start, we visited Adam’s Bench. Just barely off the beaten path in a rural residential neighborhood, Adam’s Bench is not your typical tasting facility. The grounds include barns and horse corrals more fitting for bourbon tasting in the heart of Kentucky than your typical westside winery, but it is a stunning and inviting setting all the same. The winemaker, Tim Blue, is a trial lawyer by trade but you would never know it by the mild manner and humble discussion about his wine. Check their calendar or make a reservation before visiting. And if you haven’t tasted it before, don’t miss “the V” Cabernet Sauvignon; it is becoming a favorite of mine.
Next up was a visit to the warehouse district and Stevens Winery. Almost the complete opposite of the previous location, Tim Stevens’ eclectic but brilliant art is displayed throughout and is as much a topic for conversation as the wine, or the labels he has also created. Not a bad wine in the lot, but the XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is high on my list.
To top off our tasting experience, Gorman Winery’s new tasting room at The Station was a must. Located on the roundabout leading back to the lodge, it is a fun and inviting atmosphere with an AC/DC pinball game in the corner and Joan Dunlop as one of my favorites to ever pour from a bottle. The Bully Cabernet Sauvignon (see a theme here?) has about the best QPR (quality to price ratio) I’ve tasted.
There are so many wineries to visit, even more added since this trip like Fidelitas’ recent expansion (see a list of some of these wineries at woodinvillewinecountry.com). For those on the eastside of the state, make plans for a romantic getaway or a friends rendezvous. And for those in the Seattle area, I recommend you consider a stay-cation in your own backyard.
Exterior and interior pictures of Willows Lodge courtesy of Willows Lodge.
Editor's note: This was a private trip and not part of any media package or invitation.