Destination Woodinville Willows Lodge and Wine Director Interview - Part Three @WineWoodinville


Willows Lodge, respite in wine country.
Part Three: Destination Woodinville Wine Country.

Wine country in Woodinville, Washington. What does that mean to you? For me it represented many Woodinville labels disconnected from faces and place. No longer. If you missed the first posts in this series, I'm re-counting my first weekend spent in Woodinville Wine Country.

*Read the Introduction, Woodinville a First Weekend, "No Longer Strangers" if you missed it.

Willows Lodge and Spa

Where do you stay when visiting Woodinville Wine Country? I stayed at the Willows Lodge and Spa. This is a deluxe spa destination, a place to relax alone or with companions. The grounds were soothing, the service was impeccable. And I'm picky.

Wineries are located just around the corner.

I spent two comfortable nights at the Willows Lodge while learning about Woodinville wine country. Friday dinner and Sunday brunch were at the on premise Barking Frog restaurant. Making good on my promise to share conversations with more wine personalities, I could not pass on the opportunity to interview Anthony Berkau, manager and Wine Director of the Barking Frog. That interview is below.

Staff is plentiful and quick to smile and offer assistance.

Check-in at Willows Lodge

Those who know me, know that I am sensitive to quality of service. A beautiful facility, an amazing glass of wine, the perfect meal, all can fall to ruin with poor service. Yes, it is that important. How was the service? Service was spot on. Zero complaints.

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Electric Vehicle - EV - charging station.
Willows Lodge 
14580 NE 145th Street,
Woodinville, WA 98072 | (425) 424-3900

Pulling into the Willows Lodge Friday afternoon, I was tired. The 225 mile drive was uneventful, but I was fatigued from traffic and felt too warm. Skipping valet parking, the self-parking was near the lobby entrance. I should note that the Lodge also provides EV charging stations for electric vehicles.

Checking in at the Lobby - friendly and professional treatment.

My first impression of the lobby and the staff were positive. Large Douglas fir timbers support the structure, rustic materials on the carpet and chairs, a soothing warmth of color, light and shadows reminiscent of a forest, defined by a huge stone fireplace in the lobby. I felt at ease. Staff was friendly, cheerful, immediately offering assistance. And they all smiled. Check-in was easy, courteous and professional. I was even offered a glass of wine and an opportunity to sign-up for a lodge provided wine tour. Which I declined.

Wine tasting adventure - 11:30 am Saturday.

The Room

My room was a second floor corner room, with a small balcony. My photos of the well equipped room don't do it justice. Apologies. Next time I will bring not only my 50mm prime lens, but also a more flexible lens for wide-angle photos.

Comfy bed, cozy reading chair and chairs on the balcony.
A large soaking tub with room for at least two was situated between the bedroom and the bathroom. A separate tiled shower was also in the bathroom. I used the shower not the tub. A sliding wood partition for privacy visually separated the bathroom and bedroom.

Bathroom sink.
A well stocked in-room bar included bottles of red wine, Vodka, Gin, tonic and olives. While tempting, I did not avail myself of the in-room beverages. The bar in the lobby provided all the extra refreshment I needed. More about that below.

In-room self-serve bar.
The in-room refrigerator was also adequately stocked for anyone seeking chilled refreshment. Notice the bottle of Poets Leap Riesling at the right? Details, details, they matter.



After settling into the room, then freshening up, I went out to explore the grounds.


The Grounds

Five groomed acres provide walking paths and serene pools for contemplation. With multiple gardens scattered on the property, there are many options for sitting and relaxing. Wine is optional.

Gazebo chair.

Throughout the hotel you’ll find works by skilled Northwest Coast Native American artists.

Bill Reid, Haida - The Spirit of Haida Gwai castings.

Bill Reid, Haida, is one of the featured artists, his "The Spirit of Haida Gwaii" is featured with a large photo in the lobby. In the gardens, you’ll find two large bronze heads cast from the original work.

Original works of art by Northwest artists.

Many original works of art are on display throughout the Willows Lodge. Featured artists include: Bill Reid, Haida, Robert Davidson, Haida, Joseph Kinnebrew and Cheri Christiansen.

Live music performed Thursday - Saturday at the Fireside.

Fireside and the Lobby Bar

I was told that many guests from the city visit the Lodge on Friday and Saturday. Both guests and locals come to relax with a glass of wine in the inviting Fireside, adjacent to the main lobby. Fireside offers wines and wine flights, as well as food and live music. This is a popular venue for locals. I learned this first hand on Friday night. Heading to the RESERVE wine tasting I ran into the one person I know who lives in Woodinville. She and her husband were sitting at the crowded Fireside enjoying wine and live music. We were both surprised to find each other at the lodge. It's a regular for them.

Crepes made fresh on weekends at the Fireside.

On weekends, the smell of crepes fills the air as the Fireside offers both sweet and savory crepes along with oatmeal, pastries and coffee. Open Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00AM-1:00PM.

Elisabeth found my camera in the bar.

After a full day of wine and wine conversation, Saturday evening I enjoyed visiting with new friends at the Willows Lodge Bar. Again, service by Willows Lodge staff was professional and courteous. The drinks were good too. I also learned how I likely misplaced my Panasonic pocket digital camera a year ago. Returning to my room, I left without my Canon digital camera. It was still at the bar. A huge thank you to Elisabeth for running me down and returning my camera. Otherwise I would have no photos to share with you for this series on Woodinville Wine Country. Have I mentioned how much I liked the staff at the Lodge? Whew...too close. Thank you again Elisabeth.

The Spa

A hidden courtyard provides a hydrotherapy pool adorned with Japanese maples, ferns and sedums. I was told it is best experienced under the stars - don't be surprised to hear evening laughter as you walk by. The pool is set in an Asian inspired garden with a stone fountain. Adjacent to the pool is a fitness center and a full service Spa. While I did not have an opportunity to avail myself of the Spa facilities, one of the ladies I met said it was wonderful! Next time.


Spa services include healing Lomi Lomi massages. Detoxifying body wraps that nourish and restore skin. Hot stone pedicures. And Carita Facials (available in only a few spas in the country) that exfoliate, detoxify and refine skin texture.

To schedule spa appointment, call (425) 424 2900 or email spa@willowslodge.com.

ADA Access

I believe it is important to note that the lodge has five accessible parking spaces located in proximity to the hotel entrance and the spa entrance. The lobby reception area includes an ADA desk for added convenience when checking in and out. All passage ways throughout the property are wheelchair accessible, and an elevator is available for access to the second floor in the main building. The spa is conveniently located on the ground level. A portable hydraulic lift offers access to the outdoor hydrotherapy pool.

Also, Willows Lodge offers three ADA guest rooms designed for wheelchair accessibility and equipped with visual fire alarms. Audible alarms are provided in the hallways and portable hearing devices are also available upon request.

First Night

My first night in the Willows Lodge after North of 95 and RESERVE, I skipped the luxurious bubble bath I had promised myself and ignored the corner fireplace. More than ready for sleep, I left the door to the balcony ajar and enjoyed a gentle breeze as I snuggled under the plush comforter. Sleep arrived quickly.

Sunday morning view from the too comfortable bed.
Saturday morning after I dressed, I sat on my private balcony and enjoyed the cheerful sounds of the birds. My first morning in Woodinville wine country. I leisurely savored a cup of coffee while checking email and twitter with the provided high-speed internet. Not quite ready to go wine tasting, I admit I was slow to leave my comfortable room. Sunday morning I lingered even longer in the cozy bed.




The Barking Frog Restaurant

Across from the Lodge lobby is the highly regarded Barking Frog restaurant. They have a wonderful menu and matching wine list. And again that premium service I expected and appreciated. Do not skip a visit to this deluxe on premise restaurant.

Why is the restaurant called the Barking Frog? The name comes from the Native American storytellers use of the Frog as a symbol of wealth or abundance. When the frogs are barking, it is a sign of peace and harmony in nature.

Barking Frog cuisine reflects Pacific Northwest influences. Everything I sampled was delicious. I have photos from dinner to share below. Unfortunately, I do not have photos from Sunday brunch - my memory card was full so I spent brunch transferring photos to my laptop. Will bring a spare memory card next time.

*Note: The Barking Frog was awarded “Most Innovative Wine List” by the Washington Wine Commission, and received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence five years in a row.

Dinner Highlights

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Salmon   
  heirloom potatoes, lamb shank, fennel, green beans, smoked onion-spanish chorizo sauce.

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Duck Breast  
  coco nib-apple risotto, chard, foraged mushrooms, orange marmalade.

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Beef Tenderloin   
  egg yolk ravioli, asparagus, mixed mushrooms, veal demi glace.

You can browse all of the menus online - Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner - Dessert - Wine List

Hungry? Reserve a table online or call (425) 424 2999.



Woodinville Collection, Gorman 2011 Zachary’s Ladder

A Conversation with Anthony Berkau,
      Wine Director and Barking Frog Manager, Willows Lodge.

Every great restaurant should pay attention to wine and food pairing. Pairing wine requires talent. To properly pair wine with food you have to know the menu and the wine list. One has to taste the wine with the food to match them appropriately. You must be sensitive to the customers palate and preference too.

Barking Frog has such a person in Anthony Berkau. It was my sincere pleasure to meet and talk with Anthony about his role as Wine Director for Barking Frog.
"Wine is an art form that I am passionate about." 
Anthony Berkau
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Anthony Berkau.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
Hi Anthony, thank you for taking time to talk with me about your role at the Barking Frog Restaurant.

Anthony:
Hi William, my pleasure.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
You are the Wine Director and Manager at Barking Frog, the restaurant at Willows Lodge. I'm interested in how you approach selecting wines for customers and the design of the restaurant wine list.

Anthony:
When guests come to Willows I first and foremost try to determine what types of wines they like to drink, so I can steer them in the right direction.

I love to focus and promote local favorites of mine like wines from: Two Vintners, Avennia, and aMaurice Winery. But I also like to put wines from around the world in front of my guests. Hand selling wines from regions like Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Tuscany, and Piedmont, which most people aren't planning on drinking when they come to the Barking Frog, can really help to enhance their dining experience.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
Living in Woodinville you must be Washington biased?

Anthony:
My list is obviously heavily focused on Washington with a big emphasis on Woodinville, but I am trying to balance it out and showcase a broad spectrum of wines from around the world. Most wine makers were influenced by these old world regions so we should represent them on our list.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
For customers visiting Barking Frog for the first time, what are some of your recommended food pairings on the menu? Wait, what I'm really asking is, what are your personal favorites?

Anthony:
  1. Grand Marnier Prawns with the 2013 Two Vintners Grenache Blanc. 
  2. Chefs Crab Salad with 2012 Avennia’s Oliane Sauvignon Blanc.
  3. Rib Eye Steak with 2009 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet. 

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
Now that I'm suitably hungry, I'm curious about where you trained and your background in wine. Where did you start? Are you a trained Sommelier?

Anthony:
I started working in food and beverage when I was 18. I began studying wine when I was 24 (at the same time I started management). Then took sommelier training through the I.S.G. (International Sommeliers Guild). Worked in wine sales for a few years with a local company called Cavatappi, which focused on old world wines; primarily French and Italian, but the exposure with this company really helped broaden my knowledge of wines from around the world.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
My own interest in wine truly began when I moved to Washington wine country. It did not become serious until I experienced several "ah ha" moments. You?

Anthony:
I loved wine from a young age, I started taking it very serious about five years ago. This led to a lot of self-study and joining tasting groups. A former boss in the restaurant business pushed me to take some wine classes. That really opened the door of the world of wine for me.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
Were there any significant moments or a wine that stands out?

Anthony:
I’ve been lucky so far to make my living based around one product (wine) and the doors keep opening up. There are very few things you do every day. Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping are three. So I always tell people you should do all three of these well. Wine is an art form that I am passionate about, I don’t know why I fell in love with it but I remember the wine that changed my life (Gagnard Delagrange, Batard-Montrachet 1990) I tasted it, and was fascinated by its complexity, length and beauty. I had to learn more.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
What keeps you going? What's your inspiration?

Anthony:
Committing to a course like the I.S.G. really started it all for me. Meeting wine makers who later became my closest friends and getting involved with harvest here locally is what hooked me the most.

We are lucky to be so close to so many great wineries where people in the months of September-November can come see or participate in the wine making process. That changes the way you look at wine forever.

Traveling to France last September and seeing some of the oldest wine regions in the world, places that I had been reading about for years, changed my life. It makes me want to see and learn more every day, something in wine is always changing and evolving which makes wine so fascinating.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
I'm interested in your role as Wine Director for Barking Frog at Willows Lodge. How do you interpret your responsibilities working with customers as Wine Director?

Anthony:
My interactions with guests changes from person to person. I have to read people and understand what they want from me.

Pretentiousness is something that I hate in this business. Sadly there are a lot of well-educated people in wine but they do not always know how to share their knowledge in a way that is comfortable for people. No one likes to feel dumb, and there are some Somms (Sommeliers) out there that do this every day. I try to connect wine to things people know, I try to help them learn about what they are tasting and how food and wine work together.

Again, wine is Art - plain and simple. I have to help make the Art that I’m so passionate about make sense to my guests. So many great conversations and relationships are created around a table with a bottle of wine in the middle of it, I’m just trying to make sure I put a bottle down that will make those people happy.

Being a wine director is fun, hard work and has plenty of responsibilities from the hotel side. But there are very few jobs that are as enjoyable as what I am lucky to do.

Wild 4 Washington Wine:
Well said Anthony! Thank you for sharing your passion for wine with me and my readers. I know that a lot of hard work went into defining your career in wine.

Friends, ask for Anthony the next time you visit the Barking Frog restaurant in Woodinville, Washington. He will graciously assist you with your food and wine pairings. Without Pretentiousness. As it should be done.

Anthony Berkau|Wine Director and Barking Frog Manager | Willows Lodge
14580 NE 145th st. | Woodinville, WA 98072 |


In room coffee and in hallway coffee was plentiful and tasty.

Closing Thoughts

Willows Lodge provided first class accommodations and hospitality. Yes, I slept well. Sitting outside on the balcony with a cup of coffee in the morning was peaceful. Service and beverages at the bar kept the evening conversation going. Meals at the Barking Frog, to say nothing of the number of great wines to choose from, were delicious and satisfying. Make your reservations in advance as Friday and Saturday evenings were busy. I Strongly Recommend staying at the Willows Lodge and Spa the next time you visit Woodinville Wine Country. They are now my newest example of proper customer service.

Wine tasting Saturday in Woodinville.

After a fantastic evening, Saturday was a day of visiting Woodinville wineries. The next post I will share which wineries were visited, the meals enjoyed and side-trips. Woodinville has a great deal to offer.

Outline: Destination Woodinville Wine Country

Next: Saturday Wine Tour.

Cheers!

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