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Destination Woodinville Saturday Wine Tour - Part Four @WineWoodinville


Saturday Touring Woodinville Wine Country
Part Four: 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 visiting Woodinville Wine Country.

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

This post is about the wineries, people and places visited on Saturday. It was a full day of wine and wine-related conversations. The previous post, Willows Lodge, Respite in Wine Country, I shared my experience staying at the Willows Lodge and Spa.

Saturday morning, rested, showered and dressed, I went for a stroll on the Lodge grounds before breakfast. I wasn't sure what to expect of the day. I now recognize this as the day I began to accept Woodinville as an important component of the Washington wine milieu. It was an unfolding, like a piece of origami, colorful, but fixed and closed, taken gently apart, the creases skilfully smoothed - renewed. Ready for illumination.

Composite image from my morning walk.

There were three other writers with me on this weekend of Woodinville wine. Our tour guides for the weekend arranged the itinerary for us: winery visits, meals and transportation. We were there to experience and learn. Our schedule was structured, but never did I feel rushed or frustrated. It felt as if we were moving at our own pace. It was obvious our Woodinville guides were experienced and knew how much we could handle and absorb.

Breakfast at the Commons

We enjoyed a hearty morning meal at the Commons Cafe. Needed for a full day of wine tasting. Service was prompt and friendly. No food photos this time, I was too busy tucking in. This place was buzzing with happy customers. I would go back for more, recommended.

The Commons is well stocked.

A large happy crowd at the Commons.

the Commons Cafe
14481 Woodinville-Redmond Road NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

The Tour Begins

I mentioned in Part One that this is the weekend I began to understand Woodinville Wine Country. "My eyes were opened and I am ready to recommend that you visit Woodinville Wine Country."

Encapsulated in this small community are 110 examples of the best wineries in Washington. About 65% of that mix includes wineries making wine in Woodinville and the other 35% are specialty tasting rooms representing eastern Washington made wines. Woodinville represents a "snapshot" of Washington wine.

For anyone living in or visiting the greater Seattle metropolitan area, there is no easier way to visit and taste Washington wines made on both sides of the state. This became apparent on our first stop at the Col Solare Bottega located inside of the Chateau Ste Michelle property in the Hollywood Winery District.

*Note: Woodinville Wineries are located in two main areas: The Warehouse Winery District (north) and the Hollywood Winery District (south) - the West Valley Winery District is in the middle with only three wineries listed. Reference the Woodinville Wine Country maps for a view of these districts and wineries.

Chateau Ste Michelle winery.
1. Chateau Ste Michelle.

Washington State's oldest winery is surrounded by 105 wooded acres and unique craftsman-style architecture. There is a lot happening on this property. When I was there a large crowd was outside waiting in line to purchase tickets for the summer concert series. This is a beautiful property I plan on re-visiting.

Chateau Ste Michelle
14111 NE 145th Street
Woodinville, WA 98072
Open Daily 10:00am-5:00pm
Phone: (425) 488-1133

Col Solare Bottega at Chateau St. Michelle

Col Solare Bottega at Chateau Ste Michelle

I'm a fan of Col Solare winery. They are a Red Mountain winery located only 15 minutes from my home in eastern Washington. I was surprised to learn they have a tasting room in Woodinville, inside of the Chateau Ste Michelle winery. Initially this confused me, but eventually made sense in the context of "embracing" Washington Wine. You don't have to make the 225 mile drive to Red Mountain. A bit of Red Mountain is in Woodinville.

Learning about Col Solare and the Antinori Family.

What a treat and what shining service. See what all the fuss is about and visit this tasting room within a tasting room. Col Solare is a collaboration between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori family and Chateau Ste Michelle. They produce only premium Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. Very cool project.

Three lovely red wines in the Col Solare tasting.

Col Solare Bottega Themed Tasting

You can experience a "Taste of Red Mountain" in Woodinville at the Col Solare Bottega tasting room and wine shop within Chateau Ste Michelle. For $20 guests will enjoy a 45-minute appointment, they will learn about the past, present, and future of Col Solare and enjoy tasting three vintages of their "ultra-luxury" Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends. This themed tasting is by appointment only, please call 425-415-3330. Available hourly from 10am - 4pm.

Enjoying Novelty Hill and Jauik wines by Mike Januik.

2. Novelty Hill | Januik.

Our second stop was at Novelty Hill Januik. Two wineries in one. This is an interesting facility. Modern is the first word which came to mind - concrete, glass, steel. With many interesting architectural details. The facility was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ “Institute Honor Award” in 2008.

Novelty Hill - Januik Winery
14710 Redmond-Woodinville Road Northeast
Woodinville, WA 98072
(425) 481-5502

Patio area at Novelty Hills Januik represents the different aspects of Washington.
Novelty Hill and Januik are two independent wineries that share a tasting room and production facility in Woodinville under the direction of Mike Januik. The partnership began in 2000, shortly after Mike met Novelty Hill’s owners Tom Alberg and Judi Beck and began consulting on the planting of a new vineyard, later to be named Stillwater Creek. We tasted several wines, Novelty Hills and Januik, both of the Merlots stood out for me.

Watch crush as it happens with a glass of Januik wine.

This was the first winery I visited with a wine bar facing the cellar. You can actually sit with a glass of wine and watch the magic as it happens. Mike also had skylights installed in cellar for the comfort of the employees. The natural light added extra depth to this cool space. This is the winery to visit during crush. I can imagine the smell of fermenting would be heavenly. Yes, come here and experience the heady smells of heaven, recommended.

*Note: Check with the winery to find out when they are crushing grapes - harvest in Washington can begin in late August and continue through early November.

Mike Januik making wine in Washington since 1984.

On weekends you can enjoy a brick-oven pizza with your wine. Mike Januik was in the kitchen helping out when we visited. Mike made and served us a tasty crab and lobster pizza, a friendly companion to his tasty wines. Pizza is available Friday - Sunday, noon - 4 pm. Don't miss a visit to this winery.

JM Cellars tasting room entrance.
3. JM Cellars.

Our third stop was JM Cellars. Friday when I drove down into the Hollywood District, I drove past the entrance to JM Cellars without realizing there was a winery behind the wall of trees. Not only is JM Cellars a world class winery, it is also an amazing arboretum with hiking trails.

JM Cellars
14404 137th Place NE, Woodinville, WA  98072
Tasting room hours:
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11 AM – 4 PM

John Bigelow, Owner/Winemaker JM Cellars.

John Bigelow, Owner/Winemaker was our amiable host. He provided wonderful conversation and oh such delicious wines. Very few were inside the tasting room on this beautiful day. The weather had everyone outdoors engaged with conversation and wine.

The place to be on a sunny Saturday.

John began making wine at home in the 1990's he even converted his basement into a winery. In 1999 JM Cellars was officially inaugurated. In 2000 John and his wife Peggy established their permanent home for JM Cellars in Woodinville – a seven acre property known as Bramble Bump. Eventually giving up his other job in the technology sector, John has focused solely on JM Cellars since 2006.

Pink blooms during the walking tour.

Bramble Bump is an arboretum within a winery. There are walking paths visitors can enjoy exploring. We did. The previous owners were avid horticulturalists who planted 120 Japanese Maples, over 400 rare evergreens and pines, and many unique trees rarely found in North America.  Including, a Chilean Fire Tree, a huge Himalayan Zebra Pine, and what is now one of the largest Cherry trees in the United States.
Enjoying JM Cellars wine in the arboretum.

John took us on an energizing walking tour around the arboretum. I was impressed by the diversity of trees. It was not a strenuous hike, it was inspiring. I felt myself relaxed and re-vitalized. I was taken with the property and John's personality. This visit was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. And his wines?

JM Cellars 2012 Chardonnay - 15% new oak.

Honestly, this was the first time I had the pleasure of enjoying JM Cellars wines. I was impressed. John is making wine in a style I appreciate and enjoy. I recommend his wines without hesitation. Go find them. We tasted through his 2012 Chardonnay, 2013 Rose' (unreleased) and his 2012 Walla Walla red wine. All were excellent.

2012 Louisa Margaret's Vineyard Walla Walla.

JM Cellars is a must visit and re-visit winery. Truly, one visit won't do. The atmosphere of the arboretum, light filtered through hundreds of trees, outdoor wine tasting, smiles everywhere, a unique and special wine destination.

Woodinville Lavender - it's all about the Lavender.
4. Woodinville Lavender

Our fourth stop was not at a winery. Instead we visited a Lavender farm, Woodinville Lavender.

Woodinville Lavender
Open Weekends year round | 11 to 5
Wed - Sun | 11 - 5
14223 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE
Redmond WA, 98052

Tom Frei, owner Woodinville Lavender Farm.
Woodinville Lavender is owned by former Rocket Scientist Tom Frei. Really. Tom spent 26 years as an engineer making rockets. Growing up on a farm in Idaho he has always had an interest in gardening. Last year Tom quite his job as a Rocket Scientist and committed full-time to his lavender farm.

Tom started selling lavender at farmers markets in 2008. He uses sustainable and organic growing practices on his farm. In 2012 he opened his store and farm to the public. His dedication and commitment to growing lavender and producing quality lavender products was obvious.

Relaxing on the farm.

This beautiful property was voted 2014 Best Public Garden via Northwest Escapes. When the lavender is in bloom you can visit this farm and pick your own. It is a picturesque location and available for weddings. It surprised me how well I enjoyed this visit.

I often talk about the smell of wine and wineries, the smell of this farm store was in a different league - intense. In the back of the Woodinville Lavender farm store is a large room for classes and lavender distillation. Wow - the smell of lavender back there was shocking at first, almost too intense. It was apparent Tom was passionate about lavender, we sipped lavender tea as he gave a detailed presentation on the farm and the uses of lavender.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has many uses, especially for fragrance and antiseptic qualities. Some of the uses include aromatherapy to relieve anxiety, depression, stress and exhaustion. Use for cooling burns and insect bites, as a hair tonic, and to clear acne with its anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties. Whew, no wonder lavender is so popular.

Tasty delights infused with lavender.

After Tom's presentation, we enjoyed chocolate and caramel infused with lavender. Naturally we also sampled his essential oils and lotions. For me, the lavender caramel was special and my favorite item at his store. It melted in the mouth, it did not stick to the teeth, the caramel flavor was suffused with lavender in an exotic way I did not expect. Wonderful and delicious. More please.

Products for sale in the store.
The farm store offers a large range of lavender products including, plants, fresh cut bouquets, aromatherapy, cleaning, home decor, bath & body, and culinary items. They also offer classes, crafts, distilling demonstrations and special activities year round. Put them on your must visit list. And check their well managed Woodinville Lavender Facebook page for special events and dinners.

Spring view as we walked from the Lavender Farm to Brian Carter Cellars.

You can access the farm from the Sammamish Bike trail and the Woodinville Tourist District. Tom walked us from the farm to Brian Carter Cellars in the Hollywood Winery District. It was a beautiful day for a walk.

Brian Carter Cellars Tasting Room entrance.

5. Brian Carter Cellars.

Brian Carter Cellars tasting room is located in the Hollywood District of Woodinville. This area has approximately 43 wineries/tasting rooms. I saw many names I recognized representing Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley and Woodinville wineries. So many wineries so little time.

Brian Carter Cellars
14419 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

Brian Carter started making wine in Washington in 1980 after graduating from UC Davis. He was winemaker for Paul Thomas winery - a brand I remember fondly. In 1988 he helped start APEX winery - another winery I remember well. APEX used to have a fun tasting room in Sunnyside, Washington inside a converted dairy. In 2004 Brian Carter Cellars incorporated as an independent LLC.

Mike Stevens visiting with Tom Frei.

It's all about the blend. Brian Carter Cellars focuses exclusively on an array of European-style blended wines. Mike Stevens, Brian Carter Cellars Managing Partner, took us through a stunning flight of mostly red wines.

2012 Oriana - 53% Viognier, 32% Roussanne, 15% Riesling.

2009 Tuttorosso - 68% Sangiovese, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah.

2009 Byzance - 53% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault, 2% Counoise.

2008 Le Coursier - 52% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot.

2009 Trentenaire - 61% Petit Verdot, 14% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon.

My conclusion from this generous tasting was to pair these excellent wines with food. These wines are styled to compliment meals and conversations, and they are recommended. The label designs are cool too. Look for posters of the labels when you visit this tasting room.

The patio was active with customers. It was a lovely day.

For me this was a touch stone experience. It was a connection back to my wine tasting roots; Paul Thomas in the 1980's, transitioning to APEX in the 1990's and now Brian Carter Cellars in the present. I did not always pay attention to who made my favorite wines. It is rewarding to recognize the origins of my palate and to acknowledge the long-time talent of the winemaker. Thank you.

Lauren Ashton Cellars Tasting Studio.

6. Lauren Ashton Cellars.

As I mentioned in Part Two of this series on Woodinville, I briefly visited with Lauren Ashton Cellars winemaker Kit Singh at the North of 95 wine tasting. On Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting with Kit at his Tasting Studio.

Kit Singh, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Owner/Winemaker/Dentist.
If you know Kit, then you know that he's a Dentist with a capital "D." That is his day job. However, you should also know that he is an amazing winemaker too, winemaker with a capital "W." My first exposure to one of his wines was last year when I reviewed his 2011 Cuvee Meline white wine. A wine which earned mention as one of my favorite wines of 2013. Gorgeous.

Lauren Ashton Cellars
14545 148th Ave NE
Suite 211
Woodinville, WA 98072

During this series on visiting Woodinville Wine Country, I've mentioned several times how important personality is for me to connect one on one with a winemaker and their wines. In a pure tasting room environment service is what I consider important, the winemaker is not essential for that experience. But this was a true winemaker moment.

It was a pleasure to sit down with Kit and talk with him about his wines while he poured them. He's smart, focused, passionate, and earnest about his goals. He makes freaking great wine and is still a Dentist first and foremost. Yes, impressed by this guy. I immediately liked him - wines too.

We tasted through six Lauren Ashton Cellars wines: 2011 Roussanne (aromatic, floral), 2011 Chardonnay (sexy, lovely), 2011 Cuvee Meline, 2013 Rose' (hypnotizing), 2011 Cuvee Arlette (Yum), and 2011 Syrah (unreleased - still tight). When time permits I'll have a detailed review of the captivating 2013 Rose' - if you see a bottle buy it.

Lauren Ashton Cellars 2013 Rose'.

A visit with Kit at his tasting room reinforced my perception of him as a hugely talented winemaker. A winemaker to take note of, who is executing elegant, sophisticated, stunning wines. I expect to share more about this winemaker soon.

Dinner in the Warehouse Winery District

7. Pairings by Covington Cellars

After touring Woodinville all day, we returned to the Willows Lodge to freshen up and dress for dinner. All the wineries we visited this day were in the Hollywood Winery District. For dinner we traveled to the Warehouse Winery District. In this part of Woodinville the wineries and tasting rooms are located in converted warehouses. Not fancy on the outside, but fantastic on the inside.

Pairings by Covington Cellars.
Pairings by Covington Cellars
Diners welcome Fridays 3-8 pm, Saturdays 12-8pm and Sundays 12-5pm.
18580 142nd Ave. NE, Woodinville, WA 98072

The dinner and wine at Pairings was about fellowship. The food, wine and conversations were non-stop. Don't ask me for specifics, the flow was about having a good time. It felt like old friends breaking bread and sharing the experiences of life. This was one of several déjà vu moments for me in Woodinville. Something about the place and the people seemed familiar. My weekend in Woodinville Wine Country felt like a fond memory, while I was living it. Déjà vu.

Each plate on the menu prepared fresh.
Dinner was served on plates shared by everyone at the table. When a plate was empty, another plate with another dish replaced it. It felt like eating at a tapas bar with plates making the rounds along the table. Everything was good, especially the duck Confit Nuggets, Duck Fat Fries and the Lamb Meatballs. Wines of course were free flowing and wonderful with dinner. I strongly recommend visiting and making dinner reservations.

After a wonderful dinner with new friends the conversation spilled over to the Willows Lodge Bar. It was an enlightening and fulfilling day. One more night in the Lodge. Sunday awaited with still more discoveries in store.

Outline: Destination Woodinville Wine Country

Next: Sunday Wine Tour


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