Californians love their wine. Well, guess what, so do people in Washington, who also know quite a bit about the art of winemaking. Washington is the second largest premium wine (wines sold for $8 or higher) producer in the U. S., trailing only California.
Located 30 miles northeast of Seattle, Woodinville Wine Country features 108 wineries and tasting rooms. The region is associated with wine, yet also has eight microbreweries, distilleries and cider-producing locations. Situated in the gorgeous Sammamish River Valley, Woodinville is a major foodie area as well, with restaurants open year-round and regularly pouring local wines for lunch, happy hour or dinner.
While Woodinville is a beautiful area to visit, don’t expect to see rows and rows of vines like Napa. Practically all of the Woodinville wineries grow their grapes in the warm, arid climate of Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. The sandy, gravelly soil is ideal for planting vines and growing grapes. The Columbia Valley receives protection from Seattle’s marine climate by the Cascade Mountains. The valley temperatures are typically the mid-80’s during the summer, a contrast to the Seattle region, which doesn’t get in the 80’s too often.
We visited and tasted some terrific wine from both Fidelitas and EFESTĒ, a family-owned winery with a sizable tasting room. EFESTĒ makes 16-17 different wines per year that results in 12,000 to 14,000 cases. Fidelitas benefits from the experience and knowledge of owner and winemaker, Charlie Hoppes. He is one of Washington’s most respected winemakers and brings over a quarter century of know-how to every bottle.
The gem of Woodinville wine country is historic Chateau Ste. Michelle, which dates back to the 1930’s and the repeal of prohibition. Chateau Ste. Michelle is not only the region’s largest winery, but the largest in Washington. It uses approximately two of every three grapes that grow in Washington and many of them go toward its Riesling selections. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s annual Riesling production is the most in the world.
The winery estate resides on regal grounds that are immaculately maintained, and the buildings are stately as well. The folks at Chateau Ste. Michelle say they “have combined Old World winemaking traditions with New World innovation.” They maintain two separate state-of-the-art wineries, one for red wines in Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington, and one for whites in Woodinville.