Woodinville Wne Country in Washington State (photo courtesy of Woodinville Wine Country)
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Washington State's answer to Napa Valley is making a quite a name for itself as a premiere East Coast wine lover's destination.
By Patrick M. Curran II
From the Winter 2018 Issue of Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Thirty minutes just northeast of Seattle, you'll find one of the most charming regions Washington State has to offer, one wine-lovers and foodies alike will relish. Creating a delightful nexus of adventuresome vintners, stunning scenic views and Northwest cuisine, Woodinville Wine Country offers 100 wineries, 8 microbreweries, distilleries and cideries and dozens of restaurants that thrill locals and visitors alike, swiftly growing the area into a surprising alternative to Napa Valley to the southwest.
Boasting over 120 tasting rooms spread out neatly over the region, locating just the right winery or dining options to sate your specific taste can be a bit of a challenge. After all, Woodinville has the largest concentration of top flight wine makers you’ll find anywhere in the world. Centrally located, the Woodinville Visitor Center is a great place to start, however. Friendly local guides who know the area inside and out are extremely helpful and have everything you might need to literally map out your time there.
The area is divided up among five distinct districts: Hollywood, Warehouse, Gateway Enclave, West Valley and Downtown, each as distinct as the other. And varieties of wines and microbrews run the gamut.
Located in the Hollywood District, family-owned JM Wine Cellars (jmcellars.com) has been producing hand-crafted limited-release wine for nearly 20 years. Visitors will find a wide slate of wines that range from rich, weighty reds to light cabernets and even delicious blends you'll have to try when you’re there.
Another small, but potent, boutique winery you won’t want to miss is Mark Ryan McNeilly’s Mark Ryan Winery (markryanwinery.com), founded in 1999 with the goal of making the best wines in Washington State, and he isn’t far off the mark. The largely self-taught wine maker honed his craft through rigorous study and the sage advice of some of the area's most experienced producers. Over a decade since his move to Woodenville from Seattle area garages and warehouses, Mark Ryan Winery has grown in size and earned the respect of the state's most elite producers. One of Mark’s earliest brand successes that still stands the test of time is Deadhorse (2015), a rich, fruity red blend with tinny notes and an earthy, oak finish.While you’re out and about, grab a savory bite at Purple Café and Wine Bar (www.purplecafe.com/purple-woodinville) on Redmond Road. The satisfying hotspot serves as a perfect location for delicious comfort food with a surprisingly hip flare. The energy is palpable without being crushing and the menu, thoughtful without being fussy. It’s just one of the many stellar eateries you’ll find in the burgeoning wine country region anchored by the notable Chateau Ste. Michelle, whose 2005 Columbia Sauvignon was voted Wine Spectator’s “No. 1 Wine in the World.”