Washington's Wine Trail

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hitting the wine trail is probably not the first thing people think of when planning a trip to Washington State but it's become one of my favorite things to do when I visit my family during the summer. Woodinville Wine Country is a quick drive from where most of my clan lives, so our wine-loving group of cousins made good use of a sun-drenched Saturday by getting a taste of what Washington's wineries had to offer.

After sneaking in a quick taste and ogling the "Age Your Own Whiskey Kit" at Woodinville Whiskey Co., we officially began Wino Saturday at Tefft Cellars. The service was warm and friendly though, in all honestly, not the most knowledgeable. While we weren't blown away by any of the wines, the wine tasting was a fun way to use $5.

With raging appetites, we stopped at Novelty Hill Januik next to sample both their fine wines and brick oven flatbread pizzas. There's a lot to love about this winery: the sleek modern architecture (see some pictures that do this winery justice here), the pizzas that perfectly balance a satisfying layer of fresh toppings with a crisp crust, and some truly gorgeous red wines. I really loved the Januik Reserve Red, a lush blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc produced in a very limited quantity of 74 cases. My only qualm was that the staff seemed overwhelmed by the crowd; we had to circle the bar at one point as our efforts to get a pour seemed futile. Still, I really enjoyed our tasting and would highly recommend it.

Our next stop was DeLILLE Cellars, a lovely outdoor spot with the most attentive and highly knowledgeable service we received that day. Unfortunately, the excellent service was a bit of waste at times on our group, which was pretty tipsy all around by then. At one point, our server came back and asked, "What did you think of that last one?" and I blurted out the first adjective that came to mind ("Complex!") without any recollection of what I'd just swallowed. For this, I'm truly sorry, and I resolve to pay them a proper visit again in the future.

Our final stop was Chateau Ste. Michelle for a picnic on their lovely grounds with the rest of the family. This was my second visit to Chateau Ste. Michelle so I skipped the wine tasting, but I am a loyal buyer of their very drinkable and affordable Reisling. I quite love this winery and wish I could someday catch one of the concerts they have on their grounds (Pink Martini performs on September 3 and Chris Botti on September 2, if you happen to be in the area).

Some wine connoisseurs could probably go without ever stepping foot in Woodinville but I wouldn't trade these wine excursions with my family for any other in the world. For me, a sun-drenched summer day spent doubled over in tipsy laughter with the cousins, feeding ducks with the young ones, and picnicking with my family in an intimate vineyard is nothing short of pure bliss.   

Images: Top: Chateau Ste. Michelle. Bottom, left: Wine tasting at Tefft Cellars. Bottom, right: Brick oven flatbread pizza topped with ricotta and zucchini at Novelty Hill Januik.

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