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Walla Walla Wow
Winewomen go wine tasting in Woodinville

Blue grapes - wine

Woodenville wine country

Chateau ste Michelle

Columbia Winery


Barking flog


For a cool summer getaway, head north to Woodinville. Washington's wine wonder town is an easy half-hour drive northeast from Seattle. But unlike a visit to Napa, you won't find many vineyards but plenty of juice from nearly forty Washington wineries.  

Woodinville reinvented itself as a wine country mecca in 2002 in a move that boosted the state's wine tourism. Since most Washington grapes are grown far from Seattle – in Columbia Valley to the south, Yakima Valley to the east and beyond to the Walla Walla region – the small town parlayed its convenient location into a travel hub for the state's far-flung wineries.  

Each April, the town hosts the Passport to Woodinville weekend tasting and touring fundraiser. Start planning ahead at

Our first stop after lunch was Chateau Ste. Michelle (14111 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072, Tel. 425.415.3300). Washington’s oldest winery was built on a lumber baron’s 1912 estate. The lush grounds feature an arboretum and strolling peacocks. Check out the glass art gallery inside their well-stocked wine and gift shop.

Like some music with your wine? Their 2008 summer concert series includes big-name artists such as Chris Botti, Chicago, Lyle Lovett, Smokey Robinson and Chris Isaak. Tickets are available at or purchase in person at the winery.

Daily wine tastings allow you to sample three wines for five dollars. Take your pick and discover why awards adorn their Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. Even the red-wine drinkers among us enjoyed the soft fruit and luscious texture of their Chardonnay. Reserve tastings and group tours are available. Visit them at

Onward to Columbia, founded in 1962 by a small group of university professors and their friends (14030 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072, Tel. 425.488.2776 or 800.488.2347). While turning out more than 125,000 cases per year, Columbia garners respect for Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and other food-friendly varietals.

Another five-spot brings four or more wines to taste, depending how nice you are to the wine lad or lass. Our favorites included their Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Saddle up to their huge tasting bar or cruise the gift shop's souvenir temptations. Check them out at

For a more intimate wine-tasting experience, make your way to DiStefano Winery (12280 Woodinville Dr. SE, Woodinville, WA 98072, Tel. 425.487.1648). Never mind its industrial park location – this small-production winery is the real deal and winner of Wine Press Northwest's 2008 Washington Winery of the Year award.

The cozy tasting room has a European feel with a romantic glass-walled private dining room and candle chandeliers. Winemaker Mark Newton made his first DiStefano wine in 1990 as a wedding gift for his new bride. Together, they keep the winery’s focus on terroir blending with the goal of making exceptional Bordeaux-style wines.

From our tasting, they’ve succeeded mightily. We enjoyed every wine they poured, without exception. Taste another two or three wines for five dollars. Best of all, our tasting included Sogno, the winery’s gorgeous Cabernet Franc, plus a vintage 2000 Ottimo, their barrel-select Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings are held on Saturdays and Sundays. Don't miss it:

Word to the wise: Fill up on fantastic Northwest cuisine before you start sipping. We chose lunch outside Willows Lodge at The Barking Frog (14580 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville, WA 98072, Tel. 425.424.2999, With one of the best wine lists in the state, the bistro is flanked by one of the country’s top dining destinations, The Herb Farm Restaurant.

We're already thinking about splurging next year with Herb Farm's nine-course dinner and an overnight stay. As thankful as we were for our designated driver, a cool night in a warm bed seems like the perfect ending for our next Washington wine country jaunt.

Next: Sweatless in Seattle: Winewomen Beat the Heat in the Emerald City

© 2008, Matilde Parente.

Sweatless in Seattle
Winewomen Beat the Heat in the Emerald City

Seattle - wine

Seattle wine

Seattle wine

Seattle wine


What better way for a couple of Winewomen to escape the desert heat than a getaway to Seattle? In summer and early fall, the picturesque city is a perfect destination for lovers of great wine, savory food and stylish shopping. And of course, coffee at every corner.

We chose the W Seattle as homebase for our hotter-than-July weekend, which landed us downtown and within walking distance of wine venues and many of the city's wonderful restaurants.

Dinner at the W’s Earth & Ocean (1112 Fourth Ave., 206.264. 6060, primed our tastebuds for the Pacific Northwest’s food and wine extravaganza. Savor unusually delicious cured meats such as fennel pollen, spiced cacciatora and lavender lamb. The impressive wine list includes heavy hitters such as Oregon’s Patricia Green and Walla Walla's Leonetti Cellars, as well as Thirty for Thirty-Five, a listing of thirty worthy wines for $35 a bottle. For something different, try the Chinook Cabernet Franc with the freshest grilled salmon.

We kicked off Saturday at the region's foodie motherlode, Pike Place Market (1531 Western Ave., Tel. 206.381.9970). Just beyond the frisky fishmongers at Pure Food Fish who chorus and throw the day’s catch to tourists’ delight, you’ll find the immaculate specialty food mecca DeLaurenti (1435 1st Ave. at Pike, Tel. 206-622-0141). Wander among the dizzying selection of ingredients from capers to chocolates to their small takeout café with sandwiches and snacks made to order. Choose from artfully presented deli offerings, which include more than 250 cheese varieties. Don't miss their upstairs wine room, home to nearly 2,000 selections including more than 300 Italian wines.

To savor Washington's boutique wines, head to the wine cave at The Tasting Room (1924 Post Alley between Stewart & Virginia, 206.770.WINE, open daily 12-8). Their wine flights and pours are a perfect introduction to the state's expanding wine offerings. We were eager to sample syrah, the varietal that's juicing up the state’s Rhone blends. The 2003 JM Cellars was our favorite of the Washington syrah flight ($32/bottle at The Tasting Room). More cheese please? Don’t resist the artisan three-cheese plate with rosemary crackers. It was all so good, we couldn’t leave town without going back for more. Check out their wine club at

Adventuresome palates find hog heaven at La Buona Tavola Truffle Café (1524 Pike Place in the Triangle Building, Tel. 206.292.5555). For lunch, try one of Chef Alexandra’s truffled sandwiches or a woodsy truffled soup. The tiny female-owned shop features informed Italian wine tastings from Small Vineyards, a cooperative of family-owned producers such as Piedmont’s Tre Donne.  Pick up some truffle salt in time for white corn season or order specialty sauces from

With no way to carry so much great wine back home, we were off to the Pike and Western Wine Shop (1934 Pike Place, Tel. 206.441.1307). Wine savant Kyle helped us navigate the shop’s excellent selection of new and old world wines to assemble a case that suited our palates and pocketbooks. But be forewarned: Because Washington's wine acreage and production are far less than most California and European producers, expect average prices per bottle to be higher than what you might find in California. Or, think of it as just another good reason to taste as many wines as you can handle. Explore or order at

Our urban trek left us sated but the weekend was still young. All we needed was a little sleep and a lot of Seattle coffee before we set off for Washington's wine country town of Woodinville — and more food and wine adventures.

Next: Walla Walla Wow — Winewomen go wine tasting in Woodinville

© 2006, 2008, Matilde Parente.




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