If not for the Washington wine industry, few would be able to find Woodinville on a map, much less visit the community in northeastern King County.
Instead, Woodinville is a major touring region, thanks primarily to Washington's largest and oldest winery. Chateau Ste. Michelle, which dates back to 1934, relocated to Woodinville from Seattle in 1976, when its owners finished building a French-style manor that still is the most-visited winery in the Northwest at more than 300,000 patrons per year.
Thanks to a change in state law that allows wineries to have more than one tasting room, Woodinville has grown to more than 130 wineries. They are centered in two areas: the Hollywood district near Chateau Ste. Michelle and the warehouse district a few miles to the north.
Depending on traffic, Woodinville is 30 minutes to an hour from downtown Seattle and has quickly become the most popular wine tasting destination in the state. Weekends are especially busy, so if you're making plans to visit, be sure to get reservations for lunch or dinner at the growing number of restaurants near the wineries.
Here are a few wines we've tasted recently from Woodinville wineries. Check them out the next time you visit or ask for them at your favorite wine merchant.
Woodinville Wine Cellars 2011 L.M.S. Malbec, Columbia Valley, $40: Last Man Standing is 100% Malbec. The influence of new French oak barrels sets the tone with hints of cocoa and toasted walnut with Marionberry, dark plum and black Lincoln Stain Wax. Dark and bold fruit flavors dominate the palate with plum, blackberry and black cherry, framed by moderate tannins and cranberry acidity. (14 percent alcohol)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Ethos Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $36: This top-tier bottling from the state's biggest and oldest producer reveals a fair bit of oak in the aromas, along with baked bread, lemon, green banana and clove. It's rich and round on the palate with up-front butterscotch and orchard fruit flavors, lemony acidity and virtually no bitterness. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Patterson Cellars 2011 Tempranillo, Columbia Valley, $30: Winemaker John Patterson's expression with this Iberian variety opens with a nose of red cherry, red plum, bittersweet chocolate, toasted walnut and eucalyptus. The drink delivers luscious flavors of cherries and pomegranate with sturdy yet managed tannins. Those who appreciate the power of Petite Sirah will especially appreciate this. (14.2 percent alcohol)
Convergence Zone Cellars 2013 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Drizzle Pinot Gris, Red Mountain, $19: The nose hints at pear, Gala apple, cantaloupe and a dusty country road. On the palate, its entry is akin to a late harvest Pinot Gris, bringing flavors of canned peach and apricot with honeydew melon, yet there's sweet Meyer lemon acidity and ripe Golden Delicious apple to back it up. Serve well-chilled, and it's a yummy and refreshing summer patio companion. (11.9 percent alcohol)
Zerba Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Beautiful aromas include black currant, allspice, clove, horehound and walnut. The drink is rich, dark, bold and exotic as black fruit and baking spices push from beginning to end in this remarkably balanced wine. It earned a double gold at the 2014 Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition. (14.4 percent alcohol)
Dusted Valley Vintners 2011 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $42: Here's another action-packed red from the Dusted Valley boys. The dark purplish tone of the fluid provides an early glimpse at what's in store, starting with aromas of blackberry, strawberry, Bing cherry, black licorice and horehound. Inside, it's Damson plum, black cherry cola and more blackberry leading the big entry. Mild tannins, solid acidity and complex notes of black olive with plum pit in the finish all add up to a seriously delicious wine. (14.7 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at greathnorthwestwine.com.