Swiftwater Cellars bills itself as "Washington's ultimate destination winery," and after spending a day there earlier this month, it would be difficult for me to argue otherwise.
The facility is located about 80 miles east of Seattle and just a few minutes north of Interstate 90, near the towns of Roslyn and Cle Elum. Because of its relative proximity to the freeway, I'd hardly call this a remote area. And yet, upon arriving, one can't help but feel you're in an entirely different world, one surrounded by pine forests, rivers and streams, hiking trails, and expansive views of the nearby Cascades.
Swiftwater Cellars is privately owned by Don Watts, a successful Tri-Cities farmer who built the facility in the heart of the pre-existing Suncadia Resort. Suncadia is a 6,400-acre project that includes a 254-room lodge, a spa, and two golf courses.
Also within the resort is a separate, private community with its own golf course and clubhouse, which might seem like Sudden Valley with an Eastern Washington flavor, to Whatcom County residents.
A visit to Swiftwater Cellars is unique, to say the least. Rather than featuring a dedicated space, the "tasting room" is part of a larger complex that includes the Hoist House restaurant, a gift shop, and a public golf course clubhouse. There's also an adjacent outdoor amphitheater with seating for over 2,000 concertgoers.
With all of these destination goodies to keep you occupied, it would be easy to overlook the winery itself. I recommend making arrangements for a tour of the two beautiful barrel rooms and the pristine, stainless-steel holding tank area on the facility's lower level, to remind you this is indeed a winery.
On the building's main level, half of Swiftwater's circular tasting bar is shared by the restaurant, and I'd care to wager this is one of the few Washington wineries where you can sample wines, order lunch or dinner, and then enjoy a cocktail, all in one sitting.
The 1980s classic rock piped over the omnipresent speaker system can be maddeningly distracting, as can the mealtime crowds. But the wines, which are first-class in every respect, more than make up for this, and visitors can order them by the glass, flight, carafe, bottle or case.
Watts did his homework by hiring winemaker Linda Trotta, who spent 20 years at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, Calif., before coming to Swiftwater Cellars. Trotta produces the winery's Washington wines, and she's clearly at the top of her game. Tony Rynders is responsible for the winery's pinot noir, which is sourced from Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Next week, I'll give you my top recommendations from the wines I sampled during my visit. In the meantime, check out the winery at swiftwatercellars.com.