Tag Archives: Woodinville

What we’re drinking: Woodinville wines

Brynn writes:

On Sunday in the Kitsap Life section our getaways feature this month is going to be on Woodinville, written by your’s truly.

It’s fitting that my last Kitsap Life story would be on Western Washington’s wine country. (Yes, you read that correctly, my last story. My last day at the Sun will be Oct. 29.)

This post isn’t about my departure, it’s about all the great wineries you can experience with a short jaunt across the water (Puget Sound and Lake Washington) by exploring Woodinville.

I remember when Woodinville was known as the home to Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery and Red Hook Brewery. Now it’s home to more than 80 wineries and a number of great restaurants. It really does make a great day trip from Seattle, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to Woodinville to go wine tasting than it is to drive across the mountains to Eastern Washington.

A month or so ago my husband and I found ourselves with a rare day off together and a babysitter eager to watch the kid (thanks grandma!) so we decided we’d take advantage of our good fortune and do a little wine tasting. With 80+ wineries to choose from it was a little daunting to figure out where we were going to go, but I just hopped online and started looking at the different wineries listed under the Woodinville Wine Country website. (Also look at the Warehouse District winery website when planning your trip because there are some great wineries in that area too.) Within an hour I had our Woodinville wine tour mapped out.

Here’s the list I created:

  • Airfield Estates
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars
  • Dusted Valley
  • J.Bookwalter
  • Otis Kenyon
  • Ross Andrew Winery

I didn’t expect us to make it to every winery, but I wanted a couple “fall backs” in case we went somewhere and it was busy. (Or if we really did make it through our top picks quickly, we’d have somewhere to go.) We ended up visiting (in this order): Ross Andrew, J.Bookwalter, Alexandria Nicole, Airfield Estates.

By the last winery we were maxed out and ready to head across the street to Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, where we had an excellent dinner.

If you’re planning a trip to Woodinville, do your homework before you go so you have a rough idea of what you want to see, but also know that once you get there there are so many wineries you can easily change your mind and pop into any storefront and likely have a great experience.

Of the wineries we visited, Alexandria Nicole is one not to be missed. The atmosphere is great and so are the people pouring wines. Plus their wines (in my opinion) are fantastic. We loved their 2012 Shepherd’s Mark, a blend of 65 percent Roussanne, 20 percent Marsanne and 15 percent Viognier. This wine won a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a double gold at the 2013 Seattle Wine Awards. This wine has notes of pineapple, pear, citrus and peach and the floral characteristics of Viognier come through on the nose. ($24)

The 2010 a Squared Cabernet Sauvignon was also good with its dark fruit flavors and hints of vanilla on the finish. This is a great fall/winter wine and would pair well with heavier meals like roasts and lamb. The blend is 86 percent cab, 6 percent cab franc, 6 percent malbec and 2 percent petit verdot. ($24)

I also loved J.Bookwalter’s Chardonnay, which had just the right balance of weight from its fermentation in barrels and stainless steel. The wine had aromas of pear and honeydew with a slightly nutty hint on the finish. This was a creamy wine that I am kicking myself for not purchasing while we were there.

I was excited to try Ross Andrew because I had not heard of this winery before, which is hard to believe because the winemaker has been in the business for a long time and studied under one of the best in the industry, Master of Wine Bob Betz. The tasting room was recently remodeled and is done in a minimalist, modern style. It’s in the same building complex as Pepper Bridge/Amavi Cellars, Mark Ryan and J.Bookwalter, and right across the parking lot from Alexandria Nicole. If you plan on heading to Woodinville you could spend your afternoon just cruising between these wineries without even having to move your car.

We enjoyed the 2011 Meadow White Wine (so much so we bought a bottle) and the 2012 Meadow Rose (again we bought a bottle). The Rose is the first Washington Rose I’ve tried that reminds me of the Provincial style Roses I drank while in France. It’s dry with a crisp finish. The white wine would be a perfect pair with crab, scallops or white fish. Both wines were $16.

If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Woodinville, check out my story in Sunday’s paper (or online). Now’s a good time to head over there because they’ve finished the craziness of crush and the craziness of the holidays hasn’t picked up yet.

What we’re drinking: Stevens Winery

Brynn writes:

This week’s wine is from a winemaker situated in Woodinville’s warehouse district.

Tim Stevens and his wife Paige run Stevens Winery, which the couple opened in 2002. They started small with 100 cases of cabernet franc and now produce multiple varieties of red and white wines.

On a recent tasting visit to the winery, which is a shared tasting room and production area, we tried five of the wines.

They included the 2010 StevensDivio Viognier, 2009 StevensMerlot, 2008 Stevens424 Red Wine, 2009 StevensTimely Malbec and 2008 StevensXY Reserve Cabernet. We were also lucky enough to barrel taste the sauvignon blanc, which had been harvested at the end of 2011 and was in its final stages in nearby steel tanks.

All of the wines we tasted presented well. My favorite was probably either the 424 Red or the XY Reserve Cab.

What I found interesting about the 424 blend, is that while it’s Tim Stevens’ Bordeaux blend, instead of being dominated by merlot or cabernet sauvignon, the dominant grape variety is cabernet franc.

Considering cab franc is one of my favorite varietals, there’s probably little surprise then that the 424 topped my “Would Drink Again” list.

The cab blends — there’s only 3 percent difference between the cab franc (39 percent) and cab sauvignon (36 percent) — give this wine its earthy notes. The other varietals, including merlot (17 percent), malbec (7 percent) and petit verdot (3 percent), round out the flavor giving the wine complexity and weight.

Stevens sources his grapes for this wine from four vineyards including Dineen, Dubrul, Meek and Sheridan. The wine is aged in 50 percent new French oak and 50 percent once used French oak for 20 months.

As the fan favorite, the winery produces more 424 than anything else, 525 cases worth to be exact.

The XY Reserve Cab is the winery’s “dense and intense” all cab blend, according to the winery.

“Dark fruit from Sheridan Vineyard and earthy finesse from Meek Vineyard were added to round out the body of the wine. The result created a wine that is big, bold, integrated and multi-layered,” according to tasting notes.

Only 290 cases of this wine were produced.

Stevens Winery is located at 18520 142nd Ave NE in Woodinville. It’s in the area’s warehouse district, where many other wineries also operate — which means you can go to multiple wineries in one stop without having to move your car. Genius!

What we’re drinking: Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse

Brynn writes:

What a name for a wine, right? Normally I would think a wine labeled “Dead Horse” would be a turn off for many wine drinkers, but then I tried it.

As promised from an earlier post, this wine was my favorite of the day from my recent visit to the Mark Ryan Winery tasting room in Woodinville. My three friends agreed, Dead Horse had our vote for favorite Mark Ryan wine of the day.

This, along with his Long Haul, which I reviewed previously, is a Bordeaux blend. But unlike the Long Haul, which was merlot dominant right bank blend, this one is a cab heavy blend, meaning it represents the left bank of the Bordeaux region.

This was the last wine we tasted at Mark Ryan and clearly they saved the best for last (and also the most expensive). The nose was rich, the color deep and the hints of vanilla from time spent on oak smoothed out the tannins on the finish of this wine.

Here’s what the winery says about its Dead Horse:

Tasting notes:

Aromas of blackberry, violet, and raspberry combine with layers of tealeaf, tobacco, bramble, mint, cracked black pepper and clove. The palate is rich and supple with elements of cocoa and vanilla bean. The texture is refined with elegant tannins.

Best from 2012 through 2018.

Vineyard Source:

  • Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain
  • Ciel du Chaval Vineyard, Red Mountain


  • 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 15 percemt Cabernet Franc
  • 11 percent Malbec
  • 8 percent Merlot
  • 6 percent Petit Verdot

Alcohol: 14.7 percent

Release Date: November 18, 2011

Production: 850 Cases

Price: $52

What we’re drinking: Sparkman Cellars Wilderness

Brynn writes:

Continuing with our highlights of Washington wine in honor of March being Washington Wine Month, this week we’re taking a look at Sparkman Cellars.

Voted a Top 100 Winery in the World by Wine and Spirits Magazine, Sparkman is a must-visit for anyone headed to Woodinville for a day of wine tasting. (Or if you’re headed to Taste Washington at the end of the month, it’s a winery that should make your “must taste” list).

Sparkman was the last stop on our Woodinville tour last month and what a great place to end the day. My friend Kyle’s husband Wes loves Sparkman’s chardonnay — so much so he bought a case while we were there.

While I enjoyed the Lumière Chardonnay — it had a nice balance of acidity with a slight hint of oak, giving some weight to the mouth — it was the Wilderness Red Blend that had my full attention.

I was already familiar with Sparkman’s Stella Mae and Ruby Leigh — named after winemaker Chris Sparkman’s daughters — which we tasted at last year’s Taste Washington event (Ruby Leigh made our “top sips list”).  Stella Mae is Sparkman’s take on a left-bank Bordeaux, while Ruby Leigh is his take on the right-bank blend. They have become signature wines for the winery.

I don’t recall tasting the Wilderness last year, so it either wasn’t offered, or after tasting so many wines I just didn’t remember it by the end of the day.

Regardless, I had my chance to enjoy the wine last month at the Sparkman Cellars tasting room in Woodinville. My notes from the time included this about the wine: “smooth, approachable, oak noticeable.”

After reading the grapes that go into of this blended red wine, it’s easy to see why I loved it so much. The two dominant grape varieties are cab franc and syrah — two of my favorite grapes.

The cab added some spice and hints of black licorice to the wine, while the syrah added hints of dark berries and contributed with the cab to the darker side of this wine — think leather or cigar box.

Time spent on oak — 18 months — left the finish slightly sweet with hints of toasted vanilla. Seeing that I’m an oak lover, I found the finish especially pleasing.

Here’s what winemaker Chris Sparkman says about the wine (note: a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Wilderness Society):

Tasting notes:

A rich supple blend full of chocolately black fruit on the nose layered with licorice, violets, vanilla bean, cassis and cigar box. The palate is loaded with black cherry, Asian spices and sweet toasty oak.

Appellation: Columbia Valley

Varietal Composition:

  • 29 percent Cabernet Franc
  • 27 percent Syrah
  • 22 percent Merlot
  • 13 percent Petit Verdot
  • 9 percent Malbec


  • Klipsun
  • Boushey
  • Hedges
  • La Coye
  • DuBrul
  • Double Canyon

Barrel Aging: 18 months

Oak Composition: 45 percent new French Quintessence, Saury, LeGrand and Vicard

Alcohol: 14.8 percent

Production: 645 cases

Price: $28

What we’re drinking: Mark Ryan Long Haul

Brynn writes:

Earlier this month I was invited to a surprise birthday party for my friend Kyle. Last year Kyle was 8 months pregnant for her birthday, so needless to say she didn’t feel much like celebrating the departure from her 20s to her 30s.

This year however her husband wanted to make sure she had a great day, so he organized an outing months in advance to make sure Kyle not only made up for missing her big 30th celebration, but also entered her 31st year in style.

We started the day by surprising Kyle on her doorstep and were whisked away by our own personal chauffeur — her husband — in a Cadillac rented for the day’s transportation. On our agenda for the day: lunch at The Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Woodinville, followed by stops at some of Kyle’s favorite wineries.

First up was Mark Ryan Winery, a boutique winery located across the parking lot from the Hollywood Schoolhouse. Apparently everyone else who was in Woodinville to celebrate and taste wine also had Mark Ryan on their lists, because the cozy tasting room became packed shortly after we arrived. But that was fine with us, we were easily able to get through the five wines they poured and still enjoy great conversation.

While I wasn’t drinking, I did accept the pour, took two tiny sips then poured the rest of my glass into Kyle’s stemware.

Like I said, we tried five wines while there, but I’m only highlighting one of those today — don’t worry I’ll write about our absolute favorite wine tasted at Mark Ryan next time.

One of the wines that stood out to my palate was the 2009 Long Haul, winemaker Mike MacMorran’s take on a right bank Bordeaux blend. As we recently wrote, Merlot is the dominant grape along the right bank in Bordeaux. The breakdown of the 2009 Long Haul is 64 percent Merlot, 27 percent Cabernet Franc, 8 percent Malbec and 1percent Petit Verdot.

Here’s what the winery has to say about this wine:

Vineyard source: Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain; Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain; Kiona Vineyard, Red Mountain

Tasting notes: Black cherry, Italian plum, clove and toasted oak. Non-fruit aromas of cracked black pepper, red meat, tomato leaf, brined olives and cigar box. The palate is lush, filled with vanilla and mocha. The texture is bold with impressive structure and great length.

Best 2012 through 2017.

The wine is priced at $48 (leave it to me to like the expensive stuff). Only 550 cases were produced.