When you choose to visit
wineries, you'll soon discover a very different experience when
going to a small winery, compared to visiting a mega-winery.
The mega-wineries may have
elaborate tasting areas, and much seeming sophistication, but
the chances are that no-one you'll meet there or talk to has
been personally involved in
the wine making process. They're just hired
help - yes, often friendly and expert knowledgeable people - but
they're not the people who have hand crafted the wine you drink.
And the wine itself may be
good, but it is seldom surprising or exciting.
Boutique wineries are very
different, and the differences add to rather than detract from
your wine touring and tasting experiences.
Note - see also the preceding
article about Woodinville's larger wineries
You should visit our article
about Woodinville's larger wineries which also offers
general information about getting to Woodinville, the
Woodinville wine industry in general, and other things to see/do
and where to stay/eat around the Woodinville area.
The Boutique Wineries around Woodinville
Washington's wine industry is notable for having many small
wineries and only a few larger wineries. The boutique or
micro-wineries are the essence and soul of winemaking in
Washington, and you'll want to experience this as fully as you
Fortunately, it is very easy to do this, and once you've got to
the major concentration of boutique wineries, there is very
little (or completely no) driving needed between
wineries. You'll find about 20 wineries all in the one
business park (the exact number varies and is steadily
increasing), with another six or so in a nearby business park.
You can drive to this concentration of wineries then walk from
winery to winery - many of them being immediately next to each
other, requiring no more hassle than simply walking out one door
and into the next.
The main cluster of boutique wineries and the secondary cluster
are close to each other, but perhaps a bit far to walk between.
Both are close to the SR522 freeway and to downtown Woodinville
and are easy to find.
Sample addresses for the two business park clusters of wineries
19495 144th Ave NE,
Woodinville, WA 98072 for the larger cluster
18580 142nd Ave NE,
Woodinville, WA 98072 for the optional smaller cluster
All of these wineries are in the business parks around these two
addresses (same side of the road as the street numbers given,
maybe plus or minus a few street numbers for the different lanes
in the business parks) and once you get close, you'll see
sandwich boards pointing you to some (but not all) of the
To get to these addresses, we suggest you plan a route using, eg,
Note also our suggested 'bonus' visits below to one more winery
and possibly a micro-brewery too, as part of planning your
complete touring route.
The Business Park Benefits
For us, as casual wine tasters, there are obvious benefits to
finding a place where twenty or more wineries are all clustered
There are benefits for the winemakers, too. Many of these
very small wineries - some producing no more than 500 cases of
wine a year - and can't justify the purchase of a complete set of
winemaking equipment. What is the sense in buying
expensive equipment that might be used for two or three days a
year, and which then needs to be stored somewhere for the rest
of the year? And so, the wineries tend to informally or
formally cooperate and share some of the more expensive
specialty equipment between themselves.
Another advantage is that some of them also pool together their
grape shipments so as to have them trucked in fewer but larger
loads, reducing the freight cost to bring their grapes from the
vineyards in Eastern Washington to their wine making location.
This can also help with subsequent distribution, making it easy
for a distribution company to collect and distribute small
amounts of wine from many different wineries all at the same
Another advantage is that there is a pool of talented people all
working close to each other. The employees (and note that
many wineries don't have any full time staff at all, just the
winemaker/owner and his/her spouse, plus occasionally a part
timer) sometimes float between working at several different
wineries on an 'as needed' basis.
The concentration of wineries has also created a critical-mass
synergistic effect whereby visitors stumble across the different
wineries there (and sometimes literally so after tasting one too
many samples already), discovering more wineries. Each
winery gets to share in the growing prominence of the business
park without having to spend impractical amounts of money on
their own marketing. A sandwich board or two is all that
some of the wineries need to spend money on, and in return they
get a steady stream of visitors and potential customers each
Most of the wine makers see each other in the business park as
allies rather than as competitors, and they generally work
cooperatively together to help each other succeed.
Best of all, the many benefits make it easier for new startup
wineries to get established, and this encourages more people to
make more wine, and to take greater 'risks' with the wines they
make and the styles they experiment with.
The bottom line for us is uniformly positive. More
wineries, all conveniently located together, more innovation,
and business efficiencies that may also flow through to lower
selling prices for the wine they make.
How to Tour the Business Park and What to Expect
The first thing to do is to clear your mind of traditional
images and expectations. Don't expect to visit beautiful
French chateaux in an idyllic rural setting, surrounded by long
rows of vines. You are visiting wine makers, not grape
Often (elsewhere) the wine making is done at the same places
the grapes are grown, but this is absolutely not necessary or
essential, and has no real connection to the quality of wine
that is produced. In the case of these business park
wineries, they've decided to locate themselves close to their
markets rather than close to their raw materials, with the
resulting greater accessibility an outcome that greatly benefits
You're going to be visiting a plain and not particularly
appealing business park populated with single story high-ceiling
tilt-slab concrete warehouse buildings. The large buildings are
sliced into a series of bays, each one of which is rented by
some sort of light industrial business entity. Some of
these spaces are wineries, other spaces contain all manner of
Which leads to the serendipitous delight of touring through
these boutique winery business parks. You never really
know what to expect, and you absolutely can't judge each winery
from its outside appearances, or even from inside appearances
once you walk into the winery.
Indeed, sometimes it seems that the less prepossessing the
exterior and interior, the better the wine and more interesting
the characters are that we meet. The owners have simply
focused more on their product and less on their presentation.
So, stroll around the business park, and go into wineries on a
semi-random basis. Remember, there are way more wineries
than you can possibly visit in a day or two, no matter how hard
you try. Don't even try to visit them all, unless you're
tasting 'professionally' - ie, not swallowing, and only very
selectively sampling some of the wines.
Even a professional taster will admit to getting 'palate
fatigue' after a while. You are better advised to slowly
savor a few wines - maybe do a 'double taste' at some wineries -
than to rush through as many different wines as possible.
Amble around the business park as you wish, maybe tossing a coin
as to which wineries to visit and which ones to leave alone.
And when you're in the wineries, engage the winemaker (for it is
usually he who will be serving you) in conversation, and learn
about his wines, his business, and what makes it special to him
and perhaps to you too. Most of these winemakers are doing
wine as a hobby business, and they enjoy the chance to interact
and share their interest with people like you. They can
sometimes be wary, because some of the people who visit are
occasionally rude, drunk, and offensive, but once you show
yourself as polite and pleasant, they'll be delighted to tell
you a great deal about their winery, their wines, and why/how
they make wines the way they do.
Boutique Wineries Are Unpredictable
Here's an important concept. The larger corporate wineries
seek to offer continuity and certainty in their wine styles so
that you come to rely on a certain brand and label of wine being
reasonably similar from year to year. They provide
year-round continuous supply of wine to their distributors and
in turn on to restaurants and wine retailers, and many times the
general public doesn't even notice the vintage year on the wine
label, and doesn't really care. This works to the
advantage of the large wineries, who build up a following of
brand loyal drinkers, and so they make only slow and small
changes to their wines.
But it is completely different for smaller winemakers, who don't
have the same considerations or constraints, and who aren't
seeking to market 'wall to wall' year-round identical wines.
As a vivid example, we visited one winemaker,
Patterson Cellars, and sampled two vintages of the same
wine. The wine had the same name, but whereas one vintage
contained 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Sangiovese, the other
year, immediately consecutive to this year, had the proportions
completely swapped around. The two wines had quite
We say this not as a criticism. It is part of the vibrant
excitement of the micro-wineries. They are not afraid to
experiment, and they are not bound by the chains of corporate
Even if the winery isn't choosing to do some brave
experimentation, most of the wineries you'll visit are still
very new, and may have only released three or four vintages so
far. In such cases, they're still refining their processes
and ingredients, and so for this reason too there is likely to
be appreciable change from year to year.
Some Personal Favorites
hesitate to offer this section to you, for fear that by
directing you to some wineries, you might overlook other
wineries which potentially might be as fun, as enjoyable, and
with wines that are every bit as special as the wineries and
wines we particularly enjoyed on the specific occasions we
visited and tasted.
But perhaps you came to this page wanting some direction as to
which of the many wineries you should visit, so we'll offer you
a few personal favorites, in semi-random order.
Cuillin Hills Winery
Sometimes the wine maker is the star attraction, and sometimes
it is the wine. In reality, for most of us, after visiting
three or four wineries, we're more likely to remember the wine
maker than his wine! One very strong example of this can
be found at Cuillin Hills Winery where winemaker Derek Des
Voigne (yes, related to the nearby Des Voigne Cellars winery)
entertained us, variously consciously and unconsciously, during
the entirety of our visit, with his raw and unfiltered - not
wine, but commentary on wine and the world in general.
Besides which, by the end of our visit, he had decided to sell
us one of his nine remaining bottles of a special vintage he had
earlier made, so he's got to score highly. Thanks, Derek.
Winery is a very small winery (only 600 cases produced last
year). They have a loosely enforced $5 tasting fee, which
seems to get you about four or so wine samples, potentially
poured in generous measure. And there could well be some
more wine 'under the table' that might be brought out and
offered - you never know what Derek mightn't have about the
place. They're probably open on Saturdays until 4pm.
We stopped by a small winery at the far end of the business park
one time and were rewarded for doing so by being presented with
a very distinctive red wine to taste, for free. Such is
the serendipitous nature of things. This winery is
and they were tasting just one wine, their Ursa wine.
The 2006 that we tried contains an appealing mix of 50% Merlot,
24% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec and 2%
Petit Verdot - wow, a broad range of different flavors, that
made for a lush and complex wine. Well worth stopping by
and sampling. Unfortunately they are rarely open to the
public, but of course you're in the area anyway, so why not walk
down to their location and see if they're open (they're
sometimes open 'unofficially' even if their website suggests
they're not open).
Boutique wine makers often feel themselves to be completely
unconstrained by winemaking convention, and will create very
distinctive blends that you've probably never encountered
before. The most free-thinking of all the wineries we've
visited (so far - who knows what our next winery visit may not
offer us!) would have to be
Winery. Our $5 tasting of four wines (plus an off-list
bonus) saw us being introduced to things like a 76% Sauvignon
Blanc/24% Semillon blend, an 82% Merlot/18% Malbec blend, and a
58% Chardonnay/42% Sauvignon Blanc blend that did a good job of
being 'the best of both worlds'.
One other very distinctive wine we sampled combined 53% Petit
Verdot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc.
These are all fascinating taste experiments and add a wonderful
new level of experience to a visit around the wineries.
They are to be commended for their original thinking.
The wine drinking experience at Edmonds Winery was also
different to at most other places. We were taken into the
winery itself and sat down at one of several tables - in our
case, sharing a table with three other people who we struck up a
conversation with - and had wine poured tableside to us as
we were ready for each new taste. It made for a relaxing
nice change of pace from the typical arrangement of standing
around a bar area.
A good example of expecting the unexpected occurred at
Patterson Cellars. The visit started off ordinarily
enough, and we were being served not by the wine maker but by an
employee who seemed to be at least equally a beer enthusiast as
he was a wine enthusiast - but that was a good thing, it gave us
twice as much to talk about.
However, before too long he introduced us to Jack, the gentleman
who with his son owns the winery, and then things really started
to pick up, with Jack giving us a personal tour of the winery
and a huge slug of wine direct from a barrel as a bonus. A
friendly chat with him about life in general, and his wines in
particular, together with plenty of wine ($5 tasting fee for
notionally 5 wine tastes) made for a convivial visit.
Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards
This winery is based in Eastern Washington, but has opened a
tasting room in the business park complex. They offer
reasonably good wines and a tasting of four wines is $5,
refundable on the purchase of wine.
The main reason for visiting Gordon Brothers, however, is not so
much for the wine as it is for the glasses they serve it in.
If you've not heard of, or not tried, the amazing new
Eisch breathable wine glasses, you should go to Gordon
Brothers, because they serve their samples in these glasses.
The breathable glass claims to rapidly aerate a wine, enabling
it to 'open up' its flavor in a couple of minutes, rather than
requiring an hour or more for this to happen in a decanter, and
many hours in a wine bottle.
This lack of breathing time is always a challenge when tasting
wines which many times are out of very recently opened bottles.
So a 'breathable glass' is a great idea for wineries and their
sampling rooms, and also a great idea for you at home too.
Try the wine in the breathable glasses at
Brothers and see for yourself.
A Bonus Winery if Time Allows....
If you're walking around the area, you're somewhat limited as to
how far afield you can conveniently roam.
Woodinville Wine Cellars
This is a lovely winery obscured by a plain seeming business
It is located more or less on the route to the two business park
clusters of wineries, just off the SR522 freeway, and so makes a
nice place to start or finish your boutique winery touring.
The winery has a pleasant and spacious tasting room and a very
nice outdoor seating area where you can relax and enjoy your
wine. Tastings are $5, refundable against any wine
purchases you make while there. They sometimes offer tours
of their wine making/storage facilities too.
The winery is open mainly on Saturdays until 5pm. Current
hours can be found on their
.... And Another Micro-Brewery Too
Wine and beer make for an unusual pairing, but many times wine
enthusiasts enjoy a distinctive handmade beer as well. And
so here's a nearly brand new micro-brewery that opened in May
2009 for your consideration, and one which is already winning
the enthusiastic approval and support of the local micro-brew
Raven Brewing Co
Also located in a business park, but a few miles south of
Woodinville on the northern tip of Redmond, this micro-brewery
is so far acting as a case-study perfect example of how to do
everything right in opening up a micro-brewery.
They've created a nice tasting room/pub, and are brewing a
wonderful range of full flavored beers, with some interesting
experimental beers in the pipeline. Definitely a brewery
worth visiting and keeping an eye on as it grows and develops
into the future, and not too far distant so as to be convenient
to include into a self-drive Woodinville boutique winery tour.
They are currently open six days a week (closed Mondays).
Get latest opening hours and other details from their
six of a series on wine trail touring in WA, see
About the US wine industry in general
2. Wine making in Washington state
Wine touring in Washington state
4. Wine costs, pricing, and quality
tours and tasting around Seattle - the large wineries
6. Touring the boutique wineries in the Woodinville area
Wine trail tours
Wine tasting in
Related Articles, etc
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29 May 2009, last update
26 Aug 2018
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