A half hour's drive northeast of Seattle, Woodinville is a small town culinary gem. Home to two of Washington's largest wineries, a popular local microbrewery, and inspired restaurants, an outing to Woodinville is an enjoyable, easy day trip for any wine (or beer) lover.
Begin the day with an early lunch at local brewery Red Hook's Forecasters Pub (www.redhook.com, 14300 NE 145th Street, 425.483.3232.) The comfortable tavern features sofas, tables and chairs, and a roomy bar, and the fare is pub food with a Northwest twist. You can order grilled Pacific salmon on top of any of the salads, and a smoked salmon and trout platter with sun-dried tomato cream cheese and rustic bread is a signature appetizer. After lunch, tour the brewery for a liquid lesson on ESB, IPA, porters and ales. The $1 tour includes generous samples of four or so beers, a souvenir glass, and an informative and irreverent look at the beer making process.
Next, stroll the breathtaking grounds of Chateau St. Michelle Winery (www.ste-michelle.com, 14111 NE 145th Street, 425.415.3300). The recipient of countless awards, Chateau St. Michelle is the state's oldest winery. Tours are conducted throughout the day, and offer a good glimpse into the world of winemaking (vineyards are on the eastern side of the state, so the tour mostly focuses on what happens after the grapes arrive at the winery). Tasting options abound, from the free Columbia Valley tour and tasting, to the $8 vintage reserve room tasting. The winery also offers private tours and tastings with advance reservations.
Sidle up to the ample tasting bar (the largest in Washington) at Columbia Winery (www.columbiawinery.com, 14030 NE 145th Street, 425.488.2776) for a complimentary taste of their popular offerings. Columbia Winery introduced new varietals to Washington, including Syrah, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc. Tours are available, and for a $5 fee, you can sample five of their Signature Series wines (which can be used towards your purchase). Call for more information about private tours and tastings.
With a casual yet upscale atmosphere, and a contemporary Northwest American menu, Purple Café and Wine Bar (www.thepurplecafe.com, 14459 Woodinville-Redmond Road NE, 425.483.7129) is just the place to cap off the day. The stellar wine list includes 70 choices by the glass, as well as flights and cheese pairings. A three- or four-course prix fixe menu is available after 4 p.m., with optional wine pairings; or for a lighter bite, choose a gourmet sandwich or pizza, meze platter, or cheese course.
Celebrating a special occasion? Make reservations well in advance at The Herbfarm (www.theherbfarm.com, 14590 NE 145th Street, 425.485.5300). This charming restaurant and inn currently holds the title of "Best Domestic Wine List in America" from Restaurant Hospitality, and the 19,000-bottle cellar boasts wines from all over the world, including many from the Northwest. The menu is inspired by fresh, local ingredients, and changes frequently. Nine-course wine dinners (including freely poured wine) range from $159 to $189 per person. Plan on spending four or five hours here for dinner.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine writer and educator in the Metro D.C. area. She can be reached through her Web site, which is www.trywine.net.