Woodinville is a phenomenon. There are over 95 wineries in this small city. Most of them are simply a store front in a strip mall. The wines were made miles away with grape grown elsewhere. You come to Woodinville to taste them, not to examine the vines or to admire the endless barrels in a cavernous warehouse. Like the “auto mall,” “fashion island,” or jewelry district, Woodinville is a concentrated wine retail center. There is no rolling fields of grapevines here.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is the anchor. Its short, and free, tour was an entertaining lecture of its history and wines: ending with a complimentary tasting. Visitors may also go directly into the tasting room and pay for specific flights. This large and meticulous estate also featured two free roaming peacocks. That evening, John Legend would perform to 1,500 people on a lawn, as part of their famed Summer Concerts series.
Redhook Brewery was a family-friendly gastropub and clearly the favorite gathering point for cyclists. There is a sign warning people about bicycle traffic. And there were a large number of them, all wearing the recognizable jersey, present in the establishment. I had the brew of the day, a dark coffee-flavored beer, out of about 25 on tap. It paired very well with the shrimp po’boy sandwich. The sweet potato tots were so addictive that Wife must took them away from me.
To assist digestion and reduce blood alcohol level, we picked a short loop from Paradise Valley‘s miles of trails. (Try to print the trail map beforehand.) After a relaxed hour of light hiking, we were ready for the next round of alcohol infusion. The destination was DeLille in the Hollywood district. They had a perfect setting: a patio with barrel-tables and big patio umbrella for shades. We tasted their flight of 7 wines. The light exercise worked!
The general idea for touring Woodinville is to “park and winery hop” on foot. We saw concert goers, wedding parties, and many simply treating tasting room as wine bars. DeLille, for example, gave 1 oz pours of 7 wines and charged $25 tasting fees. Since a standard glass of wine is 5 oz. It’s about the same as buying a $90 bottle in a bar. It is a nice activity for a leisurely afternoon with friends or a companion.
Compared to Woodinville, Napa is serious. It is a destination instead of a spontaneous thought. You don’t go to Napa for a drink. You go to Napa! Woodinville, instead, is a light-hearted hang-out place for wine people. Remember a flight is about a full serving. Your judgment can be somewhat impaired afterward. That makes both places expensive if you like what you drank.