23 Wineries to Visit in Washington and Oregon
There’s no better time to get acquainted with the wineries of the Pacific Northwest than right now. For Oregon and Washington, the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons ushered in terrific weather, amounting to record-breaking high-quality harvests—and in turn outstanding wines. Most of the wines being poured in tasting rooms today are from those vintages.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley spans an area more than 100 miles long and 60 miles wide and is home to more than 550 wineries. Its cool-climate makes it an ideal region for growing Pinot Noir, which accounts for most bottlings, with Pinot Gris and Chardonnay close behind.
Heading north into Walla Walla Valley, this wine region begins in Oregon and extends up into Washington State with a vast array of varying landscapes. Beginning around 400 feet above sea level, vineyards are planted in ancient silt soils from the famous Missoula Floods and as elevation increases to over 2,000 feet, a mix of basalt bedrock and large cobblestones call to mind the famous stony vineyards of France’s Rhône Valley. Here, you’ll discover a mix of terrifically rich, broad-shouldered Bordeaux-style red blends primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, alongside elegant Syrahs and Rhône-style blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Though most wineries are open to the public for drop-in tastings, some also offer elevated experiences that require reservations, and others are strictly by-appointment only. Best to plan well in advance rather than calling the week you arrive. And beyond the tasting rooms, the Pacific Northwest is also a hiking, cycling and skiing hotspot, and for food lovers, it’s a veritable paradise of new restaurants bars and hotels.
These 23 wineries are a mix of iconic producers who have helped establish their respective region as a world-class winegrowing center, and new and relatively new upstarts—all making an array of great wines. —Jonathan Cristaldi
Keeler Estate Vineyard
Gabrielle and Craig Keeler have turned their 200-acre farm in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA into one of Oregon’s best-kept wine secrets: Keeler Estate Vineyard is a 40-acre organic and Demeter-certified biodynamically farmed site, planted with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Their working winery and tasting room is surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens, streams and lakes.
A charming bistro-style tasting room combines modern French and Tuscan accents and various sitting nooks of comfy leather chairs and couches. In winter months, a wood stove makes for a cozy experience, whereas the summer months offer a spectacular open-air tasting room under a set of grove trees, with truly serene views of surrounding countryside. Typical tasting flights include six wines. Their Estate Pinot Gris is a must try—aged in partial neutral oak and stirred on its lees, the wine is creamy with excellent weight and packed with tropical and orchard fruit notes. The estate is planted to multiple clones of Pinot Noir and their cuvée is expertly blended. The current 2014 release reveals sweet spice upfront with a creamy mouthfeel of dark cherry fruit, cola spice and savory tannins giving way to a subtle earthy finish.
Gabrielle and Craig’s son, Nicholas Keeler—a rising star Oregon winemaker—also makes Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays under his own Authentique Wine Cellars label from his family’s Estate vineyard—but you’ve got to ask to sample them. Whatever you do, don’t forget to ask. For one, you’ll get to experience different expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay off the same Estate vineyard. For another, it won’t be long before Authentique joins the “cult” category of brilliant wines from Oregon, that are mailing-list only. Ask for the 2014 Authentique Keeler Estate Pinot Noir, which reveals sumptuous smoky earth aromas, and juicy dark red cherries on the palate, layered with baking spices, orange peel and a terrific saline finish. But his 2015 Authentique Keeler Estate Chardonnay is a personal favorite of mine and has chalked up a few notable awards. Lastly, he’s doing some exciting things with skin-contact Pinot Gris—do not miss out on the chance to grab a bottle.
Appointments available: open Thu-Sun from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; or Tues and Wed by appointment
Fee: $20 per person (waived with a purchase of $60+ in wine)
Domaine Nicolas Jay
Some of you will visit Domaine Nicolas-Jay knowing that the co-founder and winemaker is Jean-Nicolas Meo of Burgundy’s famous Domaine Meo-Camuzet—producers of Grand Cru Burgundy smack in the heart of the famous Vosne-Romanée village. Others will go because of Jean-Nicolas’ partner, Jay Boberg—the music mogul who as the former President of MCA/Universal Records helped launch the likes of R.E.M., The Go-Go’s, Blink-182, Mary J. Blige, Sublime, The Roots and B.B. King. But the real stars of the show are the Pinot Noirs drawn from several premier Willamette Valley vineyards, including their own estate site called Bishop Creek in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
Guests visit their 100-year-old Dundee House, which is open to small groups by appointment, and boasts a comfortable, warm living and dining-room space with maps of Burgundy and the Willamette Valley gracing the walls. The experience is casual and informative with 4-5 wines poured showcasing a classic earthy style with floral notes bolstered by impeccable minerality and savory spice—you leave as an expert in all things Pinot Noir from Oregon and Burgundy. Guests are invited to explore their 13-acre old-vine Bishop Creek Vineyard. Associate Winemaker Tracy Kendall will also frequently attend and host tastings with guests, and those who visit during the harvest season from September to October may have a chance to meet Jay or Jean-Nicolas.
Appointments available: There are no formally closed dates or times—inquire.
Fee: $30 per person (waived with a 6-bottle purchase of wine)
This year Brooks celebrates its 20th anniversary and it’s a great time to visit because they have full roster of activities planned every month. The winery was founded in 1998 by the late Portland native Jimi Brooks and today is owned by his son Pascal, while Chris Williams and his sister, Janie Brooks-Heuck, are the winemakers. They make a bevy of Pinot Noirs and have quite the reputation for whites—primarily Riesling (they produced 20 different styles in 2016 alone, including a sparkling Riesling) and are best known for their dry styles. Additionally, they produce a range of Alsace varieties like Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, a dry Muscat, and a dry Gewürztraminer. Be sure to ask about “Janus” their flagship Pinot Noir, which is culled primarily from estate fruit and boasts terrific earthy and spicy notes packed with red- and blue-fruit flavors bolstered by terrific juicy acidity.
A visit to their biodynamically farmed estate offers up almost limitless possibilities: guests are welcome to grab a stool at their tasting bar, or can settle into comfortable leather chairs for table-side service. Options range from bottle-service, to a glass or a flight of wines: whites only, reds only, or a mixed flight. There’s also local beer and cider on tap—and an espresso machine (just in case). From a massive upper deck with outdoor seating you’ll take in one of the best views of the Willamette Valley and Mt. Hood, or head downstairs where there’s a fireplace, gardens and a shaded area with Adirondack chairs. With an on-site chef, an array of bites are available for flights, or you can go all in with food and wine pairing classes or cooking classes—they even have a new “secret supper” dinner series.
Appointments available: Daily—by appointment for either a seated tour and tasting, vineyard tour and tasting, or drop-in tasting flight.
Fee: $20-$75 per person depending upon experience booked
Evening Land Vineyards
Two titans of the wine industry—the highly respected sommelier and author Rajat Parr and super-star winemaker Sashi Moorman—are the partners behind Evening Land, which is situated in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The focus here is on exceptionally well-made Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay from their historic Seven Springs Estate Vineyard. Today, some 85 acres of rocky volcanic soils are planted to vines that were first rooted in 1984. Since 2008, the site has been farmed biodynamically, and Seven Springs' unique location, exposure, elevation, and vine age combine to yield benchmark Oregon wines, with each Seven Springs bottling corresponding to a specific block or section of the vineyard.
Their tasting room in Dundee Hills is modern, clean and inviting with a cozy feel and is open to the public daily. All current release Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay wines are poured, and occasionally they’ll toss a library selection into the mix. Their Seven Springs Estate Pinot Noir is a staple, while their Summum Chardonnay, plucked from just 14 rows of vines is a real show-stopper. The La Source Pinot Noir is arguably their “must-try” wine, showing off restrained, pure fruit with great finesse that reveals the essence of their Seven Springs site with a liveliness only possibly thanks to the cool and refreshing winds of the Van Duzer corridor.
Enthusiasts will want to book a tour of their Seven Springs Vineyard, which is a 25 minute drive from the tasting room. As your car climbs in elevation, on clear days you can take in breathtaking views of four mountain ranges. You’ll begin seated around a picnic table with a spread of local cheese and charcuterie, and then with glass in hand you’ll trek around the historic site with your host, Tynan Pierce—and possibly, if the stars align on your visit, with Rajat or Sashi.
Appointments available: Tasting room is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Seven Springs Vineyard tours are by appointment only.
Fee: $20-$55 per person depending upon tasting experience; $65 per person for the tour
Founded by Michael Etzel and his brother-in-law, the famous wine critic Robert Parker, back in 1988, their first produced vintage was released in 1992. But according to Tom Caruso, the hospitality manager at Beaux Frères, for guests visiting today, “it becomes immediately evident that this place is first and foremost a farm—a family of pigs run along the side of the driveway, a converted barn houses our thirty year old winery, a fire truck used for water distribution sits amidst a swath of old Oregon oak trees, and a handful of winery dogs lay, rain or shine, on the crush pad/patio to greet you.” In short, not much has changed since its founding days, which is the real charm of this iconic estate.
Their 24-acre Beaux Freres vineyard and 8.5-acre Upper Terrace vineyard is farmed according to biodynamic principles and the wines produced are packed with rich black-fruit character, and an array of terrific sweet baking spices, brown- and savory-spice notes. Tasting are by appointment only and guests mingle around a beautiful tasting bar with furniture all made by Michael. Their classic tasting is a casual, but informative experience featuring four wines—typically a Chardonnay and three different Pinot Noirs and lasts about 30-45 minutes. For a more involved experience, book a private tour and tasting, which includes a walk through of the Beaux Freères vineyard, a tour of the winery, and from a private room, a comparative tasting of 5-6 wines that might examine vintage, vineyard, or varietal clone differences—typically lasting 90-120 minutes. “Depending on the time of year, with harvest being as busy as it is, there is a good chance of running into our production team and Mike Etzel, who is always happy to say hello,” says Caruso.
Appointments available: By appointment only—inquire.
Fee: $25-$75 per person depending upon experience booked
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
Founded by husband and wife duo Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash in 1998, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars has been nothing short of a trailblazer in the Willamette Valley. Lynn is one of the first women winemakers in the region, and last year celebrated her 20th anniversary. Expect exquisite silky-smooth, richly layered vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs from famous sites like Shea Vineyard and Hyland Vineyard, as well as robust Syrahs and bright and energetic Rieslings that come from exceptional sites throughout Willamette’s major AVAs.
The winery is perched atop a hill overlooking the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, with stunning views (dubbed locally as a “Kick-Ash view”) of the valley. In colder months, book a communal “Winter Seated Tasting” and enjoy flights in the warm glow of a fireplace. In warmer months, there are Adirondack chairs—perfect for soaking in the views, and also a patio with picnic tables, which are available to those who become club members, or if you book a private seated tasting. Expect flights to offer 5-6 wines, typically a current-release white or rosé followed by Pinot Noirs. One of the standout wines to try is their “Pas de Nom” Pinot Noir, which means “without a name,” in French, and is a special cuvée made from Lynn’s favorite barrels in a given vintage.
Appointments available: open to the public 7 days a week from 11am-5pm for drop-ins, although booking an appointment in advance is highly encouraged
Fee: $25-$35+ per person depending upon experience booked
Want to arrive to your tasting by helicopter? For the truly best views of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and to impress everyone, inquire about the “adventure of a lifetime” with Tour DeVine by Heli and make your entrance to WillaKenzie. But for those of your hoping for a simpler, more low-key winery experience, Willakenzie offers a sleek patio terrace with stunning views, a fire pit, patio tables, and the chance to lounge on thick grass by pétanque courts—all with a glass of estate Pinot Noir in hand. The winery is named after the ancient seabed sedimentary soils found on the estate, in which vines planted on the estate’s steep slopes yield brilliant Pinot Noirs ranging in styles from more floral and elegant to ones that are powerful, rich, with savory flavors and robust structure.
Once you’ve parked the car—or copter—and settled in for a tasting, you can expect to sample 5-7 wines (perhaps more depending on what you book), of single-vineyard and select vineyard block-designate wines from the estate. Winemaker Erik Kramer is often on site and likes to drop by tastings for a bit of playful interaction. And talk about something for everyone—University of Texas fans will get a kick out of the Longhorn cattle that graze the pastures and open space throughout the estate property.
Two wines that stand out as “must try” are the Gisele Pinot Noir and the Triple Black Slopes Pinot Noir. The Gisele is a blend of Pinot from their Estate and Jory Hills Vineyards and will offer up a bit of context for the unique terroir of the estate and the region. The Triple Black Slopes Pinot is a small lot, block-designate wine sourced from one of the highest elevation, steepest slopes of the estate vineyard—it errs on the side of power, richness and savory spice with a fabulously intense finish.
Appointments available: Starting February 1, 2018, the WillaKenzie Estate tasting room will be open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for drop-ins, although booking an appointment in advance is highly encouraged
Fee: $20 - $40 per person depending upon experience booked
Perhaps one of Willamette’s best kept secrets is Cristom Vineyards. From the beauty of the grounds to the elegance in the wine, a visit here is rejuvenating. Winemaker Steve Doerner (who in the 1990s and early 2000s made wine at Calera in California), and winegrower-owner Tom Gerrie are focused on the brighter, fresher style of Pinot Noir that results from whole-cluster fermentation of berries off four estate vineyards.
At the entrance to the winery tasting room, you’ll pass through a pair of gorgeous, nearly-200-year-old doors that came from a château in Bordeaux. Then, head to the tasting bar or enjoy a casual lounge amidst plenty of furniture on their patio, or opt for a hosted tasting. There are lush green lawns and spectacular gardens surrounding the vineyards with paved brick pathways—perfect for strolling with a glass of wine in hand. Seasonal flights typically includes 5 wines, while private hosted tastings typically include 8 pours. Very frequently, either Steve or Tom make a guest appearance. A private “Cristom Experience” includes a tour, additional wines and small food pairing.
Their Mt. Jefferson Cuvée—brimming with red berry fruit, orange peel and hints of mocha—is the wine everyone is talking about right now, so be sure to ask for it, but don’t rule out trying their scinitalling white Estate Pinot Gris.
Appointments available: open daily from 11am – 5pm for drop-ins while the “Cristom Experience” is private and by appointment only
Fee: $15-$60 per person depending upon experience booked
This family-owned estate vineyard and winery dates back to 1977, and boasts some pretty gnarly old vines rooted in rolling benches and beautiful hills of Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Bethel are cooling Aeolian winds that funnel in from the Pacific Ocean through the Van Duzer Corridor, keeping temperatures cool, while acids remain firm and lively. The resulting wines are vibrant and distinctly energetic.
Guests who visit Bethel’s sleek and modern tasting room are offered either a seated tasting at one of their bistro tables or at their wine bar. Flights typically include 5 wines and for those curious to peruse, they’ll offer on-the-spot tours (if staffing allows) and are always happy to take guests through their private library and tasting space. Second-generation winemaker Ben Casteel cut his teeth at Rex Hill under Lynn Penner-Ash, working his way up to assistant winemaker. Expect great things in the glass and be sure to ask about their “Beyond the Blocks” tasting experience, which offers up a taste of some exclusive small production wines in their portfolio.
Appointments available: open daily from 11am – 5pm for drop-ins or by private tasting experiences by appointment
Fee: $15-$75+ per person depending upon experience booked
Domaine Serene, owned by Grace and Ken Evenstad, occupies the upper echelon of Oregon’s best wineries, producing exceptional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are so Burgundian-like, you’d be hard-pressed in a blind-tasting to put them definitively in the Old or New World. But you don’t have to blind-taste, you just have to go and take full advantage of everything this magnificent estate has to offer—and there’s plenty.
Their resplendent clubhouse and tasting room is situated at the pinnacle of their estate, high up in the Dundee Hills, and boasts stunning views, with perfectly manicured rows of vines stretching out below over gently rolling slopes. Whether you’re looking for a casual or more formal experience—the options are plenty and guests are invited to sit at expansive tables in one of their elegant hall salons, or enjoy a special experience in their stone-vaulted private caves, modeled after the owners’ recently acquired Chateau in Burgundy. The terrace is second to none, and for those who are frequent visitors, there’s an exclusive Members’ Lounge for those who sign up.
One of their most popular experiences is the 45th Parallel Experience — a culinary and wine pairing ecstacy. Chef Jason Kupper, expertly prepares four dishes to pair with eight wines, which are a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Domaine Serene and the Evestad’s Château de la Crée in Burgundy. No matter what you do, don’t leave without tasting their flagship wine — the Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, a rich and robust wine, with dark cherry aromas tinged with sweet spice and cedar, powerful and spicy on entry with juicy sweet dark fruit up front giving way to clove, candied red berry, cinnamon and crunchy acidity.
Appointments available: open daily to the public; Mon-Thurs 11am–4pm; Fri-Sun 11:00-5:00 pm for drop-in experiences; others by appointment only—inquire.
Fee: $20-$125+ per person depending upon experience booked
Upon arrival at Soter’s Mineral Springs Ranch—a 240-acre property on the edge of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA with only 32 acres under vine—you’re greeted in the parking lot with a glass of rosé. How’s that for a welcome? In cooler months their beautiful lodge is made warm and inviting by a generous, roaring fire. Guests are seated at a long wooden dining table, and you feel more like you’re in someone’s home than in a tasting room.
While learning all about Tony Soter, the founder, and his biodynamic farming regimine, you’ll partake in one of two experiences: Their Classic Tasting is seated, semi-private and features 5 wines poured over about 45 minutes. Or, spend just over an hour and go with the Provisions Tasting experience, which includes 6 wines paired with small plates and bites crafted by their in-house chef.
Their two flagship wines are produced from fruit off their Mineral Springs Vineyard. The 2015 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir is an intense wine, with a velvety mouthfeel and redolent of sassafras, dried raspberry and cocoa. Their 2013 Mineral Springs Brut Rosé is a sparkling wine produced in the Champagne Method. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it offers up lithe red-berry notes and wild herbs, giving way to a creamy palate bursting with cranberry notes tinged with toasted almonds and finishing with a lemon curd note—affectionately called “Soter Pop” by those who have become ardent fans.
Appointments available: open daily by appointment only
Fee: $30 per person for the Classic Tasting; $100 per person for the Provisions Experience
Located in Woodinville, Washington, this boutique winery has long been a champion of Bordeaux-style reds and Rhone-style blends from Washington State. Delille is undoubtedly one of the state’s top producers, and that’s all thanks to winemaker Chris Upchurch who has achieved a great deal of critical acclaim with his focus on the Red Mountain AVA and grape sourcing from what he calls “Washington's leading Grand Cru vineyards.”
Most people visit Delille’s Carriage House Tasting Room in Woodinville for tastings where guests can sample 5-7 different wines in a flight, as well as some limited production wines for an extra fee. For a less traditional tasting experience, visit their wine lounge—Maison DeLille in Kirkland, Washington—where you can enjoy wines by the glass or bottle along with flights and a light fare. Their Chateau is a private wedding and event venue with just a few ticketed winery release events open to the public each year.
Three must-try wines are: the D2, a rich and decadent Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend; their Four Flags, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon blended from four select vineyards in the famous Red Mountain AVA that is packed with red and black fruit and baking spice, and Chaleur Blanc, a creamy richly layered white that has a crème brûlée finish and has been a favorite at White House dinners over three administrations.
Appointments available: open daily to the public
Fee: $20-$25+ per person depending upon experience selected
Pepper Bridge & Amavi Cellars
Both of these wineries share common ownership and the impeccably talented Swiss-born winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet. Before settling in the Pacific Northwest, Pellet spent four years making wine at the famous Heitz Cellars in the Napa Valley. Both Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars share a tasting room in Woodinville, Washington, and have their own tasting room locations in Walla Walla—within a mile of each other. The reds from each label are decidedly opulent with rich textures and showcase terrific minerality that Pellet expertly coaxes from his estate fruit. The whites tend to be unctuous and packed with citrus and tropical fruit flavors.
The Woodville tasting room is a dual tasting room that offers guests an opportunity to taste both labels in a fun atmosphere located in the Hollywood District — the heart of Woodinville Wine Country. Typical tastings are 4-5 wines per flight. The Walla Walla Pepper Bridge tasting room sits on a hill, nestled in their estate vineyard and boasts a comfortable, warm setting. The Walla Walla Amavi Cellars tasting room has floor to ceiling windows with sweeping views of the Blue Mountains the estate vineyards. Both tasting rooms offer outdoor decks for taking in terrific views between sips.
At Pepper Bridge, in addition to a tour and tasting, by appointment guests can book a food and wine pairing experience, which takes place in their private library. Jean-Francois’ “Trine” is a “must try” which blends together all five estate Bordeaux grapes in every vintage, and is either Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon dominant depending on the year.
Appointments available: open daily to the public and by appointment
Fee: $15-$60 per person depending upon experience selected
Seven Hills Winery
Founder and winemaker Casey McClellan is one of Walla Walla’s most respected grower-producers, who alongside his dad, planted the area’s famous Seven Hills Vineyard back in 1982. A visit to Seven Hills is not only casual and fun, it offers up the chance to really dive into the history of winegrowing in the region. So, soak it all in.
Tastings are held in an old woodworking mill called the Whitehouse Crawford building, which is open, light and airy. Flights offer tastes of 3-6 wines, and those looking to fill out their cellar with some aged gems should ask about the library wines available. For a more formal and deep dive into Seven Hills, ask about their newly launched “Food & Wine Experience.”
Because the original plantings in the Seven Hills Vineyard were of Merlot, a must try is the 2014 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot, culled from the original vines that were planted in 1982.
Appointments available: Monday - Saturday, 10am – 5pm // Sunday, 10am - 4pm
Fee: $10-$55 per person depending upon experience selected
L’Ecole No 41
Get ready to get educated at L’Ecole—after all, you’re tasting in a century-old schoolhouse. So, think of this as Earth Science class with adult perks (drinking wine). Winemaker Marty Clubb has been instrumental in helping put Walla Walla on the map. Two decades ago, in partnership with Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery and Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar, they expanded one of the regions most iconic sites—Seven Hills Vineyard—from 20 to 200 acres. That site is now the cornerstone of a major expansion called SeVein—a project that is bringing global attention to Walla Walla and is the site of L’Ecole’s Estate Ferguson Vineyard. At the winery, you can examine basalt rocks from Ferguson, or samples of Loess soils from their Estate Seven Hills Vineyard site.
Situated in an old French settlement town just west of Walla Walla, the tasting room is housed upstairs in the original classrooms that held first-, second-, and third-graders. The tasting bar is appropriately finished with a chalkboard surface, and chalk is readily available for relieving math class arithmetic, or showing off your artistic rendition of your best emoji. Tasting flights include pours of 7 wines—typically 3 whites and 4 reds. Their Semillon from Columbia Valley is a richly aromatic white with a generous mouthfeel, grapefruit citrus, creamy peach and dazzling minerality, while the Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah is teeming with crushed purple florals, red berry fruit, tinged with savory and smoky notes, not to be outdone by their Estate Ferguson Cabernet which has energy, tension and focus and is light on its feet with generous black cherry, graphite and new wood cedar.
Appointments available: open daily 10am – 5pm, some tastings by appointment only
Fee: daily wine tasting $10 per person (waived with any purchase of wine); appointment only experiences range from $20-$40 per person and are available April through November.
You really can’t say you’ve explored the fruits of Washington’s wine tasting scene until you’ve visited the remodeled World War II era airplane hangar that is home to Dunham Cellars. It’s a serene experience from the moment you enter an elegant courtyard with outdoor tables shaded by umbrellas, to the sounds of a babbling creek and the greeting team: winery dogs Maysy and Sadie.
Once inside, take notice of the tasting bar — a giant slab of Morton Gneiss, a beautiful ornamental stone that is one of the oldest stones on earth, estimated at 3.5 billion years old. So, try not to spill wine on it, okay? Just kidding — it’s totally stain proof. Hang out in the tasting bar, or meander into the Hangar Lounge, a large space, which boasts an eclectic gathering of barrels and places to sit or stand. Also housed in this room on display is the stunning artwork of the late founding winemaker Eric Dunham. During harvest, it’s common to have a clear view of the crushpad through one of the enormous, original sliding doors to the hangar—and one of the best times to visit, because you can witness the harvest in action with a glass of wine in hand.
A typical tasting offers a flight of 7 wines: 2 whites and 5 reds. Their Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship Dunham wine. John Blair, Dunham’s President and General Manager explains that, “Each vintage contains a Roman Numeral on the label denoting the number of years since our first vintage in 1995. We are currently celebrating our 20th vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 “XX”! The wine itself is a selection of our favorite barrels of Cabernet from multiple vineyard sites across the Columbia Valley AVA. These barrels exemplify the best characteristics of Washington state Cabernet: loads of color, purity of fruit, fresh acidity, and refined tannins.”
Appointments available: Open daily from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; drop-ins welcome, groups of 8 or more should call ahead
Fee: $10 per person (waived with purchase of $25+ in wine)
Betz Family Winery
Master of Wine Bob Betz is unquestionably one of Washington’s greatest winemakers. After nearly three decades making wine at Chateau Ste. Michelle, he founded Betz Family Winery, which is now going into its 21st harvest season. In that time, he’s built his eponymous winery into one of the pillars of Washington’s wine scene—evidenced by the fact that his wines are mailing-list only, and there’s quite a waitlist. But incredibly, they’ve decided that when timing permits, they’ll host private tastings.
Should your inquiry for a visit be rewarded with a confirmation, you’ll partake in their Flagship Tour and Tasting, which lasts around two hours. First, you’ll tour the winery with a glass of their Quinta Essentia Chenin Blanc in hand, all while diving deep into the history of Washington winemaking. After the tour, you’ll head to a private residence for a tasting of up to 5 wines currently on release, along with nibbles of cheese and charcuterie. This is simply not to be missed—if you are among the fortune few to land an appointment!
Appointments available: Thurs-Saturday by appointment only; requests must be submitted online via their website
Fee: Flagship Tour and Tasting is $65/person ($50 for Members) Limit 8 guests.
Charles Smith Jet City Winery
By now, if you’re not familiar with American wine legend Charles Smith, it’s time to book a flight. And he makes it easy since his utterly impressive 32,000-square-foot Jet City tasting room is housed in an old Dr. Pepper plant overlooking Boeing Field airport. So, before or after your flight, drop in for a tasting flight of his many iconic wines. And what does Charles Smith want you to know about his wines? What does he want them to be about? “I want my wines to inspire others in Washington State to follow integrity, sustainability, and non-interventionist winemaking — and if I can do it, that can the stamp for all of Washington State: ‘Real Wines In America,’” is what he told me.
“I never took a class. Don’t have a book about winemaking,” he said. He did enjoy a fruitful music career, sandwiched between working in restaurants and in wineries. “I took everything I knew about wine, which was deep, asked a few questions from a few friends and made my first wine — that was a 1999 Walla Walla Valley Syrah, just 15 barrels,” he said. And today? He makes a lot more wine. You might know his Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Riesling, or his K Vintners Sixto Chardonnays, unctuous whites with a solid mineral core and great acidity, or his Charles & Charles label with its abstract rendering of the American flag.
Whatever the case, Jet City is a must-see destination, with a modern feel, plenty of space to congregate and views of Boeing Field and Mt. Rainier in one direction and a working winery in the other. Guests can choose from an array of tasting of many different wines.
Appointments available: Open daily—Inquire.
Fee: Tastings start at $10 per person.
One of the oldest wineries in Washington, founded by Jerry Bookwalter in 1982, this is the spot for tasting classic Bordeaux varietal-wines that are generous, with lots of pure black and red fruit flavors and terrific spice. Jerry helped plant some of the regions iconic vineyards, including the Conner Lee Vineyard, which is still as source for their wines. Of their two tasting room locations, a modern tasting studio in Woodinville, WA and their flagship tasting room in Richland, WA, also includes a restaurant called Fiction.
The Richland location boasts both indoor and outdoor patio seating, Bocce courts, live music during warmer months, and an expansive lawn leading to vineyard views, which you’ll take in while snacking on charcuterie and pizzas from Fiction.
For a more casual, in-and-out to taste the wines experience, head to the Woodinville spot in the Hollywood Hills District, where comfortable patio furniture meets a huge fire pit, or book the private club tasting area inside which offers plush leather couches.
Make sure to try their 2015 Suspense, which blends Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes from a single-vineyard, revealing a rich and velvety packed wine with red and black fruits, powerful spice notes and finishes with a hint of milk chocolate. Alternatively, their Readers Cabernet (a bright orange label featuring a pair of black reading glasses), blends in some Merlot and Syrah, offering up great crushed violet aromatics coupled with sweet black juicy fruit on the palate and nicely integrated sweet oak and baking spice.
Appointments available: Richland and Woodinville locations are open daily—check website for hours, which vary.
In the 13 years that Andrew Latta has made wine, he’s seen just about every vine that is planted in Washington State. How? He spent a decade making wine for K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines before launching his own Latta Wines. “The vineyards that I work with are what I feel represent ideal pairing of varietal and site,” says Latta, who, when time permits, will host tastings at his winery. Housed in a former Sears & Roebuck receiving warehouse in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle, the space dates back to the 1940s, but has been stripped back to its bones showcasing a contemporary minimal and functional space for casual, friendly, and informal tastings of absolutely delicious wines.
But don’t come here looking for classic Bordeaux varieties. “I don't make a bunch of Cabs and Chards and we are delighted to explain the ‘why?’ of Roussanne and Mourvedre to the masses,” he says, and I’d suggest taking him up on the offer. Tastings typically include flights of 5-7 wines and there isn’t one “must try” as they’re all exciting bottlings. His single-vineyard Grenache gets most of the attention, for its spicy red fruit, power and rusticity while his GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blends from Columbia Valley are show deep colors, earthy and red berry aromas, brimming with sweet black cherry fruit, red berry compote, vanilla, garrigue, and smoky clove, cedar and intense spice notes on the finish. But don’t miss out on the whites either — Latta’s Lawrence Vineyard Roussanne from Columbia Valley delivers aromas of cream, apricots, honeysuckle and candied pairs, is richly textured with tremendous energy and poise.
Appointments available: open Thurs-Sun from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Fee: $15 per person (waived with purchase of wine; complimentary for wine club members)
Lovers of Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines, listen up. Winemaker Chris Peterson cut his teeth under Chris Upchurch at Delille Cellars for eight vintages before being scooped up by Avennia. Translation: these are remarkable wines of exceptional pedigree.
Situated in Woodinville, a sleek and modern tasting room with tons of natural light presents an open layout with a tasting bar at kitchen counter height to feel less like a barrier and to promote conversation. A few high-top tables are for those who want to hunker down and nose every sip.
Two experiences are offered — their Signature and Reserve tasting during which 4 wines and a 3 wines are offered, respectively. Their flagship wines are their Arnaut Boushey Vineyard Syrah and Sestina Left-bank Bordeaux blend. In terms of uniqueness, the Arnaut (pronounced “Are-no”) is made with Syah from Boushey Vineyard, one of Washington’s most famous vineyards. “It is a unique place for Syrah and we cherish our relationship with Dick Boushey. We are the only winery that gets both of his two oldest blocks, so we think this is a singular expression of Syrah in Washington,” says Managing Partner, Marty Taucher.
Ask for their 2014 Avennia “Sestina” Columbia Valley Red, which is packed with sweet spice on the nose with black cherry fruit. The palate is big, bold and rich showing blackberry compote, clove, blue fruit and chalky tannins. Their Arnaut Syrah from Boushey Vineyard is a standout — pretty floral notes and black cherry fruit emerge, powerful and rich on entry with great spice, mineral and incredible purity of fruit. They also produce a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc called Oliane, which is a knock-out.
Appointments available: open daily 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Fee: $15 per person (waived with purchase of $50 in wine or more)
You couldn’t jam more world-class winemaking pedigree into Col Solare if you tried. Now that Master of Wine Bob Betz (of Betz Family Winery) has returned to Col Solare as the consulting winemaker, he’s working closely with 21-year winemaker veteran Darel Allwine, Antinori family’s chief enologist Renzo Cotarella, and Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s best and legendary growers. Altogether they have a singular focus to make one exceptional Cabernet, available to the public made from an estate site on Red Mountain, along with a handful of small-production gems under their Col Solare Collector’s Society line—for members only.
The winery is a partnership between two wine world powerhouse owners: Washington State’s founding winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and the first family of Italian wine, Tuscany’s Antinori family. Two separate tasting rooms provide two equally fantastic experiences.
Chateau Ste. Michelle’s director of communication, Ryan Pennington explains the differences between the two: “The Red Mountain estate is a beautiful property, with the winery designed by renowned Spanish architect, Javier Barba. The tasting room at the Red Mountain estate offers sweeping views of the Red Mountain vineyards below and the Yakima Valley and the Horse Heaven Hills appellations in the distance. The Col Solare Bottega at Chateau Ste. Michelle aims to replicate the Red Mountain tasting experience inside of our sister winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle. The Col Solare Bottega occupies its own dedicated space, separated from the Chateau Ste. Michelle tasting room by distinctive glass panel walls punctuated with gorgeous photography of the Red Mountain estate.”
All tastings feature a flight of wines, either a three-vintage vertical (including the current vintage release) or the current vintage along with two winery-only club wines. The flagship Col Solare red from Red Mountain Cabernet is 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 50 percent Malbec is loaded with black and blue fruits, terrific wild herbs, and perfectly integrated oak spice; it’s got muscle and backbone for a lengthy wait in a cellar, and will develop beautiful complexity if you have the patience.
Appointments available: The Red Mountain estate is open daily from Wed-Sun from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Col Solare Bottega at Chateau Ste. Michelle is open daily by appointment only from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Fee: Around $20 though may vary depending upon composition of the flight available
Winemaker Josh Bergström was trained in Burgundy, and today, his family’s eponymous winery crafts terrific single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The whites in particular are some of the best you’ll find in Oregon—they call to mind the kind of elegance you’d expect from Premier Cru white Burgundy, with their chiseled minerality and marvelous acid-cut. No wonder, given the choice grapes they work with from famous vineyards like Shea and Temperance Hill, along with their own Bergström Estate vineyards—all biodynamically farmed.
They winery is set to launch a new tasting experience this year in Dundee, OR along with some new experiences at their Bergström Wines Tasting Room in Newberg, OR. The different experiences include their “Signature Tasting,” which lasts about 45 minutes and is ideal for those brand new, looking to sample and see just what the house style is all about. Then, there’s an “Enhanced Tasting,” which is perfect for those wanting to dive deep into understanding the life cycles of a wine, from vineyard to bottling. This tasting lasts 75-90 minutes and includes a tour of the vineyards, garden, and winemaking facility.
In their Dundee Hills location, which is home to their estate Bergström Vineyard where founders John and Karen Bergstrom established the family winery in 1999, “The Ekollon Experience” is a brand new 90-minute deep-dive into biodynamic farming principles, a special tasting in their salon of limited production and library wines with a total focus on estate vineyards and includes prepared bites from their gardens.
Appointments available: Bergström Wines Tasting Room (Newberg, OR) varies according to the season and is by appointment—inquire.
The Ekollon Experience (Dundee, OR location) offered daily by appointment—inquire.
Fee: $30-$90 per person depending on experience booked.