Unless you’re a resident of Washington State or a serious fan of Washington wine, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Woodinville. Located just a 20 minute drive north of Seattle, Woodinville is a small suburb that is home to more than 140 wineries and tasting rooms featuring wines predominantly made in the Walla Walla, Columbia and Yakima Valleys in the southeastern part of the state. And while wine is the reason we discovered this somewhat hidden gem, it’s the wine combined with the outstanding food, and genuine local hospitality that keeps us coming back.
We visit Woodinville 3-4 times a year and after 6 years, we’re still discovering things to do and places we never knew existed. It goes without saying that if you’re a fan of wine, you’ll be easily impressed by the quality, consistency and value for money of Washington’s offerings. As much as we are big proponents of this region, we only recently learned that Washington has more 90+ scored wines than any other region in the world—including France, Italy and California’s Napa Valley! If your palate is more suited to Craft Beer you’ll find no less than 10 local breweries in Woodinville including the Collective where you can sample over 40 beers on tap from around the Pacific Northwest.
Of course, with any good wine region, comes access to fresh farm-to-table food and Woodinville is no different. For such a relatively small place, the quality of food available from café’s like The Commons , to local pubs like the Hollywood Tavern to fine dining establishments such as the triple A, 5 Diamond Herb Farm restaurant, is astonishing.
The pride in the local food scene is evident and the farm scene thriving. If you’re visiting on a Saturday between May and September you can get produce and artisanal items direct from the source at the local farmer’s market held at DeYoung Park. For a truly unique farm experience, stop in at Matthews Winery where (besides producing outstanding wine) they have a farm onsite, their own full-time farmer as well as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that is a true leader in Woodinville with respect to encouraging a locavore philosophy.
The quality and variety of eateries can also be applied to accommodation options. There are several Bed & Breakfasts ranging from a tree house to heritage homes to staying at a winery. Just under a year ago, the doors opened at McMenamins Anderson School, the former Bothell Junior High School originally built in 1931. As is typical with McMenamins properties, the school features an art-deco style and all free-standing buildings either house accommodations or a pub. And, sitting alongside the Sammamish River on five beautiful acres of natural landscape filled with tranquil gardens and soothing water features is Willows Lodge which has been recognized multiple times by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as one of the very best hotels in the United States.
Woodinville has also developed a great music scene. Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery has a 4,000 person amphitheatre adjacent to the winery that each summer hosts terrific concerts. Names like Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Allison Kraus, Tears for Fears, and more, put on concerts while fans picnic on the lawn and enjoy Chateau Ste. Michelle wines.
If you are looking for something more intimate, you will love the Fireside Lounge in Willows Lodge which features local talent playing for no cover Friday and Saturday nights. In the winter, their big fireplace keeps things warm and cozy. In the summer their doors open out onto their deck and the band sets up next to the garden and plays while you watch the sun go down (and, by the way, the food at the Fireside Lounge is delicious). Or check out Village Wines across from the traffic circle where you can also get a casual meal or shop for wine as you listen to local live music. Or if music isn’t your thing, but movies are, check out the Red Hook Brewery on a Thursday night throughout the summer and enjoy one of their great craft beers while watching a movie on their lawn.
The Sammamish River runs right through the heart of Woodinville and alongside it is a 10 mile (16km) paved path from Bothell all the way to Redmond’s Marymoor Park. It’s a moderate trail perfect for walkers, joggers or cyclists that runs along a scenic greenway passing mainly local parks and farms. Or, if you prefer, you can rent a kayak and use the river itself as your path. And if you really want a workout, try Agoge Crossfit Woodinville , voted the best CrossFit Gym north of Seattle. Certified Trainers carefully guide you through a broad set of exercises in a class setting that motivates you to work hard thanks to a terrific community of athletes lead by owner Kathy Price.
These are just a sampling of the things you need to know about Woodinville and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Fortunately the Woodinville Chamber and Woodinville Wine Country Association have recently opened a Visitor Center in the heart of Woodinville’s Hollywood District next to the Sammamish Valley Grange. A big part of the Visitor Center’s mission is to help visitors connect with the locals and experience everything that Woodinville has to offer. Don’t be surprised when you stop in to find a volunteer from the Woodinville Heritage Society talking about the history of Woodinville, or guests from farms around the Sammamish Valley sampling local items. The possibilities are endless with so many talented winemakers, brewers, chefs and more in the area and with the Visitor Center at the heart of it all, you can be rest assured you’ll be steered in the right direction.
But be warned, one of the Pacific Northwest’s best kept secrets is quickly being discovered by anyone looking for a spectacular weekend getaway where great wine, terrific food and absolute relaxation is the objective. Woodinville is a world-class destination and the world is about to find that out.