Tasting Through Woodinville: Showplaces

Tiny tasting rooms are the latest trend in Woodinville’s growing wine country, but, in the beginning
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The Showplaces
Columbia Winery
In the heart of what’s now known as Woodinville’s River District, Columbia could easily be nicknamed “the house that David Lake built,” for the late winemaker who established a legacy of quality during his 20-plus years of crafting superpremium varietals and the state’s first vineyard-designated varietals. After a dramatic facelift in 2009, Columbia’s tasting room really warmed up. Literally. Armchairs surround a freestanding fireplace in the center of the room. And the addition of a brick oven means chef Jeff Lantz cranks up the heat to create crispy flatbreads. He frequently finds farm-fresh toppings at the Ballard Farmers’ Market for a farm-to-table appeal. This big winery also likes to think small. Its Small Lot series is available only in the tasting room and to its club members. Director of winemaking Kerry Norton’s exclusive Stone Cutter series provides a juicy incentive to join Columbia’s wine club, as those wines are sold only to its members.
Don’t miss: 2002 Syrah ($30)

Chateau Ste. Michelle
An iconic landmark since 1976, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s elegant profile also has a playful side. Its annual concert series has become one of summer’s hot tickets and its beautiful grounds are a favorite spot for warm-weather picnics. Beneath the chateau’s stately tasting room lie its vast production facility and barrel rooms, a glimpse of which are included on the terrific tours offered. The details soaked up during these tours will enhance tastings of the extensive selection of wines, including award-winning Riesling, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. Picnic on the grounds with a cheese plate purchased from the gift shop or make a reservation for one of the regularly scheduled meals in the Manor House, prepared by executive chef Janet Hedstrom, who collaborates with Ste. Michelle’s culinary director, John Sarich.
Don’t miss: 2007 Indian Wells Merlot ($15) 
Novelty Hill/Januik
Everything about this gorgeous building screams modern. From its present-perfect production facility to the crisply decorated tasting room and the minimalist courtyard, this newcomer to the neighborhood has won architectural raves and international design awards. Visitors are certain to pick up on the cool feeling the space exudes, especially on weekends when brick-oven pizzas have become a huge draw. These $12 pies are perfect partners for the stellar reds made by Mike Januik, who got his start at Chateau Ste. Michelle. There are several tasting options offered, including pours of reserve wines and Januik’s King Cab flight. Buy a bottle or a glass and wander out to the courtyard, where an outdoor fire pit creates a cozy ambience. Or, kick-start the competitive juices with a round of bocce. Check the winery’s website for a listing of cooking classes offered by chef Dan Koommoo.
Don’t miss: 2007 Januik Petit Verdot ($35)

Originally published in August 2010