Tasting Through Woodinville: Warehouse District

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There are no vineyard vistas to soak up, but this destination offers something other wineries around the state can only admire: a concentrated cluster of tasting rooms that invite exploration on foot. Home to more than 30 tasting rooms, many with production facilities on site, the Warehouse District’ features utilitarian spaces that have been transformed into rooms with attitude. Many spots have the music cranked on the weekend, when most tasting rooms are open. And producers know the value of providing an engaging experience, especially on Third Thursday Wine Walks, when a $20–$25 ticket covers sipping and snacks around the sprawling complex (which is also home to flooring companies, plumbers and construction crews). While the district is filled with a number of tiny upstarts, established vintners Gordon Brothers and Matthews Cellars have also opened tasting rooms here in the past year, adding depth to a neighborhood that already has its own website: woodwarewine.com.

The Warehouse District
Cuillin Hills
Derek DesVoigne’s Rhône obsession makes for some standout Syrah blends. In the bare-bones barrel room that’s also the winery’s production facility and tasting space, visitors get a warm welcome from the winemaker or his wife, Shannon McLeod. This mom-and-pop operation was one of the pioneers in the neighborhood, setting up shop in 2005. The Dungeon, Cuillin Hills’ flagship Syrah-Grenache blend, showcases the winemaker’s great grape sources, such as Snipes Canyon, Meek and Sagemoor Weinbau. 
Don’t miss: 2007 Shackled Syrah/ Mourvèdre Blend ($35)

Des Voigne Cellars
Derek DesVoigne’s brother, Darren, and Darren’s wife, Lissy, are just around the corner from Cuillin Hills. Darren collects vintage vinyl—mostly jazz—and there’s even a musical allusion in the winery’s mission statement: “Premium Washington wines with soul.” In the light-filled room that was once a T-shirt company, DesVoigne says he strives to create a welcoming, understated atmosphere: “We don’t want people to feel like we’re doing them a favor when we pour wines for them. It’s more like a cocktail party with friends.” Get into The Groove, a Merlot blend made from Pepper Bridge and Stone Ridge vineyard fruit, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. 
Don’t miss: 2008 Zinfandel blend “The Duke” ($28)

Guardian Cellars
Jerry Riener, a police officer by day, volunteered at Matthews Cellars and Mark Ryan Winery before deciding to go solo in 2004. Guardian’s first release of its Bordeaux blend Gun Metal was a smash hit. The winery, which does all of its production in Woodinville, has been such a success that it closed its tasting room earlier this summer because it had run out of product. To celebrate the winery’s reopening, Riener and his fiance Jennifer Sullivan have booked a taco truck for a release party August 14–15. Sippers who want to hang out in Guardian’s sleek space can chill at the stylish standalone bar.

Don’t miss: 2009 Angel Sauvignon Blanc ($20)

Sparkman Cellars
This winery gives tasters the VIP treatment, as staffers wander the smartly decorated room and refill glasses. Chris and Kelly Sparkman are the husband-and-wife team making the wine, planting flowers out front and sweeping up at night. The labor of love has led to a loyal following, whose members often linger in the plush armchairs for cheese tastings. Chris is also the general manager at Seattle’s Waterfront Seafood Grill, whose connections to some of the state’s best vineyards run deep. Tasters regularly hear “the dirt”—details on the terroir of each wine—from the staff. Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay are big draws here, and Kelly’s first effort as assistant winemaker debuted in May, a Sauvignon Blanc that’s a globe-spanning homage to the Loire Valley and New Zealand. 
Don’t miss: 2008 Darkness Syrah ($56)

This relaxed, airy space is modeled after a New York loft. There’s a ton of seating around a huge table and a big-screen TV tuned to sports. The winery crew—including the three owners and their spouses—pitch in and cook in the full kitchen for events in the on-site production facility, where the focus is on Old World style. That means sometimes skipping commercial yeasts and going with native fermentation, which enhances the varietals’ characteristics.
Don’t miss: 2009 Feral Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Originally published in August 2010