In 2020, Wine Spectator listed three Washington State wines among their Top 100, including DeLille Cellars’ truly sublime 2017 D2, a complex red Bordeaux-style blend, which came in at number 63. DeLille, which produces more than 25,000 cases a year, beat out nearly 15,000 worldwide competitors to reach this pinnacle.
DeLille Cellars is among more than 100 wineries, tasting rooms and wine bars in Woodinville Wine Country, just 25 minutes north of the lake house. Nearly all the grapes that are crushed in Woodinville wineries come from Eastern Washington vineyards, where conditions are ideal for growing a surprisingly diverse array of varieties. Woodinville Wineries range from the prestigious Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s first and largest, to small, hip boutiques such as Gorman Winery, where owner and celebrated winemaker Chris Gorman displays electric guitars signed by notable musicians.
If you’re an oenophile and you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Woodinville, you’re in for a treat. There are two primary wine-tasting destinations: the Warehouse District and the Hollywood District. Each is a true destination unto itself, with scores of places to sip and sample wines and local foods. Given the vastness of this wine empire, we’re separating our recommendations into two posts, starting today with Part I: The Hollywood District.
The Hollywood District
The Hollywood District is at center stage right now, since it’s home to Woodinville Wine Country’s newest development: Following a major (and quite striking) renovation, DeLille Cellars moved into the old Redhook Brewery Building (renamed Hollywood Station) in early 2020, sharing the complex with Sparkman Cellars. This district has tremendous appeal. It’s home to Chateau Ste. Michelle, as well as the gorgeous destination hotel Willows Lodge and its two award-winning restaurants: The legendary The Herbfarm ranks right up there with Chez Panisse as one of the most highly regarded local-foods restaurants on the entire West Coast, and Barking Frog (one of our favorites) consistently turns out sophisticated Northwest cuisine.
Here are our top recommendations for Hollywood District wineries to visit during your next visit to Woodinville Wine Country. Cheers!
Let’s start with the best stop, at least in our book, the award-winning DeLille Cellars. You can really taste the quality in their Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines. All are complex, beautifully balanced and velvety smooth. While DeLille’s flagship D2 well deserves the international spotlight, other wines here are also delicious, including their bodacious cabs and Brian’s favorite, the white Bordeaux chaleur blanc. In French, this means “white hot,” and that’s exactly what this wine is. The 2019 vintage was voted The Seattle Times’ “Northwest Wine of the Year.”
DeLille’s new home is just as elegant as their wines. The tasting room and retail tower, which opened in late 2019, is an airy, contemporary space. Wine-tasting takes place on the first floor and outdoor patio, with The Library Room, on the second floor, featuring guided, semi-private wine and cheese/charcuterie events.
At the time of publication, DeLille is open for drive-by bottle pick-up only; their Take Home Tasting Kit, with 5 bottles, is a good value and a great start to an in-home tasting evening.
This family Walla Walla winery has a simple storefront, but the pedestrian setting belies the elegance and sophistication of àMaurice wines. Cofounder and winemaker Anna Schafer is one of few women winemakers in the state. She produces Bordeaux blends, syrah, malbec and viognier (one of my favorites) that consistently win awards. Sustainability is key to the family’s mission; they have the first registered sustainable vineyard in the state.
Wine Spectator lists the 2017 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Owl and Crown,” at a whopping 95 points and the 2017 Estate Red Blend “Night Owl, at 94 points—just a couple of standouts from this remarkably talented young winemaker.
During Covid days they offer outdoor tastings, by reservation.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
No visit to Woodinville would be complete without a stop by the largest and oldest winery in the state, Chateau Ste. Michelle. Founded in 1934, the winery is set on an impressive 1912 estate once owned by Seattle lumber baron Frederick Stimson. After undergoing a $7 million renovation project, in 2017 Ste. Michelle opened a spectacular visitor center that’s absolutely vast, with nearly 23,000 square feet of space.
There are lots of bells and whistles in this new structure, from an 80-seat theater where a film reveals the story behind the winery to spaces for wine education and culinary classes. One of the most fun elements is the blending room, where you can create your own red blend by tasting and mixing different wines.
Summer Groove: If your visit to the lake is during the summertime, check out Chateau Ste. Michelle’s highly popular outdoor Summer Concerts. The 2019 lineup included Norah Jones, Gary Clark Jr. and Earth Wind & Fire, among others. The 2020 concerts were postponed and there’s no telling yet about 2021 concerts, but tickets go fast once they’re available.
Ste. Michelle wines—rieslings, chardonnays, merlots and cabernet sauvignons—are consistently top quality. They have received “Winery of the Year” honors more than 20 times from Wine & Spirits Magazine, and over the years 18 of their wines have placed in the “Top 100” in Wine Spectator. I’m partial to dessert wines, and their Harvest Select sweet riesling is about as dreamy as they come.
The winery is currently offering outdoor tasting for walk-ins and by reservation, Wednesdays through Sundays.
We’ve experienced some really fun special events at Novelty Hill–Januik, two independent wineries that share a cutting-edge wine-producing facility and tasting room in a stylish, contemporary space in the Hollywood District. The wines themselves are remarkable, but the building’s architecture is a modern marvel unto itself. It reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. The spaces combine concrete, glass and wood, and draw the outdoors inside through a massive window wall overlooking a series of leafy terraces.
Windows on the main floor overlook the barrel room, the habitat of winemaker Mike Januik, one of the first winemakers in the region, starting in 1984. He’s been named one of the world’s 10 “Masters of Merlot” by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Estate-grown, single-vineyard grapes go into Novelty Hill’s wines. What’s surprising is just how many different types of wine they produce. The varied topography of Frenchman Hills, where the grapes are grown, creates a wide variance of microclimates, allowing more than a dozen grape varieties to thrive. Cabs and merlots, sauvignon blancs and viogniers, among others, are all in their wheelhouse. Januik wines are sourced from a number of venerable vineyards in Columbia Valley.
As of publication date, outdoor wine tastings are available by appointment Fridays through Sundays, and you can pair your wine selections with seasonal pizzas.
*Tip-Top Wineries: The other two Washington Top 100 winners in 2020 were Mercer Bros.’ 2017 cabernet sauvignon, #72, and Sleight of Hand Cellars’ 2016 “The Archimage” red, at #88. Mercer Bros. has tasting rooms in Seattle and Walla Walla; Sleight of Hand is in Walla Walla.