As Bean reported from Day 1, Woodinville Passport has lots to see, do, hear and taste. On day two I chose to see, do, hear and taste at a slower pace, abandoning the chariot and walking from sip to sip. In the year since the last Passport several traffic roundabouts, new sidewalks and pedestrian crossings were put in the southerly portion of the Woodinville wine country making it possible for the first time to safely travel by foot along state highway 202. I chose to concentrate on this revised area this year, even though it meant that I would miss some of my favorite wineries in Woodinville Warehouse Wine District this time. I plan to catch up with them during one of their Third Thursday Wine Walks.
The trek began at Columbia Winery where I parked the chariot and picked up my passport. From there I stepped onto the walking trail and headed east towards Hollywood Schoolhouse, deciding to do a clockwise loop ending at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Otis Kenyon’s new tasting room is very accessible on this route. For this trek, however, I waved in their direction and promised to visit again soon. I visited their new tasting room and enjoyed their warm hospitality and delicious wines just last week at their pre-opening party.
J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio was the first stop. The wine that intrigued me was the 2009 Couplet, a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Viognier fermented in stainless steel. The fruity Viognier made itself known on the nose and less so on the palate where Chardonnay fruit took a bigger role. The two different varietals played well together in my glass. This wine had plenty of acid making it crisp enough for me to envision pairing this blend with a salad, not easily done with a straight Chardonnay.
Northwest Totem Cellars was pouring in the Hollywood Schoolhouse and provided my favorite pairing of the day – Mushroom Pate with their 2006 Syrah, it was also one of Bean’s favorites yesterday. Tasting the Syrah I wrote down positive attributes of medium tannins, medium acid and a decent finish. The one negative was a lingering bitter note that does not match my palate with a note to self: pair this with food that would erase the bitter note and see what happens to the finish.
It was then I discovered the mushroom pate made by Kate of Northwest Totem Cellars. Perfect! The pate did exactly what I wanted and elevated the Syrah, completing the finish without the bitter note. Both the Syrah and the pate lingered perfectly on my palate. (Dear Kate: May I have the recipe?)
From there I crossed the street using yet another new pedestrian crosswalk and investigated the set of new tasting rooms situated right next to one another, Alder Ridge, Goose Ridge, Canon de Sol/Irlandes and Airfield Estates. I was able to taste at Alder Ridge and Goose Ridge without waiting in a long line or wading through a mob. The ones I could not reach I made a note to return another day knowing that decision would most likely cost me a tasting fee in the future.
Trekking on down the sidewalk I visited the last two wineries available before the sidewalk ends – Hollywood Hills and Challenger Ridge, both located in converted houses and without long lines . . . yet. I sampled the Hollywood Hill Vineayards 2008 Wahluke Slope Malbec while standing on their sunny deck. The wine is a lovely light brick red with fruit on the palate, smooth tannins and enough acid to pair with food. The only part missing for me was the nose. Right now the wine is closed, hopefully, in the future it will open up and I will return to the sunny deck and enjoy a large pour. At Challenger Ridge I tasted a wine style that was new to me – a Chardonnay with 1.5% residual sugar. Wine drinkers preferring a bit of sweetness in the glass and have shunned Chardonnay for fear of oak should definitely give the Chandler Creek 2008 Chardonnay a try.
From there I crossed using another new crosswalk and headed on the back half of the loop starting with Brian Carter Cellars, and the tasting rooms for Dusted Valley and Gilford Hirlinger. All three were packed and had lines. Dusted Valley turned the situation into a great marketing opportunity which brings me to my favorite stamp of the event. Realizing that their tasting room is small and the line was long and destined to become longer, they offered up their stamp saying “visit us again for a free full line tasting with your 2010 stamped passport.” This made the decision to bypass easier because I could come back and taste all of their wines without a tasting fee at a later time. Brilliant marketing move by Dusted Valley! Then it was time to complete the loop and I headed to Chateau Ste. Michelle.
CSM was pouring several wines including the refreshing Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wine, Eroica Riesling, and the club-only CSM (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot). Domaine Ste. Michelle was very welcome as a palate cleanser and even better, was on sale for $8 – a great price for tasty bubbles! Afterwards, I lingered in the vineyard in front of the winery investigating the vines. There it was – bud break! The little fuzzy nubs were pushing further. At the entrance I encountered two women both named Michelle striking alluring poses atop the Chateau Ste. Michelle sign as their friend snapped the photo. Wonder if it will end up on Facebook?
Crossing the street to return to Columbia Winery and the chariot was the only harrowing moment of the trek. There is not any crosswalk and it is near a wacky intersection making it tough to safely cross. The best solution was to wait for a small group to gather and cross together. Perhaps the organizers should consider a crossing guard in the future.
Trekking by foot is a great choice. With a two-day Passport a person can trek the southerly portion as I did on one of the days. For that day my trek can be extended to catch the wineries and tasting rooms further north on Highway 202, the ones around the corner to the north from Columbia Winery. There is a large bicycle path and plenty of green space to reach Woodhouse Family Cellars and Tefft on foot. You can also reach Isenhower and Silver Lake Winery but only after dodging traffic as there is no crosswalk. Perhaps this is a second location for a crossing guard. The additional day can be spent walking around the Woodinville Warehouse Wineries. The few remaining wineries and tasting rooms not located in the southerly area or the warehouse area are best reached by vehicle, preferably with a designated driver.
Trekking from sip to sip is a great new way to enjoy Passport. Being on foot provides the opportunity to appreciate Mt. Rainier draping the landscape to the south, watching the wildlife near the Sammamish River, the new landscaping in the roundabouts, and greeting other wine walkers. This new type of access is an opportunity for Woodinville Wine Country be creative with new ways for participants to experience Woodinville Passport Weekend.