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Image: Kevin Cruff

Take in a Show at the Chateau

Chateau Ste Michelle, Woodinville
Like a Disneyish pentagon, the sprawling mansion at Chateau Ste Michelle serves as an imposing architectural reminder that this is Washington’s largest and most powerful winery. In summertime the chateau’s perfectly pruned lawns are dotted with picnickers, who come to take in concerts by Lyle Lovett, Elvis Costello, or Crosby, Stills and Nash as they sip on CSM bottles sold on the premises.

Harry Connick Jr wraps up the 2010 series on September 26 but if you can’t secure tickets, you can still enjoy a plein aire repast at the enchanted castle. Just show up any day between 10am and 6pm, snag a bottle and some snacks at the shop inside, spread out your blanket, and enjoy. 14111 NE 145th St, Woodinville; 425-415-3300; ste-michelle.com

WHEN TO GO The summer concert series runs from June to September.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE Woodinville’s oldest winery has a lot of new neighbors; winemakers from across the state 
are setting up tasting rooms there. Just up the road in the Schoolhouse District, check out new pour spots from Alexandria Nicole, Mark Ryan, and Dusted Valley, among others.

 

Get to Know Homegrown Merlot

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Image: Kevin Cruff

Northstar Winery, Walla Walla
In 1994, Ste Michelle Wine Estates-owned Northstar Winery set out to show that the world’s best merlot—a black grape traditional to France’s Bordeaux region—could be grown and blended in Washington state. Consider that point proven: In a blind tasting at the Food Network’s 2009 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Northstar’s 2005 Walla Walla Merlot defeated five wines from France’s famed Right Bank region, securing our place in the merlot-making hall of fame.

A short drive from the Washington-Oregon border, Northstar Winery is perched on a large patch of lawn surrounded by 14 acres of vineyard and backdropped by the shadow-scarred Blue Mountains. Inside the tasting room, stacked stone and wood accents create a contemporary country-lodge atmosphere, and the tasting bar serves up wine flights and picnic platters featuring Mediterranean bites. If you have any merlot doubters in your midst order up the Northstar Experience flight, comprised of recent vintages and blending wines. They’ll convert before your eyes. 1736 JB George Rd, Walla Walla, 866-486-7828; northstarwinery.com

BE SURE TO SIP Don’t miss the 2006 Walla Walla Merlot, number 33 on our Top 100 list.

WHEN TO GO The tasting room pours from 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday, and 11am to 4pm on Sunday.

 

Escape to the Gorge

Cave B Estate Winery, Quincy
The last Dave Matthews Band CD you bought may predate iTunes, but the group still sells out a set of shows every summer at the Gorge Amphitheater in Quincy, Washington. And every summer the DMB entourage buys out Cave B—110 acres of vineyard surrounding a Tom Kundig -designed inn, its sloping half-moon roof mimicked in a smattering of private guest houses perched on the edge of a 900-foot basalt cliff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

You can see why they like it. It’s just a few hours from Seattle, but the sun shines 300 days a year in Quincy, and all there is to do at Cave B is have fun. When not kayaking the river, mountain biking, or hiking through the sage, guests bring a bottle down to the cliffside swimming pool; slip into the spa for a hot stone massage; or stroll up to the airy tasting room to drink through winemaker Freddy Arredondo’s reds and whites. (Arredondo is son-in-law to owners Vince and Carol Bryan but sometimes nepotism pays off—Cave B’s wines have never been better.)

There’s more wine during dinner at Tendrils restaurant where chef Joe Ritchie serves up delicate nests of homemade pasta topped with seared scallop, pork loin braised in cider, and citrusy salads anchored by greens grown in the onsite chef’s garden. 348 Silica Rd NW, Quincy, 509-785-3500; sagecliffe.com

WHEN TO GO Daytrippers should check the website for tasting room hours, which change with the season. When planning an overnight getaway, do like Dave Matthews and book well in advance.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE Consider “roughing it” in one of Cave B’s brand-new luxury yurts—complete with WiFi and iPod docking station.