Best Washington Wines: 22 Top Tasting Rooms

By Julie H. Case August 23, 2012 Published in the September 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Washington’s wine regions are rich in character and characters, so in the equivalent of a many-months-long wine crawl, we went in search of some of the state’s most classic, quixotic, and even iconic places to taste wine. Here, 22 memorable tasting rooms across the state (numbers in parentheses denote wines featured in our Top 100 Washington Wines list)

Best Place to Meet Wine Pioneers 
Chinook Cellars
220 Wittkopf Loop, Prosser, 509-786-2725;
In a little house just off Interstate 82, winemaker Kay Simon and viticulturist husband Clay Mackey welcome visitors to one of the state’s founding wineries. The quaint farmhouse tasting room, which pours reds, whites, and rosé from the Yakima Valley, is bedecked with signed books by some of the couple’s biggest fans—Tom Douglas, for example. Here, Kay will tell you a bit about what life was like as a Washington wine pioneer in the early ’80s and ply you with viticultural reading recommendations if you ask. Step outside and stroll past the little lemon tree drooping with fruit to a sprawling lawn perfect for picnicking, which is where the daughters of Dick Boushey, one of Washington’s legendary grape growers, took dates during high school. Open weekends, May through September and by appointment year round. 

Best Place to Sip in a Secret Room
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2880 Lee Rd, Ste D, Prosser, 509-786-3497;
This tasting room is for anyone who ever dreamed of having a secret room behind a bookshelf. The locals who congregate in this unassuming strip mall location delight in taking newcomers on a tour. The standard trick: They walk up to the bookcase, pull on a John Le Carré mystery, and pretend that’s the secret to getting in. Truth is, the whole wall slides from side to side; no need to search the shelves for the entrance. The bookshelf-door leads to a hidden room, reserved primarily for wine club members’ social gatherings. It’s also where Alexandria Nicole showcases a rotating selection of its limited-production library wines. If you’re holding a 2007 Rockstar Red in your cellar, here you can see how it’s aging without uncorking your own bottle. Open 11 to 5 daily.


Best Place to Watch the Sun Set Over a Cabernet 
Col Solare (96)
50207 Antinori Rd, Benton City 509-588-6806;
The green slopes of Red Mountain sprawl beneath Col Solare’s hilltop perch. Few places dress to impress like this winery, a partnership between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori and Chateau Ste. Michelle. The deck yields impressive views of the vines, the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance, and a startling blue sky. Once upon a time, it took advance scheduling and an insider’s edge to gain entrance and sample its cabernet sauvignon–based reds, but these days it’s simple. May through September the tasting room—with wine available by the glass, flight, or bottle—is open to the public on Saturdays from noon until sunset, and tours happen every Sunday at 3. Open weekends May through September, other times by appointment.

Rasa Vineyards

Best Place to Get Sun Kissed
J. Bookwalter Winery (20, 81)
894 Tulip Ln, Richland, 509-627-5000;
Sure, there are the literary themes—red blends named the Antagonist and Protaganist (20), for example—and the tempting allure of bocce ball courts amid a swath of plush green grass, but the real reason to stop at J. Bookwalter Winery has to be the plethora of outdoor seating. From the sun-dappled terrace out back, which leads to a small garden, to the full sunshine patio out front, this is the place to go if you’re short on vitamin D. Plus, when the sun goes down, the live music comes up (on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays), attracting tourists and locals alike. Open Wednesday through Sunday.


Long Shadows Sip under the Chihulys in Walla Walla.

Best Place to Check Out Chihuly
Long Shadows (14, 60, 97)
1604 Frenchtown Rd, Walla Walla, 509-526-0905;
On a hill surrounded by a sea of vines and rolling wheat fields sits this grand tasting room and its adjacent production facilities, which make some of the best wines in the state. For $15, you can sample all the wines in the portfolio while surrounded by Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures (the artist is friendly with owner Allen Shoup and created works especially for the winery). Double the price gets you a cheese plate and a tour of the production facility downstairs, including the barrel room where the sound system plays classical music for the wines. A little New Agey? Perhaps. Though the owners deny it, rumor has it some days the wine gets juiced on heavy metal, too. On Fridays, Long Shadows opens the patio and serves $10 pours ($5 for Poet’s Leap) with live music from 6 to 9pm—perhaps the best cheap date in town. Open Friday nights or by appointment. 

Tasting at Long Shadows

Best Place to Drink with a Horse
Foundry Vineyards
1111 Abadie St, Walla Walla, 509-529-0736;
It’s sunny, the sky is a brilliant azure, and the cast bronze horse by sculptor -Deborah Butterfield casts its leggy shadow across the citrusy viognier blend in your glass. This must be Walla Walla’s Foundry Vineyards, the boutique winery started by Mark Anderson with grapes from his residential vineyard and designed to commemorate his foundry clients. Prints by Jim Dine hang in the gallery-slash-tasting room, while a palatial outdoor patio is lined with towering metal sculptures by Butterfield, Dine, Ed Humpherys, and Brad Rude. Visitors are typically the first to see the sculptors’ latest work: After a work has been cast at the foundry, it is often installed at the vineyard while waiting to be shipped or received. Open Saturdays from 11 to 5 and by appointment.


Best Place to Get Hitched
Januik (59, 77) and Novelty Hill (64)
14710 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE, Woodinville, 425-481-5502;,
These sibling wineries are housed in a modern space designed to mimic the geometry of the landscape and boast soaring concrete walls and linear design elements that suggest a vineyard’s neat rows of grapes. Now that the Station Pizzeria has arrived in town, this tasting room is no longer the only place in the neighborhood to get pizza with a pour, but it remains a distinctive place to wed in Woodinville. Above, there’s the grand event space that opens on to the tasting room and gardens. Below, the glorious, intimate reserve room, with its salvaged Western red cedar table and room for 26. Outside, bocce balls and beanbags await—as well as plenty of singles to mingle with, even when a wedding party isn’t in progress. Open daily, 11 to 5.

Bookwalter barrel

Best Place to Get Funkadelic 
Sleight of Hand (47, 92)
1959 J. B. George Rd, Walla Walla, 509-525-3661;
Some days this place sounds more like a college dorm room than a winery. That’s because winemaker Trey Busch has lined the vermillion walls of his Walla Walla tasting room with a jukebox and old-fashioned vinyl LPs. More than 650 albums sit on a shelf waiting to be cued up on the turntable, just steps away from a custom concrete tasting bar where they’re pouring Funkadelic Walla Walla Valley syrah (47) or the Columbia Valley red blend the Illusionist (92). Luckily, Busch takes requests and doesn’t mind when tasters want to put another dime in the jukebox, baby. Open Thursday through Sunday and by appointment, April through December.


Best Place to Go Off the Grid 
Boudreaux Cellars
Winery: 4551 Icicle Creek Rd. Tasting Room: 821 Front St, Leavenworth, 509-548-5858;
Across a wooden bridge, over the banks of Icicle Creek, four miles away from the nearest power grid, stands Boudreaux Cellars winery. Rob Newsom built this place—lighted and heated by battery and generator—himself. Outside, climbing ropes hang from the granite whole-stone walls; if you don’t call ahead, there’s a chance of finding Newsom or his assistant winemaker 25 feet aboveground. Inside lie the production area and press, which gravity-feeds wine into casks in the subterranean barrel room, where the temperature consistently hovers around 50 degrees. Cool, right? And practical, although Newsom has discovered his wines tend to need one year more in barrel than most. For visitors who like to remain on the power grid, Boudreaux Cellars also has a charming downtown Leavenworth tasting room—lined with sconces and huge granite chalkboards. At either location, the winery pours Newsom’s current releases of muscular, fruit-forward reds. Winery is open by appointment; the downtown tasting room is open daily.

Rasa tractor

Best Place to Study Math
Rasa Vineyards (80, 85)
4122 Powerline Rd, Walla Walla, 509-252-0900;
The big barn of a tasting room mixes mathematical principles, the laws of motion, and some world-class Washington wines. A geekily good Principia syrah, sourced from the likes of Les Collines, Seven Hills, and other vineyards, is named for Sir Isaac Newton’s work on the laws of motion. Sip on the Occam’s Razor, a single-vineyard syrah, while the tasting room staff schools you on how this concept rules Rasa’s winemaking process. Open by appointment.


Best Place to Drink Wine in a Man Cave
Gramercy Cellars (8)
635 N 13th Ave, Walla Walla, 509-876-2427;
That “self-portrait” of Greg Harrington hanging on the wall isn’t actually the vintner (and master sommelier), but rather an 1843 painting by American portraitist Robert Street. That it’s called a self-portrait is a practical joke played by Steve Wells, Gramercy’s tasting room director. Still, with huge, stuffed leather chairs, old-fashioned, swiveling metal-and-wood stools, a tasting bar framed by a wall of white subway tiles, and a dartboard by the door (weapons available upon demand), men and women alike will want to bring their A game—and linger over a syrah—at this self--proclaimed “man cave” tasting room. Open Wednesday to Friday by appointment; Saturday from 11 till 5.

Tasting at Long Shadows

Best Place to Flirt with Staff
Charles Smith Wines
35 S Spokane St, Walla Walla, 509-526-5230;
Seattle architecture firm Olsen Kundig turned a former auto-repair facility in downtown Walla Walla into a warehouse--inspired tasting room for one of the biggest personalities in the state’s wine community. Expansive bay doors open onto a streetside table space, while music pulses out of the sound system (punk, reportedly, when Charles Smith himself is in the house). And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a story out of charming, loquacious tasting room attendant Marcus Mejia while he pours something vintage—a 2006 Kung Fu Girl riesling, for example—from the K Vintners library. Open daily.


Best Place to Get Naughty
Hard Row to Hoe
300 Ivan Morse Rd, Manson, 509-687-3000;
Boudoir lighting, exceptionally racy wallpaper, saucy wine names, and a constantly busy outdoor game space make this winery, perched above the indigo waters of Lake Chelan, home to all sorts of revelry, especially of the bachelor- or bachelorette-party variety. Convince the tasting room staff to part with some Good in Bed brut rosé and they may even divulge the highly entertaining story behind the winery’s name. Hint: It’s more of a boats-and-broads tale than the Depression-era or dustbowl saga the pure-minded visitor might be expecting. Open daily. 


Chinook welcome sign.

Best Place to Float In
Rio Vista
24415 State Route 97, Chelan, 509-682-9713;
The first thing you see upon arriving may be the dock. The second? A speckled hen tailed by a brood of chicks. Rio Vista, wedged between a tiny dirt road and the mighty Columbia River, may not be renowned for an epic oenological program, but it is likely the only winery in the state served by seaplane. (The website even offers satellite coordinates.) Boaters bob in regularly, and a floatplane makes near-daily visits during high season to drop off tasters. For those consigned to less glamorous transport, the rolling, manicured lawns lead to a small vineyard and a beach, perfect for sipping and dipping. Open Wednesday through Sunday.


Best Bastion of Bubbly Underground
Karma Vineyards
1681 S Lakeshore Rd, Chelan, 509-682-5538;
In its perch overlooking Lake Chelan, Karma makes sparkling wine in the traditional mode—methode Champenoise—which means the wine isn’t carbonated, but rather goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle. The outdoor seating area offers blue views, tasting flights, and bites, but most impressive is the tour of the yawning wine cave (which doubles as a wedding and party space). Take the bubbly belowground and you’ll be surrounded not only by the cool, dim light, but also by rows of bottles in A-frame shaped riddling racks. Closed Mondays.


Best Essence of Puget Sound
Rolling Bay Winery
10314 Beach Crest Dr, Bainbridge Island, 206-419-3355;
On one side of this Bainbridge Island winery, the briny smell of the sound rises up from the beach below. On the other, well, there’s the wine, all sourced from the Snipes Mountain AVA in Yakima Valley. How much more Northwesty can you get? Inside Rolling Bay Winery’s tiny tasting and barrel room, winemaker Alphonse de Klerk can often be found pouring his Manitou red blend, sourced from Upland Vineyard, the oldest continually operating vineyard in the state. Outside there’s a peekaboo view of Seattle and Mount Rainier across Murden Cove. Earn your sips by arriving on the ferry, then biking to the winery, where a barrel has been sweetly modified to serve as a bike rack. Be warned, though: With all the hills between the dock and the red blends, the ride is not for the faint of heart. Open for frequent winery events and by appointment. 


Best Place to Meet Your Maker
Woodinville Warehouse District
195495–19501 144th Ave NE, Woodinville. 18510–18658 142nd Ave NE, Woodinville
Elegant they aren’t, but Woodinville’s two warehouse district tasting room areas deliver pretty phenomenal experiences. Not only is it possible to sample 40 wineries within a single mile, but most of the rooms are staffed by the winemakers themselves, so it’s no surprise to run into the men and women behind the juice as you stroll past a chop shop wedged in between wineries. At the more established of the two warehouse districts, Woodinville Park North, are wineries such as Sparkman Cellars (25, 87), Guardian Cellars (63), or Darby Cellars, and someone often has a barbecue going out front. Across North Woodinville Way, on any given day you might walk in on Two Vintners winemaker -Donavon Claflin (who with his partner makes a delicious grenache blanc) sewing a button on his shirt with the help of a YouTube video and a Buck knife, or Stevens Winery cofounder Tim Stevens punching down Black Tongue syrah grapes just inches away from the pouring station. Tasting rooms at both locations are open mostly on weekend afternoons. 

Award-Winning Whites The tasting room at Long Shadows.

Best Place to Pretend You’re in Bordeaux
Adams Bench (40)
14360 160th Pl NE, Woodinville, 425-408-1969;  
Straddling a hill above the Hollywood Schoolhouse district is a rare Woodinville winery with an Old World wine-country feel. Past the manicured lawn, the dancing fountain, and the barn surrounded by lavender and tall ornamental grasses, Adams Bench winemaker Tim Blue welcomes sippers into his year-old firelit tasting room. After sharing a few of the structured reds—including the nearly opaque ’09 cabernet sauvignon—Blue is also likely to offer multiple recommendations for dinner after your tasting. Open by appointment.


Best Place to Play Pinball
Gorman Winery
14505 148th Ave NE, Woodinville, 206-351-0719;
A woman attempting to feed coins into Chris Gorman’s (free) AC/DC-themed pinball machine shoots the winemaker a pleading look as he steps out from behind the bar to help. Moments later Gorman is out from behind the bar again, pulling a guitar off the wall and trying to convince a patron who has just arrived to play a few chords. Kinda funny what happens at Gorman’s newly opened tasting room in the former gas station at the Hollywood Schoolhouse roundabout in Woodinville. The stereo bumps, the song “Hells Bells” randomly rings from that AC/DC pinball machine, and bay doors open out onto a large cement patio lined with chairs and tables. Sharing the building are Station Pizzeria and Patterson Cellars, which makes this a great place to snack on something Italian while sipping something regularly award winning and quintessentially Washington. Open Thursday through Sunday, 1 to 5.


J. Bookwalter Winery Alfresco tasting beneath the vines.

Best Place to Experience a Staytasting
Seattle Urban Wineries
Various locations around Seattle,
Not to be outdone by Washington’s more established wine regions, a handful of wineries have banded together to form an association dedicated to urban tasting experiences. One small contingent is tucked in among the rows of large, metal industrial warehouse buildings in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. On a sunny Saturday, the 15-foot steel door at Nota Bene Cellars will be thrown open for visitors to sip a variety of reds and blends. Around the corner at Cadence, Gaye McNutt and Benjamin Smith will pour out their love story (of grapes, too) as well as some fantastic wines from Red Mountain vineyards, such as the 2009 Camerata (12) red blend. Further north, along the Queen Anne side of the ship canal, five or so wineries—including Almquist Family Vineyards and Siren Song—share the industrial space attached to the Book Bindery. Schedules vary but most are open the second Saturday of each month. 


Best Place to End a Trip Around Green Lake
Eight Bells Winery
6213B Roosevelt Way NE, Roosevelt, 206-321-5120;
At the end of a Roosevelt neighborhood pedestrian alley awaits a burgundy door. Inside, the founders—two NOAA scientists and a businessman—stand behind a tall wooden table pouring pinots (of both varietals) from Oregon grapes and reds from Yakima Valley and Red Mountain. Tour of the industrial space and the founders will gladly show off their chemistry sets upstairs, maps of the AVAs that source their grapes, and ornate commemorative certificates of various maritime accomplishments, which also explain how the Shellback, a cabernet, merlot, and syrah blend, got its name. (Hint, they’ve crossed the equator, traversed the Panama Canal, and more.) Open Saturdays 11 to 4. 


Best Place to Play Tourist
The Tasting Room
1924 Post Alley, Pike Place Market, 206-770-9463;
What’s convivial, quaint, communal, and winecentric? A Washington winery co-op—the Tasting Room—at the periphery of Pike Place Market. This is the place to come to take a break from the market crowds and sip Eastern Washington in a glass. Tastes are available in ounce pours, by the glass, or by the bottle. Mix and match samples from Harlequin, Wineglass Cellars, Wilridge Winery, Camaraderie Cellars, Latitude 46˚N, Naches Heights Vineyards, or Mountain Dome, or choose from established flights. Open noon to 8pm daily.

Filed under
Show Comments