For years, Woodinville wineries have been shoehorned into tiny warehouses. The never-ending search for space can mean stacking barrels floor to ceiling, Tetris-ing them about with forklifts. “We literally had two inches above our top stacked barrel,” says Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. “Everything was down to the inch.”
At JM Cellars, the production area doubled as an event space in its off hours. Every time he booked a wedding, remembers owner and winemaker John Bigelow, “I’d have to move all the barrels around” for the ceremony.
Bigelow started to look elsewhere for more space. Then he met a developer planning to build three 18,000-square-foot warehouse buildings in nearby Maltby, a slightly less expensive hamlet just 15 minutes from Woodinville. “I said, ‘I’ll take 10,000 square feet on the back building if you’ll build it to my spec as a winery,’” Bigelow recalls. “He said, ‘I’ll do that if you help me fill the rest of the buildings with wineries.’”
Today, the series of urbane industrial buildings, painted a matte charcoal, stands out from the rural surroundings like a cargo ship in the ocean. Bigelow filled them with his closest friends in the industry, and in the process created a new Seattle-area destination for some of the state’s great wine.
Gorman Winery joined him; so did Two Vintners/Covington Cellars, Laterus (owner and winemaker Tyler Farnsworth is assistant winemaker at JM), Guardian Cellars, and J.P. Trodden Distilling. Collectively, they’re known as the Vault at Maltby. Each occupant designed their own production space and tasting room. “One of the things that customers get to see when they come out here is six completely different views of what that winemaker wants to do,” Bigelow says.
And those ceiling-high barrel stacks that bedeviled winemakers in the Warehouse District? Now Gorman has ceilings 27 feet high. “We can’t even reach that with a forklift.”