Bordeaux-style wines meet Woodinville travel time at Matthews Winery. Photograph by Brandon Hill
Now firmly in its second decade, Betz Family devotes itself to high-end Bordeaux and Rhône- style wines. The cabernet sauvignon is exquisite. Four syrahs showcase differences in the state’s best vineyards and appellations, while the grenache-heavy Besoleil drinks like a cup of fresh fruit.
This winery dedicates itself to the art of blending. The flagship cabernet sauvignon–based Solesce is one for the cellar. That may not sound radical, but the winemaker here likes to experiment, exploring styles from Spain, Italy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, and beyond.
Throughout its run, Ste. Michelle has been the state’s leader in producing good wines at any price. A spot-on $12 bottle? A stunning single-vineyard sauvignon blanc? The winery has both. Its $9 Dry Riesling is easily the best value in the state if not the country. Ste. Michelle with its multitude of affiliated labels is by far the biggest wine producer in Washington, but the Chateau still carries our banner high.
Founded in 1962 by a group of friends (and now owned by California colossus Gallo), Columbia offers both widely available, entry-level wines and limited release, tasting-room-only treats. Its AVA series explores the state’s varied appellations.
Now located in a sweeping new indoor and outdoor tasting room in the old Redhook Brewery, DeLille is an unusually good environment for trying wine. But wherever you taste, the winery offers an embarrassment of riches. The Chaleur Blanc, a blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon, is at the top of its class each year. Other gems in the crown include the Chaleur Estate, a full-bore expression of Red Mountain, and the Harrison Hill red wine, coming from some of the oldest vines in the state.
When visiting Gorman Winery’s tasting room, you can plug in a guitar and play. Owner and winemaker Chris Gorman likes to crank the volume in the glass, too, with decadent Red Mountain reds and full bodied, heady chardonnay.
Jerry Riener, Guardian’s owner, is a policeman who started spending all of his non-working hours volunteering at local wineries. In 2007, he opened Guardian and has helped epitomize Woodinville’s style: luscious and fruit-filled.
Winemaker Mark McNeilly made a name for himself in the early 2000s fashioning uniformly excellent red blends, with ripe fruit and hefty tannic structures, from esteemed Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain. He’s still at it; few do it better.
Matthews is one of the longest tenured wineries in Woodinville. Yes, with its “inspired by Bordeaux” tagline, you know cabernet sauvignon is important here, but the sauvignon blanc is also a standout.
Few have been producing wine in Washington longer than Mike Januik (first release: 1984). Fewer have his track record of excellence. Januik and its sister winery Novelty Hill make a wide selection—with notable cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. But the real story here is unrelenting consistency: You know it will be good.
This winery is known for its hedonistic releases, such as Bordeaux-style blends. But owner Chris Sparkman paints from a diverse palette, experimenting with everything from touriga naçional to sangiovese.
In just 10 years, Avennia has established itself as one of the state’s top wineries, dedicated to using old vine grapes and picking early, giving the releases a distinctly old-world, savory edge, but with plenty of fruit.
Since 2000, Baer has made two wines that epitomize classic Washington styles—the merlot and cabernet franc dominant Ursa and the cabernet driven Arctos. For a next step, try the rare (for here) unoaked chardonnay.
Winemaker Lisa Callan has made her mark thus far with whites, specifically picpoul and grenache blanc—brightly acidic varieties that charmingly depart from Woodinville’s big bold red idiom.
Cedergreen has been making wine since the early 2000s but only recently opened its first tasting room. Seek out a palate coating, old vine chenin blanc and the gamay noir, both rarities in this state.
Boushey Vineyard always grows some of the state’s best Rhône-style grapes. But to taste something truly transformative from that fruit, seek out Damsel winemaker Mari Womack’s blend, the Fates.
Pronounced like the letters F-S-T, Efeste has a proud lineage of winemaking talent since its inception, from Chris Upchurch (DeLille) to Peter Devison (now of Devison Vintners). The latest in that line is Mark Fiore, who joined in 2017. Coming from Wines of Substance (K Vintners), this Woodinville stalwart looks to be in capable hands.
No Woodinville winery can match the JM Bramble Bump tasting room’s beauty, with its private, seven-acre arboretum, walking trails, and pond. The top-shelf wines—especially Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, and Walla Walla Valley reds—are just as pretty.
Owner and winemaker Kevin White’s day job allows him to offer the best quality-to-price wines in the state. But the word is out on his pure, fruit-driven wines. Some, such as the feels-like-stealing ‘Blue Label’ wine, can sell out in less than a week.
Winemaker Tony Dollar offers plenty of reds, but his fresh, vivacious whites most consistently grab attention, from a fruitful and honed sauvignon blanc to the one-of-a-kind (in this state) auxerrois.
Former NFL footballers Dan Marino and local Damon Huard teamed up with the outrageously talented Chris Peterson (Avennia) to create a series of appellation-specific cabernet sauvignons. The great wines prove this is no vanity project.
Rocket scientist turned winemaker Javier Alfonso was born in Sunnyside, Washington but raised in Spain. At Pomum, he works with more conventional Washington grapes. At Idilico, he explores the possibilities of the state's Spanish varieties.
Sightglass is a newcomer. Sean Boyd, once the winemaker at Woodinville Wine Cellars, is not. As he did there, Boyd excels with stainless steel–aged sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, as well as cultishly good red wines.
Co-owner and winemaker Morgan Lee offers a lot of variety, but his Rhône-style wines always rise to the top, every year among the very best in the state. The Columbia Valley Syrah is a great value. So is the Make Haste Cinsault, which also happens to be one of the few cinsaults you’ll find in Washington. Lee has a vivid style, allowing the fruit and vineyards to shine.
Winemaker by day, sommelier at Seattle’s RN74 by night, Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen crafts vineyard-forward, food-friendly wines. He pulls the oak way back and deploys fruit picked earlier, when acids are still fresh and lively. The results are distinct, and distinctly excellent.
Methods: To compile this list, Sean P. Sullivan selected wineries based on the overall quality of their wines, focusing largely on those that are local to that area, versus satellite tasting rooms.