Visit Western Washington Wine Country
Colombia and Chateau Ste Michelle
Look out California! For some time now, Napa and Sonoma have a history of being known for their wines... Other competing regions also produce nice wines which don't break the pocket book - countries such as Australia, Chile and some within Africa. If I'm not mistaken, they are still relatively young in the industry (or else recently went international or became popular) as is our very own Washington state.
Perhaps you are one who appreciates good wine and would be interested in doing something different one day.... with a friend, a spouse, or family visiting from out of town. Let me suggest spending some time in Woodinville visiting various wineries and engaging in some tasting. Woodinville is located within 30 minutes of Seattle and unless one is a true regional connoisseur, I am willing to bet most are unawares 40 wineries have taken up residence here. Most of these wineries have hours limited to weekends or by appointment only. Those which are open daily (some holidays excluded) include Silver Lake Winery, Januik, Edmonds Winery, Matthews Estate, Novelty Hill, Colombia and Chateau Ste Michelle. Due to the proximity of location to each another and my experience, I will focus on Colombia and Chateau Ste Michelle.
Chateau Ste Michelle provides complimentary 35 minute group tours of their winery which concludes with a wine sampling. If doing the group thing isn't your "thang" but tasting wine is, for $10 four wines are available to be sampled at the wine bar. For the past few years during Memorial Day weekend, Chateau Ste Michelle has hosted a great culinary with wine pairing event called "The Washington Wine Highway." Several gigantic tents were set up to provide cover for chefs (and those assisting them), winery representatives from the area, as well as guests. Various upscale restaurants throughout the state were featured, and each was allotted space for an "action station" in which preparation and samples of a Chef's chosen culinary delectable were served. With several wineries and vendors present to pour tastings of featured wines (with hopes of selling bottles or cases), this was a great way to sample food and experiment with wine pairings. Cost per couple was approximately $150 for one day, and included two wine glasses which were utilized during tasting. My husband and I having attended this last year, very much enjoyed it. In addition, there was live music and several different samples of packaged items to take home and enjoy (for example - spice rubs, chocolates etc). Chateau Ste Michelle is open daily from 10 - 5 (again with the exception of some holidays).
Colombia Winery is open daily from 10 - 6pm (some holidays excluded). In contrasting Colombia with Chateau Ste Michelle in having gone for tastings with out of town guests myself, my experience and opinion is the atmosphere at Colombia feels a little more casual and down to earth with a friendlier staff. The wines were every bit as good or better. Although I humbly admit I'm not as sophisticated about wine as some connoisseur's, I personally enjoy a variety of wines; my favorites include Merlots, Petite Syrahs, Cabs, Chardonnays', some Pinot Grigio's and some Sauvignon Blancs. If memory serves correctly, Colombia provides an additional tasting for the same amount of money.
So after engaging in some wine tasting, it may be time for a meal and The Redhook Brewery and Forecasters Pub is in close proximity, right next door to Colombia. The atmosphere is casual and the food is good and inexpensive. The pub features mainly burgers, sandwiches, a few salads, nachos...that sort of fare. Although my husband is an incredible Chef (the food being why he so enjoyed The Washington Wine Highway) he does not appreciate a nice, medium - to - full bodied - red (even though smooth) the way I do. The man likes his beer. If you can identify with that, you will love The Redhook Brewery (*they have live music and dancing on the weekends too!). They also conduct tours which include tastings for $1. They have a special six beer sampler you can enjoy at the bar or while dining, which is very reasonably priced.
If Redhook Brewery and The Forecasters Pub sounds unappealing and one's desire is to enjoy a more upscale dining experience where enjoyment of wine can continue and pairing can occur, may I suggest Purple Cafe....it too is not far from these wineries, located off Hwy 202. The food is good with various pasta dishes as well as meat protein entrees to choose from (my personal favorite being The Seared Ahi Tuna served with Jasmine Rice and Seasonal Vegetable). The prices are reasonable. If budget is not an issue, perhaps for dinner what may be of interest can be found at The Willows Lodge and The Barking Frog Restaurant; again these are just down the street from the two wineries, next door to Colombia and Redhook Brewery. The Herb Farm is also located within The Willows Lodge property and there one can experience a five course plated dinner with each course being paired with wine for approximately $150 per person.
As a little footnote in case anyone is wondering about the photos...yes, those are snowflakes; just when many thought we'd see Spring early this 2009 since we experienced great weather in February....some things are just unpredictable. I'm inclined to believe these geese are temporary residents of
Chateau Ste Michelle, realizing a "rest stop" was in order before continuing on in their journey north to Canada.