We agreed after our visit to Lodi earlier this year that visiting wineries during a big event weekend wasn’t an ideal situation for our purposes. In general, during big event weekends wineries aren’t necessarily pouring their best wines, and the tasting staff is just doing their best to get wine tasters out the door rather than create an intimate experience. Plus, there’s normally a huge press at the tasting tables, which drives Mike nutty.
However, we’d been talking about visiting Woodinville with our friends Shawn and Matt for a full year. The weekend we planned to visit Seattle was, coincidentally, the same weekend as the gigantic St. Nicholas Festival in Woodinville. We decided to take a chance — and we had a great time. The people staffing the shuttle buses and the tasting room staffs we encountered were upbeat and positive. If anyone was feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, it was not apparent. The other tasters getting on and off the buses and coming and going from the wineries all seemed to be in good spirits (no pun intended – or was it?).
One part of the great time, for me, is that Shawn did all the research. She picked up our passes, worked out the logistics and even brought snacks for all of us. My job was just to get us there; Shawn did the research on the best wineries and pulled together a short-list that combined her favorite Woodinville tasting rooms with several tasting rooms that she’d found had great reviews.
From the bus stop, Mike and I had a lovely hike along the Tolt Pipeline Trail and met Matt and Shawn at the shuttle stop. The trail was mostly downhill from where we picked it up. While the views over the fog-shrouded valley were dramatic and beautiful, we were very glad our hike was not a round-trip. Shawn pulled out her shortlist, and we began our excursion.
Of course we started at Matthews Cellars; how could we pass up a tasting room named after the Matthew we were traveling with? (I will resist the urge to make an Uncle Travellin’ Matt reference.) The wine tasting room was decked out with holiday lights. We managed to stake out a table and tasted the white and red they had to sample.
2010 Blackboard Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley): Shawn described this as “kinda lemony.” I tasted tart apple, grapefruit and lemon pith. It was very crisp and highly acidic.
2009 Blackboard Red (Columbia Valley): I smelled velvet and sage. It had a nice oak shell with a chewy fruity center, but as we sipped the tannins became more apparent, overwhelming the fruit.
Goose Ridge was decked out for the holidays. As would happen with a number of wineries we visited this day, we somehow managed to arrive just as a gigantic crowd of people were leaving, and finished our tasting just as another big crowd was entering. Go us, I say!
2009 G3 White (Columbia Valley): This had a peachy scent. I tasted pineapple, kiwi, and a little unripe blackberry. (Mike, Matt and Shawn, all natives of blackberry country, looked at me like I was nuts on that last flavor.) It also had a slight buttery mouthfeel.
2008 G3 Red Blend (Columbia Valley): This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I smelled fruit, but Shawn smelled bitterness. There were heavy tannins surrounding the fruit on this wine, which I think may have led to the bitterness that Shawn smelled.
2007 Merlot: This smelled of truffled cherries and tasted fruity, but with hints of cacao nibs.
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley): The aroma reminded me of frosted grapes. The flavor was gentle, with soft tannins warming and mingling with the fruit.
We’d hit two wineries, and yet we hadn’t managed to sample one wine that passed the Appellation Trail test. Though Woodinville was located square in the middle of the Puget Sound appellation, not one winery was pouring Puget Sound wine! Would we ever manage to taste a Puget Sound wine, or would the entire day be for naught? Stay tuned…