Seattle PI Article: Wine treasures are hidden in a Woodinville industrial park

by Shona Milne on December 31, 2008

I stumbled across the article online at the Seattle PI this morning.

Wine treasures are hidden in a Woodinville industrial park

Don’t judge these bottles by the setting


WOODINVILLE — When I invited my friend — a transplant from New Orleans — to go wine tasting in Woodinville, she might have pictured an afternoon in a bucolic setting. Maybe something lifted from a scene in the iconic movie “Sideways,” where a patchwork of vines would serve as the lush backdrop for our adventure. Surely she couldn’t have imagined I’d bypass the biggest names in Woodinville to drag her to an industrial park.

But that’s where we ended up on a recent Sunday, wandering around a bunch of nondescript metal buildings. Napa Valley this was not.

Still, the space — known as the North Industrial Park — is one of the fastest growing wine-producing corners in the rapidly expanding Woodinville wine country. This busy address is a lot like the airport park in Walla Walla where vintners have set up in low-cost utilitarian settings left over from World War II.

A few of the more than 20 vintners at the industrial park have turned their bare-bones operations into high-end destinations. At least one has a private tasting room for wine club members only.

That doesn’t mean those of us who aren’t in the club don’t receive a warm welcome. The region, just 25 minutes from downtown Seattle, prides itself on a friendly approach. (I read that claim in at least three different places, in brochures and on the official Web site.)

First thing you need to know before you go: Every place charges a tasting fee. To sip four to eight wines, it’s typically going to cost you $5 to $8. Those charges — intended to keep traffic restricted to serious tasters, not just parties looking to get bombed — are waived if you buy a bottle. Fair enough.

Our first stop was XSV Vintners (“If you say it quickly, it sounds like ‘excessive,’ ” explained the cheery woman behind the counter). Tasters were welcome to nibble on a small mountain of Cougar Gold cut into bite-size pieces.

It’s my unscientific opinion even Boone’s Farm tastes good when there’s cheese involved. When making important decisions about which $30-plus bottle to buy, I like to keep a clear palate, so I stayed away from the cheese until the very end.

While trying XSV’s lineup, we learned the winemaker uses grapes grown on 50-year-old vines on the LeMieux family’s estate in Pasco. The stacks of barrels viewable from the tasting room gave this straightforward space the unmistakable fragrance of a working winery. While we sipped chardonnay, cab and a merlot I ended up buying, the winemaker tinkered on a project in the barrel room.

The chatty tasting room attendant gave the rest of our unstructured afternoon adventure a little focus. She suggested a few stops just steps away. Because the wineries are open to the public only a few days a week, it’s important that they look out for each other, she said.

I knew I had made the right choice picking the merlot because she kind of cringed when I placed my order. “I’ve been meaning to buy some of that myself,” she said, “but it’s going fast.”

Two doors down, at Anton Ville Winery, a two-man crew tackled the unglamorous business of hosing out plastic bins that once held grapes. All the grapes crushed here are picked in Eastern Washington and trucked over, sometimes within hours of harvest. (If you want to experience fall crush, mark your calendars for late September or early October. Some wineries accept help from volunteers in exchange for free or discounted wine.)

Anton Ville is a small family operation, like many boutique vintners. What gives this producer an interesting twist is that the tasting room doubles as a retail shop for Andrew and Janiece Haug’s import business. Folk art from Thailand filled the shelves. My friend bought a leather wine-bottle holder you can sling over your shoulder.

The tasting setup was a little less than ideal — two card tables pushed together — but the woman pouring the wine somehow made it work. She also poured forth some helpful suggestions on where we should go next.

Inside the Washington Wine Co., the smell of pizza kicked-started a pre-lunch snack attack. Alas, the pies weren’t for us, but for the volunteer crew of friends and family getting ready to work the bottling line.

Even the man pouring sips from behind the counter was eating a meal as he walked us through the lineup of whimsical labels. The best of the bunch was a blend the winemaker made in collaboration with Volterra restaurant chef Don Curtiss. (The owner of Washington Wine Co. has a construction company specializing in restaurant work, which is how the connection was made.)

I have a rule against buying wine bearing cutesy labels — prompted by a massive headache from a cheap red sporting a picture of a truck — but they were out of the Big F’n Syrah, so it wasn’t an issue. Instead, I bought a couple of bottles of Volterra Red.

After visiting a string of fairly no-frills tasting rooms, the atmosphere at Alexandria Nicole Cellars was decidedly upscale, its warm wood bar and high-tech wine storage system hinting at what was behind a “secret” door. Because it was a quiet afternoon, we were given a quick tour of the members-only space, called The Hidden Door Wine Club.

To join the club you have to agree to buy a case of wine (selected by winemaker Jarrod Boyle, with four bottles shipped three times over the course of a year), and then you gain entry to a softly lit sanctum where there are regular tasting events, plus additional discounts on case purchases and gift shop merchandise. Pretty cool.

We could have tried a few more places, but after sipping a dozen different wines we were feeling palate fatigue. Besides, we were starving.

This is where the brilliant part of my scheme kicked in: I had cajoled my husband into cycling out to meet us and act as the designated driver. (It didn’t take much arm-twisting, as The Pedal King often logs 50 miles or more over the course of a weekend.)

After he loaded his bike onto the car, we left the industrial park for the parts of Woodinville more commonly associated with the wine industry. We stopped at Village Wines, which was featuring post-Thanksgiving wines to pair with turkey sandwiches. The wine bar serves a selection of nibbles and has one of the most extensive selections of Washington wines in the state.

It’s a little tricky to find the place, which is situated in Apple Farm Village, but it’s worth making the detour. As we tried a glass of the fantastic 2006 Milbrandt Syrah and ate cheese spreads smeared on crostini, we debriefed on the details of our short tasting tour.

When we checked the time, it was about 4 o’clock. If we hurried we could get in one last stop before heading back to Seattle. Our designated driver got behind the wheel and turned into Matthews Estate, one of the region’s most renowned vintners. The tasting room’s hours recently expanded to daily operation.

After sipping through the featured wines it was clear we had saved the best for last. Also, it was the priciest of the bunch. I splurged on a $45 bottle of pinot noir made from grapes grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

I can hardly wait to come back and work my way through the long list of must-try wineries in the North Industrial Park and beyond.


North Industrial Park (19501 144th Ave. N.E.) —

·  XSV Vintners is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Suite C-300;

·  Anton Ville Winery is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Suite D-300;

·  Washington Wine Company is open noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Suite D-600;

·  Alexandria Nicole Cellars is open noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Monday, Suite C-900;

Elsewhere in Woodinville —

·  Village Wines is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday at 14545 148th Ave. N.E., Suite 211;

·  Matthews Estate is open 2-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 3-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at 16116 140th Place N.E.;

Information —

· includes most, but not all, producers making wine in the region.

· has a function allowing visitors to create a custom itinerary.

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