Seattle, Washington state’s lone metropolitan centre, is known as the Emerald City. Its lush forests and endless parks cover the city in green, and it wraps around two lakes, plus Elliot Bay on its western side.
But cross the Cascade Mountains to the east and a whole new setting emerges. There, high-elevation plateaus and rolling hills offer a vast, open landscape covered with desert.
And dotted throughout, from Seattle to the eastern plains, is Washington wine country.
Thanks to those elevated deserts, the region is best known for robust, structural reds, but its cool nights and cold Pacific influence mean you can also find fresh, mouthwatering whites.
Just a half-hour drive from Seattle’s downtown sits Woodinville, the epicentre of Washington wine, with visitor centres for more than 100 wineries.
Woodinville and West
Chateau Ste Michelle, Woodinville
One of Washington’s largest producers, Chateau Ste Michelle, complete with a showpiece French-inspired château and extensive grounds.
Open daily, 10am – 5pm, with tours and tastings.
Savage Grace shows off flavourful options with a lighter frame.
Saturday and Sunday from 1-5pm (and by appointment).
For a premium experience, Force Majeure resides in North Woodinville – but pours by appointment only.
East and Columbia Valley
For a more boutique sense of wine country, head east over the Cascade Mountains into the vast Columbia Valley.
àMaurice Cellars, Walla Walla
Drive into the foothills of the Blue Mountains for a tasting at àMaurice Cellars. The family winery features red wines classic to the region – fresh while earthy Bordeaux blends from some of the oldest vines in the state, and vibrant, savoury Rhône reds – but it also makes Rhône whites perfect for a post-breakfast pick me up. Be sure to call the tasting room to let them know you plan to picnic.
Open Friday and Saturday 10:30am – 4:30pm or by appointment.
Gramercy Cellars, Walla Walla
Ride to Gramercy Cellars to refresh your palate with Master Sommelier Greg Harrington’s crisp Picpoul Blanc, and refreshing while textural Viognier.
By appointment Tuesday through Friday, Open Saturdays 11am to 5pm.
Hedges, Red Mountain
In Red Mountain, Hedges has been relying on biodynamic farming to increase the earthy freshness of its classic reds.
Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 5 pm, April 22 through November.
Seven Hills, Walla Walla
Visit one of the state’s founding wineries such as the Bordeaux-focused Seven Hills with the oldest Merlot and Cabernet vines in the area.
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm, Sunday, 10am – 2pm
Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla
Family-owned estates like Pepper Bridge have led the way in sustainable viticulture while also helping to establish vineyards in less-explored parts of the appellation.
Contact to arrange tours and tastings.
When to visit
Visit at the end of March to attend the state’s biggest annual wine event, Taste Washington. Restaurants, wine shops and tasting rooms throughout Seattle celebrate the state’s wines throughout the month.
The celebration culminates in a four-day gala, over the last weekend of March, featuring top chefs and the region’s best winemakers and menus revolve around the state’s signature ingredients.
If you’re looking for warm weather, visit mid-June for the annual Celebrate Walla Walla event.
This includes a series of winemaker meals and regional tastings, an educational seminar and a keynote address by one of the nation’s top wine experts.
In true country Washington, check out the one-day Trail Drive & BBQ that Horse Heaven Hills Winegrowers throws in July – a big annual fundraiser where proceeds are used to send new winemakers to school.