If you have out-of-town guests coming to Washington and they enjoy a relaxing afternoon of imbibing, take them to Woodinville, a 30-minute drive northeast of Seattle. There are close to 40 wineries out there, with many offering daily tours and tastings. (Seattle Metropolitan magazine has a great article on local wine country weekends that helps narrow down the options.)
When my family visited this past weekend, we did the winery-brewery combo package: first, we stopped at Chateau Ste Michelle for a 35-minute tour of its wine-bottling/fermenting plant. The grapes aren’t grown on this property – that happens farther east in the Columbia Valley – so the tour guide has to make do with maps and pictures. But she has a lovely French accent, so that helps. The tour ends with a tasting of three of their Columbia Valley wines and a quick lesson on sniffing and swirling. As long as your brother doesn’t shout that he smells hints of Cream of Wheat, then drain his glass and ask for another, you can pretend to be sommeliers for the afternoon. Or, you too can chug your vino. I won’t judge, and they won’t either.
Cost: Free. Tours run from 10.30am-4.30pm daily.
After Chateau Ste Michelle, wander across the street to Redhook Brewery, which offers tours on the hour, Sat & Sun, noon-5pm, for $1. (Note: After Labor Day, tours are at 1, 3, and 5pm Sat & Sun, and 2 and 4pm Mon-Fri.) This dollar goes a long way. It gets you a souvenir tasting glass, a “tour” (you stay in one room and turn around a couple times), and five samples of beer. Those are the basics – but what does that really mean?
It means that you enter a room that smells a bit like college, manned by a tour guide who used to study opera and could double as a stand-up comedian. You hear about the history of Redhook – then try a beer! Look at the brewing tanks – now have a beer! Answer a trivia question right? Win a beer! It’s informative and entertaining, and by the end of it, you’ve had 2 pints of beer for the cost of a Snickers. I would have paid 20 times that just to hear my mom say “I love Washington!” again, giggle, then ask for another glass of the porter.
Cost: $1. http://www.redhook.com
For information on the other Woodinville wineries, go to http://www.woodinvillewinecountry.com.