At Precept Wine, one of the largest privately owned wine companies in the Northwest, they know how to pair decadent flavors. Winemaker Hal Landvoigt combined wine and chocolate in his lab, creating Chocolate Shop, a non-vintage wine. According to the website, it's still the best-selling chocolate red wine in the US.
Hal is just one of the company's 13 winemakers, who are stationed at wineries in Pacific Northwest areas from Washington State's Yakima Valley to Idaho's Snake River Valley. At their posts, they work primarily with grapes cultivated from local vineyards, although some batches are imported from around the world.
Regardless of their grapes' origins, though, their award-winning wines brim with touches informed by plenty of travel. Landvoigt, for one, has traveled through such famed wine regions as Burgundy in France, Salta in Argentina, and the wine waterfall in Dionysus's dreams. At Precept's eight tasting rooms, the knowledgeable staff can help patrons trace a glass of wine's international influences and local roots.
Thirty years ago, the Mielke family shifted its trade from cherry packing to growing, harvesting, and aging the grapes at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, which has won CityVoter's award for Best Winery for the last three years. The winery encompasses a warm-toned tasting room downtown as well as a 1924 Florentine-style estate perched on a cliff overlooking the Spokane River. The estate, registered as a National Historic Landmark, is home to a stone gazebo, 4 acres of gardens, and a gigantic checkers board for trees bored with feigning stillness. At each tasting room, knowledgeable oenophiles introduce palates to more than 15 handcrafted vintages to taste and take home. In addition to fermenting wines from its own grapes, the Mielke family sources grapes from mature vineyards around Washington.
Perry and Penny grew up together near Prosser, Washington in the 1970s, and were close friends throughout elementary school. More than 20 years later, the two rekindled their friendship but it wasn't all smooth sailing from the start. That year, Penny started making fortified blackberry wine, which Perry described as, "indescribably undrinkable." More than a little annoyed by this harsh judgment, Penny challenged Perry to do better. The result of this winemaking challenge was four cases of merlot that won a second-place ribbon among the amateur entrants at the Puyallup Fair. Stina's Cellars grew from this initial success, and over time production grew and grew, until finally the team was able to move into a small facility and officially open the winery for business in 2006.
At the winery, Perry and Penny?joined by helpful family and friends?make small batches of wine using grapes grown throughout eastern and western Washington. The type of wines they make changes frequently, but past bottles have included a dark and fruity syrah balanced by its bold tannic structure as well as an amber-hued roussane with hints of poached peaches and a pronounced nuttiness reminiscent of sherry. These wines appear on store shelves and restaurant menus throughout the region, but can also be sampled inside Stina's Cellars tasting room. Visitors are encouraged to stop in, try some samples, and attempt to guess which wine bottle contains a wish-granting genie.
When pharmacist Gary Goug?r first started making wine, he was an amateur who was simply translating his love of vino into a pleasurable hobby. Soon, his passion took over, and he began racking up numerous International Gold awards for his red blends. His science background, coupled with training at one of the world?s finest winemaking schools in Australia, helped Goug?r take his wines to the next level. Goug?r now oversees his own winery, built in 2013 inside a renovated firehouse, where his bottles take center stage at tasting-room events ranging from holiday events to varietal samplers.
The inside of ViaVita Café & Wine Bar traces the timeline of a single day. Floor-to-ceiling windows cast morning light onto a display case of pastries and cheeses—an addendum to the counter that bears morning coffee orders. Nearby, granite-topped tables sit far enough apart to suggest an open, Parisian patio, but close enough together to support a cross-stream of chatter over lunchtime sandwiches. The day ends on the other side of a semicircular wine bar. There, walls wearing distressed paint encapsulate a rustic alcove, where hanging plants and Greco-Roman-style pottery evoke the dining room of a hillside villa.
The decor and seasonal menu at ViaVita Café & Wine Bar champion a European-flavored escape, where diners can stop at any time for a meal, a snack, or a glass of wine. From the crepes and omelets of brunch—served with duck-fat potatoes and chocolate-orange butter—to afternoon paninis and dinners of pan-seared Alaskan salmon, meals realized by imaginative chefs spark and fuel long conversations. Imported and domestic beers, as well as wines from small vineyards on multiple continents, complement the diverse bouquet of flavors and pair especially well with cheese and charcuterie boards. During special events, guitar music acts as a soothing soundtrack for bites, and sommelier seminars instruct patrons on how to age libations without sending them to PG-13 movies alone.
In the barrel room at Port Gardner Bay Winery, Chris Covington stays vigilant watching over casks of reds and whites with the anticipation and pride of a master winemaker. After learning that his engineering and chemistry knowledge could be put to use fermenting grapes and crafting unique alcoholic nectars, Chris began experimenting with the wine-making process, eventually producing his own wines independently. Today, Chris crafts vintages ranging from cabernet sauvignons and merlots to malbecs and gew?rztraminers, earning him a spot in Evening Magazine's "The Best of Western Washington". In addition to his day-to-day production duties, Chris also hosts frequent events, from tastings featuring live performances from local musicians to wine classes that discuss the wine-making process and dispel rumors that the best way to crush a grape is by breaking its heart.