According to The Pour Fool—The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's resident wine expert—Pleasant Hill Cellars is the best-kept secret in the state. To hear his account, encountering winemaker Larry Lindvig and his impressive Malbec is akin to witnessing a tremendous revelation; The Pour Fool knew he had stumbled upon something extraordinary. That was a decade ago, and today, Lindvig and his wife still strive to make awesome Washington wines that surpass expectations.
Sky River Meadery turns honey into wine, or mead to be exact. Since 1997, the meadery has produced its own award-winning blends of mead, a fermented-honey beverage that has been lauded for centuries for its subtly sweet taste. Thought to bring strength, wit, and poetry, Mead was the drink of many ancient kings and poets. Sky River, which is owned and operated by women, introduces guests to its meads in a large onsite tasting room. There, customers can experience the sweet, dry, and raspberry-enhanced meads, finished with a touch of berries, apples, and grassy notes, which pair well with curries, ginger, and salsas.
Sky River Meadery also showcases local art in its gallery space, offers other bee products—including candles and honey—and encourages picnicking among the gardens and display bee hives.
Jim Garner's journey to becoming a winemaker and winery owner began with a gift. He worked in the biotech industry, and his employer moved him from California to Washington. In order to allay his fears that he'd no longer have access to good wine, his new team put together a basket of bottles from local wineries for him to enjoy. He was so impressed by one cabernet from Pleasant Hill Cellars that, when the opportunity presented itself, he went to meet the maker. Jim became friends with the winery's owner, then a part-time helper, then a full-time team member. He eventually founded his own winery, Icon Cellars, where he continues the tradition of making small batches of carefully crafted wines and pairing them with fine food, fine art, and fine music.
From their winery in Walla Walla to their tasting room in Woodinville, Ed Dudley and his team of Patit Creek Cellars demonstrate their devotion to artisan wine. They carefully select and squish grapes to produce their flagship style of Cabernet Sauvignon, which carefully balances savory and fruit profiles, and the Merlot, which pins aromas of black cherry and chocolate with undertones of dried herbs. They also fill glasses with white varieties that include Chardonnay and a dry Riesling.
In their winery’s tasting room, which boasts a breezy covered patio, patrons sample new releases and sip wines by the glass when not creating symphonies with the glasses’ rims.
Stan Barrett already had a winery and a passion for French cuisine when, in 2002, he found himself in need of a winemaker. He found Sean Boyd, who had worked at wineries in France, New Zealand, and around the world. As of today, Boyd's favorite part of the wine-making process is the final blending stage, when he gets to tap into his creative side and combine fermented juices into their final state. He still learns new techniques and oversees every step of production at Woodinville Wine Cellars, where the staff specializes in crafting small-batch, additive-free wines using only grapes sourced from Washington vineyards. They let the wines age for up to 18 months in French oak barrels, which allows them plenty of time to take on complex flavors and read Madame Bovary.
It's this dedication to detail that has earned Boyd various accolades for more than a dozen wines, including the deep cabernet sauvignon, peppery rose, and rich Last Man Standing malbec. Over time, the selection has included more than 45 styles, some of which are produced only rarely. Most of the small batches that are currently available, though, are uncorked during tastings at the winery's creek-side tasting room. Barrett also owns Art Culinaire, the North American importer of Lacanche ranges.
Before Darren and Melissa Des Voigne started Des Voigne Cellars, they honeymooned in Italy, staying for a week at a winery in Castellina in Chianti. Their stay coincided with the release of the historic 1997 Chiantis, and drinking the excellent vintage hooked the couple on the wine industry. When they returned to the States, Darren decided to turn his wine-making skills—which up until then had been limited to making wine in his garage—into a full-blown career.
He succeeded. Today, Des Voignes Cellars is a full decade old, and Darren is the house wine-maker. He crafts traditional and creative varietals with equal aplomb, and as an extra flourish, shows his love of vintage jazz records through his wine labels. The labels of his "Untitled" wines boast lines of sheet music, whereas his 2009 Montreux's label depicts a thoughtful drummer, probably contemplating what terrible drumsticks wine bottles would make.