Where wine, whiskey and elevated experiences take the chill off winter
written by Ryn Pfeuffer
When you think of winter getaways, Woodinville Wine Country may not be top of mind. It should be. A quick thirty-minute drive from downtown Seattle, Woodinville is a fantastic destination for wine-, food- and whiskey-lovers. When much of the country is socked in with snow, this region averages 50-degree daily highs, gray skies, and yes, plenty of drizzle and light rain. As long as you have comfortable shoes and a raincoat handy, you’ll be prepared for anything. Besides, there’s always a brewery or winery close by to get warm, have a snack and escape the rain. Less crowds, dreamy weather, lots of wine and whiskey—what’s not to love?
COZY UP • NINE-COURSE DINING • PINBALL
If you’re looking for a swank, romantic place to stay, look no further than Willows Lodge. The eighty-four-room property has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as one of the best hotels in the country. Flanked by lush woods and greenery, the upscale retreat offers guests patios, fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Feel free to bring along your four-legged friend—Willows Lodge offers dog-friendly rooms, as well as dog sitters and a dedicated dog room service menu (for a fee). Some rooms have views of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. The oldest winery in Washington state is an easy ten-minute walk away.
Once settled, meander to the majestic Fireside Lounge for happy hour every day from 3 p.m. to 5:30 pm. Find piquillo cheddar dip with crudites and crackers or salmon poke with sticky rice cakes and pineapple ponzu under soaring ceilings, and wood and stone details. The honey Limoncello martini with limoncello, lemon, and honey simple syrup is a sweet spin on the classic.
To make your stay truly memorable, make a reservation at the Herbfarm. This AAA 5-Diamond restaurant sits in its own cottage on the grounds of Willows Lodge. It serves up a nine-course wine and food dining experience from Thursdays through Sundays ($305 per person, including beverage pairings). A new menu theme is introduced every two weeks; menus are finalized daily. Reservations are available four calendar months in advance, so plan ahead.
For something less luxurious but equally unique, McMenamins Anderson School is set in a restored 1930s school just two miles away. Order drinks in the Principal’s Office, play pinball in the Woodshop, or take a dip in the saltwater swimming pool, which is kept at a warm 88–90 degrees. It’s better than recess—for both kids and adults.
WINE TASTING • CIDER • WHISKEY
After a dreamy slumber, grab lunch at The PicNic Table (open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) The menu changes weekly. Recent starters included smoked salmon deviled eggs and a rustic pork terrine. Try the grilled flank steak salad with arugula, parmesan cheese, and a tangy lemon vinaigrette for something more substantial.
Woodinville Wine Country is home to more than 120 wineries and tasting rooms, so there’s literally a style and varietal for every palate. Fueled up for the day, start your sipping adventures at Wine Alley, a series of seven tasting rooms set in European-inspired alleyways. The experience sends out old-world architecture vibes, making it feel much farther away than a Seattle suburb. Here, you’ll find Ambassador Wines of Washington, Ancestry Cellars, Adams Bench Winery, Baer Winery, Rooted Souls Winery, TruthTeller Winery and Tsillan Cellars. It’s also home to Woodinville Wine Country and Visitor Center. Most of the wine districts are walkable. Biking is also an option, especially to the Hollywood and West Valley districts. (Willows Lodge offers bikes to its guests.) Lyft and Uber services are also available.
You can always book a tour if you want to leave the planning and logistics to a professional. Bon Vivante Wine Tours curates popular day tours around the group’s tasting preferences. It starts at Chateau Ste. Michelle then stops for lunch before visiting a handful of winemaker-owned boutique wineries. Private coaches are also available.
If you’re not a wine drinker, don’t worry—Locust Cider Woodinville has plenty of apple-based options, including hot mulled cider. Plus, it has flatbread pizza, retro video games and is family-friendly. Thursdays are flight nights ($10 flight of four; $15 flight of six). Also, check Locust Cider’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/locustwoodinville/events) for a rotating lineup of food trucks
Still need something to shake the winter chill? Woodinville Whiskey Co. will keep you warm. Started in 2010 by best friends Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile, the craft distillery has garnered quite a worldwide reputation for creating outstanding products from 100 percent locally sourced grains from the Quincy-based Omlin family farm. In 2020, Forbes declared the company “may just (make) the best craft whiskey in America.” In Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible 2020, published in January, Woodinville’s single farm flagship product, Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey, scored a “Brilliant” rating. The rye was recognized as a “Superstar whiskey that gives us all a reason to live.”
SPA TIME • TACOS • HOT AIR BALLOONS
If you want to feel refreshed after a day of imbibing, ease into a deep tissue massage at The Spa at Willows Lodge. Arrive early to enjoy the sauna, relaxation room, or outdoor hydrotherapy pool. It doesn’t matter what service you book; the tranquil experience should help purge toxins and heal your headache.
Once you’re totally blissed out (and feeling normal again), grab a quick bite and nitro cold brew tea at Lifted Taco. The fast-casual spot in Woodin Creek Village is a great place to fill up before embarking on an afternoon adventure. There’s a bevy of about twenty-five tacos on the menu, including tasty breakfast versions. If you want to try something new, order the panko orange glazed shrimp or Korean bulgogi taco.
Next, borrow a bike from Willows Lodge and explore a stretch of the Sammamish River/Burke Gilman Trail. The 26-mile paved trail borders the hotel, extends to Lake Washington and onward to Seattle. You don’t have to do it all whether you walk, run or bike. Any stretch of the trail is scenic.
Or, you can book a private, sunrise, or sunset hot air balloon ride with Over the Rainbow Balloon Flights. (Pro tip: The wind is usually calmer in the morning for folks who may be nervous about heights and flights.) Skimming forested areas is a spectacular way to see sweeping views of Puget Sound, Seattle and the Cascades. Bonus: You may see bald eagles foraging for their breakfast, or the first peeks of sunlight over the Cascade Range. Experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest from 3,000 feet is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The PicNic Table
McMenamins Anderson School
Bon Vivante Wine Tours
Over the Rainbow Balloon Flights
Sammamish River Trail