California has Napa. New York has the Finger Lakes (and Long Island). Oregon has the Willamette Valley. Washington, our great state, has Walla Walla, the Columbia Valley, and Yakima Valley.
But this guide isn’t about any of those places, because you shouldn’t have to drive all day or get on a plane to go wine tasting at several vineyards in one condensed area. Woodinville is a half-hour away and is home to 130 tasting rooms to drink Washington wine. Whether you’re picking up a case to bring home or piling all of your friends into a limo to hit six wineries in one afternoon, we drank a lot of wine to come up with the best spots to spend an afternoon made up of many small sips. Good luck, and don’t forget to pack a big cooler of cheese.
Maybe it’s the wine talking, but a lot of the tasting rooms here tend to blur together - Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you drink Roussanne straight from the bottle while sitting on a picnic blanket as long as you’re drinking Roussanne straight from the bottle while sitting on a picnic blanket. Mark Ryan is the winery that stands out, and it’s simply because they make the best wine. Everything they produce is excellent, from the Numbskull GSM to the Viognier. Stick around for an hour or so and savor them slowly in the art-covered tasting room. It’s all worth the higher price tag, but they also have a more reasonable label called Board Track Racer where you can get something like a nice $15 Chardonnay. Use Mark Ryan as your first stop on a tour of many tasting rooms, or as your only stop if you’re just going to pick one for some reason.
Sky River somehow makes mead approachable instead of something you only thought Medieval nobles swilled in between bites of mutton. Their honey wine is light, not overly sweet, and comes in flavors like blackberry and cherry vanilla that thankfully don’t taste like pie. The meadery has a few sofas, a little gift shop, and a very nice dog, but the best place to drink is out on the front slope, where you can sit on Adirondack chairs and take in the fantastic view of Woodinville as well as the very steep driveway that you stumbled up earlier. The cheapest flight here is only $5, which you could easily find on the street or in someone’s pocket.
J. Bookwalter is a corner spot on NE 145th that’s always the perfect kind of crowded on a warm day. And despite the parking lot views, they have a terrific outdoor space, complete with firepits, patio sofas, a windmill, and barrels. (It’s truly not a winery unless there are barrels everywhere.) We like coming here with a group when there’s a reason to celebrate, which means it’s acceptable to use this as an excuse to do some tastings and celebrate wine being a generally great liquid.
You could enter most of the wineries on this list in jeans and a tie-dye t-shirt. But Matthews is the kind of place where we recommend dressing up. The tasting room has an elegant black-and-white aesthetic, flowers on every table, and those modern sliding barn doors that everyone’s doing now. We like drinking on a picnic table out on the lawn here, equipped with snacks you can buy on-site as well as bottles of rose and claret. And yeah, we’re going to buy a baguette too, but we’ll cut in slices.
If going to Woodinville for you is less about wine and more about spending time outside, JM Cellars is your spot. Their grounds are covered in trees, lounge chairs, and you can even play lawn games in a grassy area. The staff is also very accommodating should you roll in with a massive group and forget to make a reservation. Though we’re not saying that you should do that. The wines here aren’t spectacular, but it’s worth it to buy a bottle of the Bramble Bump and hang out underneath some leaves.
Even if Guardian Cellars didn’t have wine, we’d still come in for interior design inspiration. Everything inside is royal blue, black, and white, which looks really cool even if you’re wearing sunglasses indoors because you’re 750 ml deep and aren’t sure what time of day it is. It’s a fun place to drink when we get one of those random summer sprinklings and lawn-drinking isn’t an option. Spend as much time with your group here as you want, but you’ll know it’s time to leave when your friend starts talking to the Frank Sinatra mugshot on the wall.
You’ve heard of this one. And as a winemaking establishment, Chateau Ste. Michelle is pretty stuffy. It is a massive chateau, after all. But during the summer, their concert series is why you should be making a trip here. The artists that play on their huge back lawn range from the band Chicago to Ben Folds, and it makes for an ideal afternoon among a chill crowd listening to music, eating cheese and meat from the shop inside, and drinking their Midsummer’s White blend while spread out on the grass.
If your parents are in town and “heard all about this Woodinville place,” you’re going to want to really impress them. Delille is a pretty great bet for impressing anyone with very minimal effort, which is the preferred amount of effort to put forth for these sorts of situations. The back patio, covered with tables, umbrellas, and wine barrels, is crowd-pleasing and elegant at the same time. Just like the wine here (get the Roussanne).
If you want to be in the middle of the Hollywood District action, Patterson Cellars is a given. Even though it’s a packed house on the weekends, it’s not too difficult to secure a spot for a small group, as long as you’re cool with everyone else’s conversations around you sounding like an angry beehive if this is your fourth stop of the day. We’re fans of everything here except for the dessert wine, which kind of tastes like pancake syrup. If you need food in your stomach, Patterson shares a strip mall with Vivi Pizzeria, and they’ll deliver your pizza to you at the winery. That’s our kind of pizzeria.
Castillo De Feliciana is the best winery you probably didn’t know about. It’s never too crowded, so we like it as a first stop of the day to kick things off, or as a lowkey last stop if someone in your group had a little too much and is starting to look like one of those inflatable tube men at car dealerships. Castillo produces primarily Spanish-style wines, which means you’ll see types like Albariño, Tempranillo, and Garnacha. The outdoor space has plenty of room for your group on the first-floor patio or the second-floor balcony, where you get a great view of the street.
Maybe you’re a self-proclaimed wine buff, and the history of wine interests you more than seeing how many flights you can fit in an afternoon. In that case, make a trip to Adams Bench, a Cabernet-focused tasting room in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. It’s a winery owned by a former lawyer and is only open for four hours every Saturday, so plan accordingly. Listening to this guy introduce himself and talk grapes is educational, but cool - kind of like what you imagine The Magic Schoolbus to be if it were a real thing.
Drinking at Forgeron feels like drinking at a friend’s place. The whole winery is inside a little house that opens out onto a backyard loaded with picnic tables and umbrellas. The staff is also incredibly sweet here and will usually come to you to pour you the next wine on your tasting - don’t be surprised if you make friends with the table next to you, either.
Efeste is the winery that looks like an incognito brewery. From the tasting bar, you can get a glimpse into the wine-making operation, which is really just a bunch of big chrome tanks in a room (but is still very cool). Efeste is in a random part of town that has its own parking lot, so it’s not somewhere you’re just going to barge into on a whim - but it’s worth seeking out specifically because the wine is great. Especially the red blend and the Feral Sauvignon Blanc.
Wine tours with friends can quickly go south. Before you know it, a nice afternoon out turns into a dramatic saga with name-calling and fake tears. If you need a brief time-out from anyone whose attitude is currently being sponsored by one too many gulps of Sauvignon Blanc, Novelty Hill is a fantastic place to spread out and split up for a bit. Unlike other tasting rooms where you’re forced to share wine-scented oxygen with everyone you came with, this one has a really big patio with a variety of different seating arrangements to choose from. Sit on a sofa far away from other people, take a breather, and also continue to drink good wine. There are a bunch of snacks available to have with your tasting, too.
Columbia is a popular heavy hitter you might have read about in an airplane seatback pocket magazine or in your local grocery store’s newspaper insert. It’s in a massive building that looks more like a museum lobby than a tasting room, but the outdoor patio is an unfussy spot to set up shop for an hour to split a bottle and have lunch. They have a kitchen that serves things like flatbread pizzas and smoked salmon crostini. They’re pretty tasty and pair well with what you’re drinking (wine).
After Mark Ryan, Sparkman produces our favorite reds. Varietals like Petite Syrah and Cabernet Franc are smoky, bold, and taste like you should be sitting by a bonfire in some coastal beach town. The tasting room is small, a bit boring, and doesn’t have much to it other than a counter and a few quiet people scattered around, so do a tasting to decide which bottle you should bring home for a special occasion (or for the next time you plan on whipping up fireside s’mores).