Winemaking might be dominated by men, but Woodinville’s wine scene isn’t an all boy’s club.
Is winemaking still a male-dominated industry? If so, it wasn’t a deterrent for Jody Elsom of Elsom Cellars when she was considering a career change. In fact, she hadn’t even given the notion any thought until she was asked about it during an interview after she’d already become a winemaker.
“Coming from the construction industry, the first time I was asked that I was like, ‘Really? It’s not as much as the construction industry,’” Jody said.
It was amid the chaos of working as a project manager for a general contractor during the dot-com boom that Jody began to reevaluate what she was doing. During work-related trips that she gradually found a passion for something new.
“I had been working for a general contractor and their headquarters were down in the Bay Area, so I was frequently going down to San Francisco, taking long trips up to Napa, Sonoma every time I could and just kind of really became engaged in the [wine] industry,” she said.
Jody found particular pleasure in seeking out the small wineries and taking in the wine tasting experience as a tourist would. Thoughts of the serenity she found looking out at the picturesque vistas and soaking up the atmosphere of California’s wine country lingered after she returned to her frenetic life in Washington.
Becoming a winemaker and opening her own winery didn’t immediately spring into Jody’s mind when she began thinking about her next move, though it turns out the answer was right at her fingertips.
“I’d always sit there with my glass of wine trying to figure out ‘Well, what do I want to do?’ and that whole vision of just that tranquility, peace, living off the land and making something, that’s what I want, and to create that experience for people,” she said.
And so Jody began making wine in her basement and eventually moved her operation to a warehouse space in South Seattle with a few classmates she met when she went through Washington State University’s Enology Certificate Program. Living in West Seattle and establishing herself among the South Seattle artisan winemakers, it wasn’t until the birth of her first child that Jody decided to return to her hometown of Woodinville.
“The biggest draw honestly with Woodinville was the family aspect of it, just because I love the history I have here," she said. "My kids are going to go to the same schools I went to. Grandparents live here, all my relatives, the family; everybody’s here. So it’s nice to be home."
The benefits of Woodinville are not restricted to the advantages she sees in raising her children here. Jody watched the local wine industry grow from the time Chateau Ste. Michelle was pretty much the only game in town.
“But then you look at [Woodinville] from a winery perspective and there are such well respected winemakers that are here and it’s nice to be a part of that and have that to draw from and be part of that community,” she added.
She credits her experience working in construction with her ability to manage the more chaotic details of winemaking, in particular the logistics of getting all the grapes from Eastern Washington to Woodinville. One welcome noticeable difference from her previous colleagues, is the support she finds in Woodinville's wine community.
“I’m still new in this location so I’m just starting to figure out who’s who and what’s going on here but everyone is so collaborative which is such a far cry from being in the construction industry,” she said.
Elsom Cellars is currently located in the industrial district (that’s right, for those keeping track, I am now mentioning a third district) and actively looking for a larger space. After a year and a half at the current location, Jody has increased her production of red wines to almost 2000 cases, which is the amount she feels she can make and still be able to tell you what is going on in each barrel.
Elsom Cellars also needs enough space for Jody to continue the Vineyard Table, the chef or winemaker dinner events Elsom Cellars hosts.
“When I first started the winery the real premise behind it was to make a wine that is going to be served at a great meal, it’s all part of that food and wine experience. So as I had the production underway the next step was to find a place to share the wine and so I created the table as a place that would offer that,” she said.
While the barrels from her largest production to date currently take up most of the available floor space in the winery, the Vineyard Table sits in storage, waiting to provide the foundation for a delectable food and wine experience once more.
In the meantime, check out the listings below; Elsom Cellars is the featured winery at this coming Wine Wednesday hosted at Ristorante Italianissimo.
Here’s Woodinville Patch’s Guide to this week’s events, May 13 – May 19
- Covington Cellars, cabernet sauvignon, rosé
- Smasne Cellars, 2010 Farm Girl rosé
Friday, May 13
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, asks you to channel your inner Rambo, don your best camouflage and come out for its Camo Party, a night of wine and dancing with DJ Darin Hanson from 7:30 – 10:30 p.m. Tickets to the party are $10 and can be purchased online. Bottle of Matthews wine goes to Best Dressed.
Saturday, May 14
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, welcomes Kris Brown of Green Apple Catering as host of this month’s Appetizer Cooking Class at the Matthews Estate House from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. Visit the website for menu details and to reserve your spot. This class costs $35 and includes wine pairings.
Sunday, May 15
- , 14111 NE 145th Street, hosts Wine 101 with Mary Kae Lindsey in the Chateau Banquet Room from 1 – 3 p.m. Tickets cost $35 and are available online.
Thursday, May 19
- , 14450 Woodinville Redmond Rd, is calling all would-be painters and wine lovers alike to attend its Corks and Canvas event. Whatever your proficiency with a paintbrush, you are bound to enjoy this evening of step-by-step instruction and wine tasting. Painting begins at 6:45 p.m.; tickets are $45 and can be purchased in advance online or with cash at the door.
- 13 Warehouse Wineries and Project V Distillery are participating in May’s Third Thursday Wine Walk from 4 – 8 p.m. Bring your own glass and visit the Warehouse district for an afternoon or evening (or both!) of wine tasting and more. This month you’ll get to tour the cellars, taste from the barrels and sample some wine debuts. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the ticket tent the day of the wine walk until 7 p.m. The ticket tent is located at 19501 144th Ave NE, between buildings B and C.
Tasting Room Happenings
- is offering their complete portfolio of winery-only offerings for tasting during the month of May. Wednesday – Sunday noon – 5 p.m.
- has set up picnic tables on the lawn outside the tasting room and invites you to bring your own picnic or enjoy a gourmet hot dog or sausage available for purchase from G & G Hot Dogs on Saturday and Sunday the first three weeks of May.
Friday, May 13
- , 14465 Woodinville-Redmond Road, hosts a reception from 5 – 7 p.m.for you to meet the artists behind Vinoture, stylish and functional furniture made from reclaimed wine casks. The pieces will be on display through Saturday.
Saturday, May 14
- , 19501 144th Avenue NW, Suite D300, is treating your sweet tooth by pairing blackberry truffles with the 2005 merlot, chili pepper truffles with the 2005 AVW blend and vanilla wafers with the 2008 Harmony, a voignier/dry riesling blend. Passports welcome all month, come by between 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
- , 18580 142nd Ave NE, is releasing its cabernet sauvignon and rosé this weekend. Come to the tasting room on Saturday and Sunday noon – 5 p.m. and enjoy the new releases along with the culinary pairings. The cost for this event is $10; Wine Club Members receive complimentary entry.
- , 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite D700, is offering free bistro fare in the tasting room.
- , 15810 NE 136th Place, is offering a discount of 15% when you bring your own six-bottle carry case to fill from noon – 4 p.m.
- Smasne Cellars, 19495 144th AVE NE, Suite B240, is celebrating the release of the 2010 Farm Girl rosé from noon – 6 p.m. Stop by and pick up this new release and the 2009 White wine at the sale price of $13.
Wednesday, May 18
- , 14111 NE 145th Street, invites you to celebrate spring with wine and cheese in the wine shop from 5 – 7 p.m. The fee for this event is $5.
- , 14421 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE, will be pouring the 2006 Grand Ciel cabernet sauvignon and the winemaker will be on hand during this Afternoon with the Winemaker from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Carriage House Tasting Room.
- , 15608 NE Woodinville-Duvall Pl, hosts its weekly Wine Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. This week Elsom Cellars is featured and will be pouring four red wines, one of which is unreleased. $15 gets you wine and appetizers.