Good news, local wine enthusiasts -- wine tasting no longer requires a trip to Woodinville. Technically, it hasn’t since 2009 when Northwest Cellars opened its tasting room in the Totem Lake warehouse district.
Owner Bob Delf has worked tirelessly for three years attempting to lure more wineries to the location. The effort paid off last weekend when Waving Tree Winery and Skylite Cellars joined in a grand opening celebration. There is talk that a fourth winery, Lauren Ashton, may put its chips in the Kirkland basket, as well.
The grand opening featured food from warehouse neighbors . The company’s restaurant license simplifies the process as the wineries plan to offer food on Friday nights and for special events.
Terrence Atkins, owner of Waving Tree Winery, strongly believes that working parents who stop in for a quick glass of wine and a bite to eat before heading home on Friday night will walk through their front doors with a better attitude. Cheers to that! Atkins anticipates live music at the tasting room and plans to turn on the game during football season.
Maryhill-based Waving Tree Winery grows many types of grapes on the 30-acre estate. The winery leans toward the Italian varietals like sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera. I was particularly impressed by the 2008 Sangiovese-Estate, which would be great with pizza or pasta.
“The winery is a family deal,” says Atkins, whose wife Evelyn does marketing and runs the wine club, daughter Kimiko manages the vineyard and son Takashi does “everything.”
Transitioning from Italian wine to big Washington reds, Skylite Cellars’ warm, inviting tasting room is sandwiched in between the other two wineries. Pouring behind the beautiful bar during the opening were the equally lovely mother and daughter team Cheryl Hodgins and Ashely Bruton.
Bruton calls her grandfather “the root” in the family wine business. The Walla Walla-based boutique winery only produces about 1,200 cases a year, much less than some of its so-called boutique counterparts in Woodinville that produce more like 3,000 cases. Skylite Cellars is “bunkmates” with Northwest Cellars in a Spokane tasting room called Nectar.
“This is a huge stride forward for us,” says Bruton of the winery’s move to Kirkland.
Guests seemed excited at the prospect of a warehouse tasting district closer to home saying, “It’ll be nice not to have to go as far as Woodinville.”
Bob and Kathleen Delf, owners of Northwest Cellars, are really the anchors of the new winery collection. Bob’s vision in both pursuing other wineries and providing the subleases necessary to make an easier transition are to be commended. On top of all that, the wine is good! While the winery does produce some single grape varieties like the petit verdot and the viognier, Northwest Cellars is best characterized by its blends. Bob is the blend-meister, winning a gold medal for the 2009 Cadenza and silver for the 2008 Intrigue at the SavorNW Wine Awards.
In addition to being joined by more wineries, Northwest Cellars debuted its recently expanded tasting room, nearly quadrupling the public capacity. Painted in appropriately chosen wine red paint, the larger space can be sectioned into cozy nooks using screens.
Each winery is featuring a different artist, who will be rotated out in coming months. The curious mixed media work of Flynn Bickley adorns the yellow walls of Waving Tree’s tasting room. Skylite Cellars is showing the wine-themed oil paintings of Everett-based Joy Bezanis.
“I love to do portrait work, but this is my bread and butter,” says Bezanis.
Photographer Richard Duval has partnered with Northwest Cellars to create a collection of custom artist labels -- scenes of vineyards and grapes -- in addition to the larger prints hanging in the event space.
The excellent grand opening turnout was encouraging to the fledgling Kirkland wine district. Winery owners connected with customers, attempting to build lasting relationships. “Y’all live around here, right?” inquired Hodgins of a group of tasters. “Good, you can keep coming back.”
In other Kirkland wine news, Zero One Vintners opened shop in downtown Kirkland near Anthony’s Homeport. New to Kirkland, Zero One has been making wine since 2006. Zero One’s location is not just a tasting room, but an actual producing winery. Owners Thomas and Kristin Vogele were Lake Washington High School sweethearts and chose Kirkland to be the winery’s new home with nostalgia guiding their way. The winery’s name should ring familiar to all you techie’s out there -- it is, indeed, an homage to the binary boom of our time.
The Kirkland tasting rooms are currently open Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Saturday, 12-6 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m. They are located at 11901 & 11909 124th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98034. The warehouses are tucked behind Chan’s Place across from the Ford dealership in Totem Lake.