Washington state’s wine industry is thriving, with wineries opening throughout the state at a breakneck pace. It now ranks second in the country for wine production, but claims no particular grape as its flagship varietal. That means Washington has something for every type of wine lover, whether they favor bold reds like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah or crisp whites like chardonnay and riesling.
But wine is always more enjoyable with some good food. Luckily, one of the country’s most dynamic dining scenes lies to the west of Washington’s wine country on the other side of the Cascades. You won’t find any grapevines in Seattle due to western Washington’s infamous rain shadow, but there are plenty of cutting-edge restaurants and award-winning chefs capitalizing on the city’s proximity to top-notch seafood and other fresh ingredients. Seattle’s restaurant options, ranging from nationally known dining destinations to neighborhood cafés, are the perfect complement to all that excellent wine. Plus, a huge selection of tasting rooms is only 30 minutes away in Woodinville. Here’s the ultimate wine lover’s guide to Seattle.
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Taste Wines at Charles Smith Jet City
Charles Smith, the rock star winemaker of Walla Walla in eastern Washington, now has an industrial chic tasting room to match his edgy aesthetic. The state-of-the-art facility opened last year inside a former Dr. Pepper bottling plant in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Guests can delve into Smith’s many different brands (Charles Smith Wines, K Vintners, Sixto, and more) while enjoying the views of the landing strip at Boeing Field. They’re also welcome to peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows and watch one of the country’s largest urban wineries at work.
Dine at The Whale Wins
Take a seat at this beloved restaurant from James Beard Award–winning chef Renee Erickson, owner of other acclaimed spots like The Walrus and the Carpenter, the newly opened Bateau, and more. This bright and airy restaurant in Wallingford is currently a can’t-miss stop for all food-loving visitors to Seattle thanks to exceptional local ingredients paired in unexpected combinations. Consider ordering the Walla Walla sweet onions with crème fraiche and cherries or Hama Hama clams with garlic, thyme, black beer, and pistou. The wine list also offers several reds from Washington that perfectly suit some of the meatier entrees. Start with a glass of rosé from Viola Wine Cellars paired with one of the many seafood-focused small plates, then try the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hightower Cellars paired with the côte de bœuf with cilantro, cashew, and fried lemon.
Explore the Breadth of Washington Wines at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar
Rumor has it that the imposing tower at this lofty wine bar contains more than 5,000 bottles. It should be no surprise, then, that this sprawling downtown spot helmed by wine director Chris Horn offers a truly impressive wine selection. Actually, it’s one of the largest local wine selections in the city, with more than 50 choices from Washington state alone and hundreds from around the globe. Relax in the luxurious atmosphere while trying a flight that explores the breadth of whites from the Pacific Northwest, or choose a flight of chardonnays, or Rhône- or Bordeaux-style blends that compare Washington wines with their European counterparts. Try the wines on their own or with selections of snacks like Gorgonzola-stuffed dates, beef tartare, or meat and cheese.
Take in Oysters, Rosé, and Views at Westward
Head to this nautical-themed eatery by restaurateur Josh Henderson on Lake Union for dishes highlighting the Pacific Northwest’s finest seafood. The menu is peppered with Mediterranean ingredients like harissa, fava beans, and preserved lemon. The wine list fittingly leans both European and domestic with both reds and whites from Washington state. Order a glass of Wysling rosé on tap from the Columbia Valley to go with a plate of local Hama Hama or Shigoku oysters while taking in one of the most spectacular views of the Seattle skyline.
Take a Day Trip to Woodinville
Less than 25 miles outside of Seattle find the leafy town of Woodinville, a small community known for being home to more than 100 wineries. Grapes aren’t grown here (they’re typically brought in from the eastern part of the state), but John Patterson, owner of Patterson Cellars, still considers it the jumping-off point for getting to know Washington wines. His winery focuses on approachable wines in the New World style. Also consider a stop at Lauren Ashton Cellars, where winemaker Kip Singh produces French-style wines made mostly with grapes from Red Mountain. Martedi Winery specializes in bold reds like sangiovese, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon made by brothers John and Joseph Miglino. Also find the legendary Herbfarm restaurant and winery Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.
Insider Tip: Rent a car and make the 30-minute drive on your own, or consider booking a tour with Evergreen Escapes to tour three wineries, taste the wines, and meet the winemakers.
Experience Neighborhood Wine Bars
Go to the aptly named Bottlehouse, a cozy combination wine bar and bottle shop in a bungalow in the residential Madrona neighborhood. Perhaps pick up a bottle of white from the Columbia or Yakima Valley as a souvenir to take home, or enjoy it on the shaded deck with a selection of meats and cheeses. Alternatively, go to Locöl Barley and Vine in Roxhill. There’s an extensive selection of Washington wines (think riesling, pinot gris, malbec, and more), but there are also excellent microbrews from Seattle if you need a little break from all the wine. Pop in for happy hour (3 pm–6 pm and 10 pm–2 am daily) and enjoy discounts on both wine and beer.
Stay in a Wine-Themed Hotel
Book a room at Hotel Vintage in Seattle’s downtown area to complete the wine-filled weekend. The newly redesigned boutique hotel is built around a Washington wine theme, and each room is dedicated to one of the region’s notable wineries. They’re all tastefully decorated in neutral colors and complemented with pops of purple and maroon, with original art made from wine corks. Their master sommelier personally selects wines for the hotel’s wine receptions hosted daily from 5 to 6 pm. There’s also an “Urban Wine Tasting” option for guests who don’t have time to venture to the wineries of Woodinville or eastern Washington. It includes a map of nearby tasting rooms around the city, transportation options like complimentary bikes, and a packed bag of salads for snacking between tastings.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Seattle Travel Guide