The Woodinville Winers visit Zerba Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

Did you know we now have Oregon wineries right here in Woodinville?  If not, let us introduce you to one of them — Zerba Cellars (

Even though the Zerba vineyards are located in the Walla Walla Valley, this valley transcends the Washington-Oregon border, and the Zerba vineyards are all located south of the border, officially making Zerba an Oregon winery.

The Jon Cockburn Ranch Vineyard is located in the southeast corner of the valley, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Dad’s Vineyard is located in the “Touchet Beds,” near the state line, and the Winesap Road Vineyard is located in the rocky floodplain of the Walla Walla River.

Zerba Cellars is the product of Cecil and Marilyn Zerba, whose family’s roots can be traced to the Walla Walla Valley back as far as the 1850s.  When Cecil and Marilyn were married in September 1981, they established Zerba Gardens, a local nursery producing quality plants and produce. Over the next 20 years, Zerba Gardens grew into one of the valley’s most successful and trusted local nurseries.  In 2001 Cecil and Marilyn Zerba left the nursery business and founded Winesap Vineyards.  The vineyards are all certified sustainable by LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), IOBC (International Organization for Biological Control) and Salmon Safe.

Greeting us was Mike who poured us two whites and three reds. The standout in the white category was the 2001 Rousanne which was nicely balanced.  Two of the red wines stood out for us — the 2008 Merlot and the 2008 Syrah. The Merlot (which contains 20% Cab) showcases grapes from the ancient rocky floodplain of the Walla Walla River and from the valley hillsides.  It has an exotic nose featuring mint, red cherries, anise and hints of earthiness and light tobacco.  The Syrah was fruit-forward with a nice finish.

We ended our tasting with a bonus wine (Mike must have liked us) — a late harvest red blend of 67% Syrah, 33% Barbera, and a kiss of 2008 Semillon Ice Wine. This was almost like drinking a light Port wine and made for a really interesting close to our tasting. It is apparent to us why Zerba was named 2011 Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest and why a friend of ours insisted that we had to try it.

Most Zerba wines are in the $20-$30 price range, with our favorite Merlot and Syrah being $30. The tasting room is located at the Apple Farm development on the northwest corner of the main roundabout in the Woodinville Tourist District.

They are open from 12-5 p.m. on Sunday – Tuesday and 11-6 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.

The Woodinville Winers visit Mark Ryan Winery

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

If you know the Woodinville wine scene, then you probably know the name Mark Ryan Winery.

The winery was started in 1999 with the goal of making the best wines in Washington state.  The winery settled in the Woodinville area in 2003 and largely due to Mark’s personality (and great wines), made a quick impact on Woodinville Wine Country.

Mark quickly linked up with five other high-quality wineries (Baer, Darby, Gorman, Guardian and Sparkman) and dubbed themselves the “Grape Killers.”

Speaking of funny names, most of Mark’s wine names originate from Pearl Jam songs. Welcome to the whacky world of Mark Ryan.

Mark Ryan’s tasting room is located in the north outbuildings of the Hollywood Schoolhouse in the Tourist District. It is a funky space, with concrete floors, walls of wine and outside seating for those sunny days.  To bring the outside in, the front wall is mostly garage doors which can be opened on nice days to make one big wine tasting space. One of his trademarks is that he usually keeps some type of vintage motorcycle in the tasting room.  In short, it’s all Mark in character.

We were greeted by Nate Test who poured us five wines.

The first was the 2011 Voignier, which has grapes sourced from Red Willow, one of the very first vineyards in Washington state. We then moved on to Wild Eyed which is 100% Syrah which was spicy with hints of mocha and vanilla. We decided it was “a delicious party in your glass.”

The last three wines were all blends, namely The Dissident, Long Haul and Dead Horse. All were outstanding and received nines and tens on our own personal palette (this doesn’t happen very often with The Winers).

There is a reason that Mark was named the 2011 winemaker of the year and that Paul Gregutt of The Wine Enthusiast named Mark Ryan Winery one of the new “Cult Wineries” of Washington state.

So who is this Mark Ryan character? Actually, his name is Mark McNeilly, but he thought using his middle name for the winery sounded better.  We asked Nate for his favorite story and he chuckled that Mark was well known for being a transient winemaker when he arrived in Woodinville, meaning that the first vintages of Long Haul and Dead Horse were produced, crushed and pressed in garages of friends and family.  When he ran out of garages, he was finally forced to rent a warehouse so that he could actually live with the wine.

We also have a Mark story which we directly experienced ourselves when our good friend Lance Baer tragically passed away five years ago at age 39. It was Mark McNeilly who was one of the first to volunteer his time to look after the Baer Winery vintage that Lance had aging in barrels.  That is who this Mark McNeilly character really is.  He combines great wine with an overdose of personality and passion, and the industry is better off for it.

If you would like to get to know Mark better, stop by his tasting room, which is open from noon-5 p.m. seven days a week.  The address is 14810 NE 145th Street Building A-1 in Woodinville.  Tastings are $10 and his wines are priced from $28 to $52. Don’t get out of there without meeting Mark — as you too will be better off for it.

The Woodinville Winers visit Patterson Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

Patterson Cellars is located in the remodeled Chevron gas station (now called “The Station”) in the Tourist District of Woodinville.  John Patterson, who has been in the wine making business for over 20 years, owns this venture with his father Jack.

John started out working for Quilceda Creek, one of Washington’s premium wineries, and in 2000 started doing his own production in Monroe under the name of Washington Wine Company.  Washington Wine had their first release in 2003, and the Patterson Cellars label and winery was started in 2005.

The tasting room in this newly renovated facility was well appointed but at the same time simple in décor, which is perfect for wine tasting and mingling with friends.  The floors are concrete and garage doors open to the outside area. The building has been enhanced with exterior stone cladding, and a water feature greets you at the main roundabout.

An exterior deck makes for an inviting space on a nice day where they have plenty of extra seating.

We had a chance to try several varieties of their self described “New World” wines. The term New World wine is used quite literally to describe wines coming from New World wine producing countries, such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa or Argentina.

New World wines are typically more “fruity” (or fruit forward) and in general more varietal driven. Jarod, who happened to serve us this day, helped us through the tasting giving us background and tasting notes on each wine we tried.

The 2011 Forbidden White was a very good blend of several grapes, including Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Voignier. It was one of those whites that the longer you try it the more you like it. Our favorite red was the 2008 BDX, Bordeaux Blend, with a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc and 11% Merlot, all from the Columbia Valley. It had a deep red color with hints of eucalyptus, wild violets, Asian spice and boysenberry on the nose. The longer we let it sit in our glasses, the better it tasted (of course that could have been the great atmosphere affecting our experience as well).

One thing we learned about Patterson is that they have always integrated their customers into the details.  Wine club members and regulars play a big role in this business from helping in the design of the tasting room to assisting in the wine making process. If you are interested in being a volunteer and crushing a few grapes, Patterson may be the winery for you. Expect to have fun and get dirty.

Patterson Cellars had a wide variety of wine to taste, ranging from white blends to Rose to big bold reds. Most of their whites range from $13 to $20 and the red from $15-32.  You can visit tasting room daily from 12-5 at 14505 148th Ave. NE, Woodinville.


The Woodinville Winers visit Garrison Creek Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

The first time we stopped by Garrison Creek Cellars ( in Walla Walla we were immediately surprised by the attention to detail at both the vineyard and the winery itself.  The second time we visited it we brought some friends from Spokane who had the same initial impression that we did.

This unique well maintained boutique winery with impeccable vineyards is a must when visiting this part of the state.

This winery started based on a friendship of three young boys (Michael Murr, David March and Larry Harding) that goes back many years when they actually worked as farm hands in the 50s and 60s on the very land their winery is on today.

During our two visits David not only inspired us with his tales of the past but also let us sample right out of the barrel of what’s to come.

The winery itself is the replica of a barn that actually exists in Oregon. This is no ordinary barn.  This is a high- end facility built with a lot of planning, craftsmanship and care.

There are sections built with timbers that are more than 150 years old.  The barn alone is worth the trip and you really need to see it in person to understand its significance (photos are on their website).

Garrison Creek grapes come from the “Les Collines” vineyard in Walla Walla and experiencing them in person underscores the winery’s deep commitment to excellence.  David was clear that they want to have full control over their grapes and do what is necessary to produce the best grapes in the state.  David said they sell a majority of their grapes to other wine makers but keep the best of the best of those grapes for their own wines.

Garrison Creek Cellars is a boutique winery making only a limited number of cases per variety each year.

Their wines are slow to arrive to market as they will not release anything before its time. We tasted and bought the now sold out 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (only 392 cases) and the sold out 2007 Zinfandel (only 150 cases).

The 2006 Cabernet was distinguished by an early, hot summer allowing the grapes to reach full ripeness by mid-October. After 10 days of primary fermentation, they pressed the new wine off the grape skins into new French oak barrels to begin the long, slow aging process. The wine was in the barrels for 31 months before being bottle aged for another 30 months before release.  This wine was nothing less than fabulous.

The 2007 Zinfandel had 19 months in the barrel and another 18 months of bottle aging before it was released. It was one of the best Washington Zinfandels have ever tried.

Garrison Creek Cellars might be one of the many newer wineries in the state, but they are quickly becoming one of the premier wineries in Washington as well.  Another unique aspect to Garrison Creek is that David makes an incredible pate that we enjoyed while tasting some of their fabulous wines.

Tastings are by private tour or appointment only.  You can arrange a tasting or tour by contacting David March by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Tastings are $10 each and are applied toward any purchase of wine.  Their wines run $45 and up but are well worth it.

They also offer some of their earlier library editions for those who missed out on their original release.

October is Arts Crush month

  • Written by Deborah Stone
It’s official. Arts Crush, the annual month-long festival of exciting and innovative arts events, has begun.  In its third year, the festival offers over 150 activities representing all disciplines of the arts (music, visual art, literature, dance and theater) at dozens of venues around Puget Sound.

More than 130 arts groups are represented including Book-It-Theatre, Seattle Storytellers’ Guild, Splinter Dance Company, Seattle Pro Musica, UMO, Global Heat, Brownbox Theatre, Pacific Play Company, Theatre Puget Sound, The Mahogany Project, Frye Art Museum, Seattle Girls’ Choir, Ottoman Belly Dance, Words of Welcoming Salmon Homecoming Project, Taproot Theatre Company and many more.

They will be producing once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated events that are outside of the standard gallery shows, theatre performances and dance recitals.

“We chose these activities based on specific criteria,” says Sam Read, Arts Crush director and deputy director of Theatre Puget Sound, the producing organization for the festival.

“They had to involve a collaborative effort between two or more entities, engage the community in a unique manner and, of course, be highly innovative and unique.”

The festival will offer a series of free feature events, pay-what-you-can performances, two-for-one date night ticketed shows and a number of free, ticketed activities that will be available via a ticket lottery. There’s even a special Kid Crush, with dozens of youth/family-oriented programs featuring hands-on workshops, demos, participatory performances and original productions.

“We have something for everyone,” adds Read, “hundreds of creative arts adventures that have been developed with the aim of reawakening the senses.”

Arts Crush evolved from Live Theater Week, an event geared toward celebrating Seattle-area drama.

“It was very successful,” comments Read, “but we began to get all sorts of arts organizations that wanted to participate. After five years, we ended Live Theater Week and launched Arts Crush with the intent to increase awareness and public involvement with the incredible arts scene we have in this region.”

Last year, over 12,000 enthusiastic “Arts Crushers” participated in the festival, up from 10,000 the first year.

The response, according to Read, was overwhelmingly positive.

“People eat it up,” he says. “They relish the experience of doing something different, like watching a play being performed in a hotel bedroom, for example, or seeing acrobats in the windows of a downtown business.”

He adds, “I think it’s more about the out-of-the-box experience than the actual content of the performance that gets them excited.”

Other interesting locales for the events include the kitchen of the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, Third Place Books, the streets of Seattle’s International District, Northwest African American Museum, Epiphany Parish, Des Moines Library and Freeway Park. Venues from Bellingham to Olympia are involved, allowing people all over the region to participate.

“This is an all-encompassing festival,” remarks Read, “and as it grows, the arts community is getting hooked on connecting with the public in new and different ways. Organizations are seeing the need to get in touch with our communities, as they are beginning to see the audience, not as passive viewers, but more as active collaborators. I think in the long term this will have an impact on audience engagement and hopefully ticket sales.”

Arts Crush runs through the month of October. For more information: