Winemakers, brewers, distillers go head-to-head at Woodinville triathlon

  • Written by Emily Hamann

Silliness abounds at the Woodinville Wine Country Triathlon, which brings all the area’s breweries, distilleries and wineries together — and pits them against one another in a friendly competition.

After a hiatus of a few years, the triathlon is back on, set for Aug. 19. Woodinville Wine Country has taken over organizing it. More than 20 teams have signed up to compete.

triathlon066John Patterson (right) and his assistant compete in the first Winemakers triathlon July 22, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Woodinville Wine Country)

It’s a relay triathlon, and each team represents a different local winery, brewery or distillery. It starts at Adventura ropes course. The last leg of the race, paddling up the Sammamish Slough to the finish line back at Adventura, has to be done by the head brewer, distiller or winemaker.

“The community aspect of this is everything,” says John Bigelow, the owner and winemaker at JM Cellars. He started the triathlon around five years ago, to get the whole Woodinville wine country community together and raise some money for charity.

“It was a really great grassroots beginning,” he said. The first triathlon, some people dressed up. Now there’s a prize given for the best costume. Participants have been known to compete dressed as giant grapes, or wearing grass skirts and coconut bikinis.

“It’s hysterical,” Bigelow said.

For spectators, tickets are $75, which includes an event t-shirt, entrance to the after party, and meal and drink tickets.
Proceeds this year go to the Goodtimes Project, which funds Camp Goodtimes, a camp for cancer patients, survivors and siblings in Western Washington and Alaska.

“It’s a great charity out of the Seattle area,” Bigelow said. “It just gives the children the chance to be around other kids who understand their situation.” Bigelow has been working with the charity for a number of years.

Some of the kids from the camp will be at the triathlon.

“It’s going to be a blast,” he said.

Another prize that’s given out is for the best boat. They invented that prize after John Patterson of Patterson Cellars showed up the first year with a raft made out of a wine barrel, which “was the slowest vehicle you could possibly have,” Bigelow said.

Now every year Patterson builds some kind of watercraft out of wine barrels, and he always comes in last or almost last, he said. Hopefully not this year, though.

“This year I’m going to try making [the boat] more hydrodynamic,” he said. He goes all out on the boat, but his team doesn’t dress up like some of the other teams.

“I will not subject my staff to that,” he joked.  

This year spectators can get in on the fun too. For an extra $5, they get a squirt gun and can blast the participants.
“We’ve decided that cheating is actually encouraged in the event,” Bigelow said, “but if you get caught you have to go to jail.” “Jail” is a special box where cheaters have to take a timeout, while getting squirted with water guns by spectators.

After the race, the party heads to Redhook Brewery for the after party, with live music, food, drinks and more fun.  

“It’s just going to be a big carnival kind of atmosphere,” Bigelow said.

Visit woodinvillewine for more information, or purchase tickets at

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