The Woodinville Insider: Putting Her Palate to the Test

  • Written by Woodinville Wine Country

The abundance of fine wines now produced and purveyed in Woodinville has reached a level that’s both impressive and dizzying. It’s a deliciously enviable quandary that cries out for a helpful guide. And while wine country is never short of self-ordained connoisseurs sharing their critiques, few wine enthusiasts have the hard-earned experience and credentials to be called a true expert. It’s only fitting that Willows Lodge, Woodinville’s gold-rated Condé Nast resort, should be home to one of the best. Cara De Lavallade, the wine director for Willows and its award-winning Barking Frog restaurant, possesses a truly educated palate that recently earned its stripes the hard way.


Just back from September’s three-day Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas exam in Philadelphia, Cara proved her exceptional wine knowledge and skill by achieving the level of Advanced Sommelier. This prestigious test is the third in a series of four increasingly challenging examinations demanded by the Court. Candidates for the Advanced Sommelier exam typically have many years invested in both wine study and beverage industry experience. Thousands of wine professionals attempt the exams each year, but few possess the expert understanding of wine theory, beverage service and tasting methodology to pass. After preparing for nearly two years, Cara passed on her first sitting — three or four attempts is more the norm. She was one of only eight out of 61 candidates in her group to receive the Advanced Sommelier certification.

In addition to this latest achievement and her sommelier experience in the U.S. and abroad, Cara holds a French Wine Scholar certification and an Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. What’s next? The Master Sommelier certification, of course. Just 214 wine professionals (and few women) in the world have achieved this elite distinction, but there’s little doubt that Cara will one day be joining them. Woodinville, Willows Lodge and The Barking Frog will certainly give her plenty of opportunities to further her skills. Next time you’re looking for an expert wine opinion, forget Robert Parker and drop by Willows to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of one of Woodinville’s most educated palates.

Put yours to the test with our 2016 Passport to Woodinville that features 64 of our wineries, available at your area Costco this season for a special introductory price.

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