The Woodinville Winers Visit Gorman Winery

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

One of the things that we have learned about the various wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville is that there are many pleasant surprises awaiting you. The day we wandered into Gorman Winery (19501 144th Ave. NE, C500) we got one of those surprises.We were fortunate to run into Chris Gorman who was just heading out as we walked in. Chris is an energetic person with a lot of passion for both food and wine.  He even mentioned he would someday love to open an old-fashioned steak house in Woodinville.  Stay tuned for that.

Chris traveled extensively in his earlier years in Italy, Spain and Germany learning as much as he could about their wines.

Chris is not one to compromise on his wines.  He has a certain philosophy “that to make wine you must first understand wine” and that quality is the most important aspect of wine producing, no matter what.  He started his winery in 2002 with a goal of focusing on producing some of the best wines in the world by taking advantage of the great grapes that Washington state grows.  He is convinced that our state can compete with any region in the world, and his wines demonstrate that fact by consistently getting between 92 and 95 points.

The new Gorman tasting room is located at The Station in the Tourist District, right on the main roundabout.  The tasting room was well appointed with simple but inviting decor. They even had a pinball machine in the corner and an electric guitar hanging on the wall with a small amplifier next to it.  It was fitting that they were playing rock-and-roll music in the background (AC/DC as we recall).

Joan Dunlop was our host for the tasting and handled all of our detailed questions with ease.  We were able to taste a variety of his wines starting with “The Big Sissy Chardonnay 2010.” This is 100 percent Chardonnay from the Conner Lee Vineyard. It is barrel fermented in new French oak and was a great way to start the tasting. We then moved on to “Zachary’s Ladder,” a three grape blend with a bit of a grassy taste.  It is named after Chris’s son, who used to sit on the bottom rung of the ladder while Chris worked on the wine.  This was the best value wine we tasted of the day priced at $30.

However, our favorites of the day include “The Bully Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain 2008” (93 point WS) which is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Petite Verdot.  It is aged in 100 percent new French oak.  Also a favorite was “The Evil Twin, Red Mountain 2009” (95 points WS) which is 70 percent Syrah and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and also aged in 100 percent new French oak.  Our last favorite was “The Albatross” (95 points WS) which is 66 prcent Cabernet Sauvignon and 34 percent Petit Verdot.  It had earthy overtones with a hint of licorice.  You know you are in a quality tasting room when you have three “favorites.”   All of these wines are, as you would expect, made in limited quantities.

Gorman Winery should be on everyone’s list when tasting wines in Woodinville.  Their wines run on the upper end of pricing (from $30 to $80) but are well worth it.

The Woodinville Winers Visit Naches Heights

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

On a sunny spring weekend, the Winers decided to make a trip to Yakima to visit Naches Heights, which is both a new winery ( and Washington state’s latest American Viticultural Area (AVA).

What is an AVA you ask? An AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Naches Heights was officially recognized in January of 2012 and is Washington state’s 12th AVA. Currently just over 37 acres of wine grapes are planted in the new AVA, making it the smallest planted wine region in the state.

Both the winery and the AVA were created by Phil and Barbara Cline.  Phil (aka “The Big Kahuna”) was born and raised on the Heights, and his family had always farmed the land around his home. Barbara has been Phil’s better half now for over 25 years, also coming from Yakima.  Barbara is the architect responsible for the striking Naches Heights tasting room.

The first thing you notice when approaching Naches heights is the “green” theme, on which Phil passionately educated us. Naches Heights is located on an elevated geologic formation, made of rich volcanic soil, which reduces winter damage to vineyards and is ideal for sustainable farming. All seven vineyards in Naches Heights grow their grapes using organic, biodynamic or LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certification program practices, making Naches Heights Washington state’s first exclusively sustainable AVA.  In addition, the winery building that Barbara designed is green- certified with specifications such as radiant floors and solar/wind energy.

Phil started us off with three white wines, which we were especially interested in tasting as they were recommended by our favorite Woodinville winemaker before the trip.

Naches makes a Pinot Gris, a Riesling and a white blend called Can Can.  Our favorite was the Riesling, which was not overly sweet and had aromas of lime, jasmine and green apple.

We then moved on to the Reds, including a Cabernet Franc, a Syrah and a red blend called Two Dancers (what is with the dancing theme anyway?). Our favorite of the reds was the Syrah (their fifth release) which had dark berry flavors combined with a hint of spicy pepper.

After buying some wine, we took in the incredible surroundings of Naches heights from the pergola near the vineyard and listened to the sounds of four onsite waterfalls. Views of the rolling hills surrounding the area are incredible and we recommend that you consider making this a picnic stop if you are ever in the area.  Naches Heights would also make a great location for an event and hosts many weddings throughout the year.

On a side note, if you are a golfer, consider making a stop at Apple Tree Resort ( as well.

We played this course the following day and feel compelled to mention its striking landscaping carved out of apple and cherry orchards.  You can’t get much better than a sunny weekend of wine tasting and golf.

Our experience at Naches Heights was the best in the Yakima area. The wines, the people and the tasting room are all very inviting. Prices range from $13 to $28. The tasting room is open from Thursday through Monday and on Tuesday/Wednesday by appointment.

The Woodinville Winers visit Project V

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

During one of our “research” days, we ventured into Project V Distillery & Sausage Company, one of five distilleries that now call Woodinville home.

We were checking out wineries in the north warehouse area and saw their sign which intrigued us. After all, how often do you see a distillery and sausage company? Entering Project V is like entering a time warp.

The distillery is decorated with all kinds of vintage items, including a 1960’s Volkswagen bus in the middle of the distillery.

You could spend all day taking in the items that adorn the walls of this place.

Equally striking is the homemade still in the back of the building, which looks like something that Willy Wonka would operate.

This still is an evolution of many years of tinkering while perfecting their art of making spirits.

Pipes and valves surround stills and boilers in an almost beautiful example of distilling chaos.

It was surprisingly interesting how they produce their vodka and the art of the process.

The company is the brainchild of Joe and Anita Sprauer who grow winter wheat on their family farm.

Wheat has been grown on their fields just outside Winthrop, Wash., continuously since 1889 and is “the” optimum ingredient for their premium vodka.

We were greeted by Mo, who gave us the 10-cent tour of the place and let us taste the vodka.

Project V offers four different vodkas, namely their Single Silo (80 proof), Distiller’s Cut (100 proof), Double Silo (160 proof) and Chai Infusion.

At these proofs, we only tried a small sip of each, but were pleasantly surprised.Though these vodkas got stronger per taste it was a complete 180-degree turn-around from tasting wine.

The most interesting was the Double Silo, which with only one sip warmed us up on the cold day we were visiting.

Also of note is the sausage they make, which is a nice complement to the vodka.  In Project V fashion, the ingredients are locally sourced and the sausage is handmade.

All of the processes and stills in the building were designed from the ground up by hand.

This makes for truly handcrafted vodka, including grinding the grain, producing the mash and hand bottling each bottle. The personal attention to detail means that there is a fair amount of passion contained in each bottle. Project V is located at 19495 144th Ave. NE, #A-130, Woodinville.

The tasting room is open Fridays from 4 - 7 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday from noon - 5 p.m.  Tastings and distillery tours are free of charge.

The Woodinville Winers visit Guardian Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

On this cloudy day we ventured into Guardian Cellars not knowing what to expect. Our first impression walking through the door was this is our kind of place.  The simple but comfortable surroundings were perfect for wine tasting — not too pretentious yet sleek in design, roomy with comfortable tables and chairs. This is a great place to enjoy some outstanding wine with your friends. There was also plenty of cheese and crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings.

We were warmly greeted by the winemaker Jerry Riener along with his wife and co-owner Jennifer.  While both Jerry and Jennifer were quite busy tending to all the people that came in for a taste, they made us feel as if we were the only ones there — seamlessly managing to give time, attention and an education of their wines to everyone.

The story behind Guardian Cellars is quite interesting. Jerry is a winemaker with a degree in chemistry and met Jennifer while she was a reporter at the Seattle Times (she used to write articles about Jerry).  Together, they created a winery with a theme  — see if you can figure it out as you read the rest of this column.

Jerry has actually been making wine for quite some time.  He started out in 1999 volunteering at Matthews Cellars. A few years later he began working with his friend Mark Ryan of Mark Ryan Winery. Jerry had the good fortune to work with this seasoned and excellent wine- maker who helped Jerry and Jennifer get their winery going through his encouragement and assistance. Jerry started making his own label in 2004.  Serious in their endeavor, much of the equipment they use in the production of Guardian wines is the same caliber of equipment they use in many Napa Valley wineries. Jerry and Jennifer felt that paying a little more up front for equipment would mean they wouldn’t have to upgrade as they grew their winery.  And they are certainly growing.

We started our tasting with the 2009 “Chalk Line” which is a blend of 34 percent Cabernet, 24 percent Merlot, 22 percent Syrah and 20 percent Cabernet Franc.  Next up was the 2009 “The Wanted” which is a blend of 64 percent Cabernet and 36 percent Cabernet Franc, all from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. We also had a chance to taste their Red Mountain wines,  the 2008 “Rookie” which is a 71 percent Cabernet and 29 percent Cabernet Franc and the 2008 “The Alibi” which is 60 percent Cabernet and 40 percent Merlot – both were fabulous. But the real highlight for us was the 2009 “Informant,” which is a Syrah that is co-fermented with 4 percent Viognier that helps bring out the deep red color of this spectacular wine. This is one of the best Syrahs we have ever tried, and it is obvious why it was honored at this year’s Golden Grape awards. All of these wines far exceeded our expectations and were in our opinion well worth their price.

Guardian grapes come mostly from Stillwater Creek and Red Mountain but they do source their grapes from a variety of other vineyards as well.

What we liked the most about Guardian is how they do not rush their wine to market.  Many of their wines age as much as 21 months in the barrel and then another 18 months in the bottle before they become available, which is about a year later than many other producers.

By now, you have probably caught on to a common theme with all Guardian Cellars cleverly named wines.  Jerry is also a full time police officer with the Lynnwood Police Department and all of the wines we tasted were named after something related to law enforcement.

Because their wines are not mass produced they sell out quickly, and after having the chance to taste them, we know why.  We made sure to purchase a few bottles while we had the chance.

The Woodinville Winers visit Woodinville Wine Cellars

  • Written by Mike McClure and Terry Morse

Woodinville Wine Cellars ( has a beautiful location in downtown Woodinville, which is perfect for wine tasting both indoors and outdoors on a nice day.  As you approach the building, you immediately notice that this is a tasting room, a showroom, and a full production winery. Inside you will find wine barrels, a tasting bar and tile floors decorated in a red and gold color scheme.  You will also notice some awesome stoves, imported from France, as this is also home to Art Culinaire, the exclusive distributor of Lacanche Ranges (

We were greeted by Joscelyn Jackson, who poured us five wines. The first was their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, which had tastes of grapefruit. We then tried the 2009 Little Bear Creek, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.  It received 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast. Next we tried the 2009 Syrah with grapes from Stillwater Creek which is known for quality grapes.  We both thought this Syrah would be our favorite, but we still had two wines to go.

We then tried the 2008 Indomitable – this is the wine that recently won the Golden Grape award in the Cabernet Sauvignon category that we wrote about in an earlier column. It is aged 21 months in 100 percent new French Oak and won’t be lasting long as only 220 cases were produced which is common for many of the smaller wineries.  It is a fruit forward wine with aromas of blueberry and dark chocolate.  As it turned out, there is a reason for the Golden Grape award and this wine quickly became our new favorite for the day.

We rounded out the tasting with the 2009 GSM, which stands for Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre. This wine is deep purple in color and has tastes of blackberry, cherries and a dusting of cocoa. At only 100 cases, it won’t last long either.

Joscelyn also gave us a quick tour of the production facilities where we ran into the winemaker, Sean Boyd. Sean left home at age 20 to learn the craft of winemaking. His travels led him all over the world to leading viticulture areas such as Australia, Portugal, Spain and New Zealand where he worked for several prominent wineries. Sean joined the Woodinville Wine Cellars family in 2002 and has been making an impact on Woodinville wines ever since.

The coolest thing about Woodinville Wine Cellars is their family-centric vision to “bring your family back to the dinner table” as stated by founder Stan Barrett. In the culture of rural France, wine is essential to everyday living — with food being the adventure. While in France, friends would often exclaim, “eating is the main event, not something we do prior to an event.” This is why Woodinville Wine Cellars combines their fine wines with Lacanche Ranges in one location.

Woodinville Wine Cellars has one of the best atmospheres around for a small winery.