Former Woodinville residents Michelle and David Dufenhorst’s love for food and wine has taken them on tours across Europe, led them to plant their own vineyards in Eastern Washington, and now it has landed them back in Woodinville.
The couple is set to open a new tasting room for Rocky Pond Estate Winery on Oct. 16. Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, the tasting room will be only open to reservations of small groups.
The tasting room is located in Woodin Creek Village at 1375 NE Village Square Dr., Suite 1001 and will be open 1-7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
The couple hadn’t planned on hosting the venue’s grand opening during a pandemic, but they’re still optimistic about the future.
“At the end of the day, we just decided to go for it,” David Dufenhorst said. “We’re going to get out of COVID.”
Although its operations are currently at a reduced capacity following state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the winery is still aiming for an “elevated experience” that focuses just as much on the food as it does the wine, according to Marcy Lemieux, Rocky Pond director of sales and marketing.
Full entrees won’t be available, but hearty appetizers, charcuterie and small plate pairings will be served by Chef Doug Setinker.
In addition to creating bites that pair perfectly with the wine, Setinker hopes to partner with local growers to use locally sourced ingredients and create more of a farm-to-table experience, he said.
Sustainability in its farming and business practices is a major focus for the winery, according to Rocky Pond President John Ware. A sample vine from each of the winery’s three vineyards is showcased in the new Woodinville tasting room, with a glass display of the actual soil contents from each.
Ware said the winery is going for an educational atmosphere that isn’t “intimidating or stuffy.”
Of course, he said, the wine itself always remains in the spotlight. This year, the company hired a wine consultant out of Napa to help improve its already award-winning wine. Recently, Seattle Wine Awards bestowed its “double gold” distinction upon Rocky Pond’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 11 Dams red blend, and Double D Syrah.
Rocky Pond isn't a complete newcomer to town; it's tasting room had been located in the warehouse district, but management liked the feel of the new Woodin Creek Village scene. The Dufenhorts said their goal is to bring a similar ambiance to the wineries they visited in Italy and France, and the new tasting room fits into that vision.
“We’re just really happy to be back here,” Michelle Dufenhorst said of Woodinville. “It’s the reason we decided to do this in the first place,” she later added, “the enjoyment of food wine and good food.”