There are more than 900 wineries in Washington, located in every corner of the state, many less than an hour from Seattle.
There are more than 900 wineries in Washington, located in every corner of the state, many less than an hour from Seattle. Whether taking a daytrip to Woodinville, ferrying over to Vashon or Bainbridge, or venturing on the three-hour drive to Yakima Valley for a long weekend, you’re bound to discover something new to please your palate.
Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect on your Washington wine-tasting weekend getaway:
When and where to go
When’s the best time of year to explore Washington wineries? Summer is the high season, but you really can’t go wrong any time of the year.
“It’s usually warm and sunny on the other side of the Cascade mountains, so the wine-tasting season comes early in Eastern Washington,” says Heather Bradshaw, Communications Director for Washington State Wine Commission. “And, people come here from all over the world during the summer months.”
On a rainy winter weekend, you could hole up in a cozy Woodinville B&B and check out the 130-plus tasting rooms within a 15-mile radius. Renting a limo is a fun option, complete with a designated driver.
“We have a variety of events year-round that bring people to tour the winery and take part in wine experiences at the new visitor center,” says Eileen Votteler, Senior Director, Guest Services, Chateau Ste. Michelle. “One unique experience we offer is our blending room. You can sample different wines and create your own bottle, just like the winemakers do.”
Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for your wine-tasting adventure.
Is it OK to ask for a second pour of a bottle for no extra charge if I’m considering buying one or many bottles?
Bradshaw and Votteler agree that it’s not a problem to ask for a second tasting of a particular wine. It is, however, the bartender’s prerogative to turn you down if they feel you’ve been overserved.
Is spitting or dumping wine acceptable, or is that insulting to the winemaker?
It may feel funny, but you actually want to spit sometimes to taste a number of different varieties without overconsumption. “We serve about two ounces in a pour,” Votteler says. “The idea isn’t to drink as much wine as possible but to evaluate the taste, smell and feel of the wines side by side.”
Is tipping the bartender expected?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule here. “Tipping is always appreciated but not necessarily expected,” Bradshaw says. “Tip the same as you would at a bar or coffee shop.”
Is it gauche not to buy a bottle after I’ve been tasting for a while?
“We hope that you’ll find something you like among our many varieties, but we don’t feel insulted if you don’t,” Votteler says. “At the very least, maybe you’ll walk away from a tasting with ideas about how you want to blend your own wine in our new blending room!”
Is it ok to hang out in the tasting room after I’m done sampling?
The answer to this from both of our experts is an emphatic yes! “Many bartenders and winemakers love to talk about the region as well as the wines,” Bradshaw says. “You can get some great tips on local hikes, sights and restaurants.” Chateau Ste. Michelle has tables where you can sip and chat, or you can take a stroll around the grounds.
The main thing to remember is that your goal and the vineyard owner’s goal is the same: to explore new wines!