Nine wineries and tasting rooms from Duvall to North Bend? Yes, it’s now a thing.

With picturesque mountains and rivers, seemingly infinite miles of hiking and biking trails, visitors to the roaring falls and “the real” Twin Peaks, the Snoqualmie Valley doesn’t quite fit the typical wine-country mold. But thanks to several pioneering winemakers, that’s changing.

Having sipped and sampled wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to Germany’s Rheinhessen region, through Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Bordeaux, I never dreamed I’d live in a wine town. OK, maybe we can’t call North Bend or Snoqualmie that yet, but it’s promising. As a local, I knew of the few garagistes in the area — people making small-lot wine in their garages and homes to sell commercially — but now with nine family-owned wineries in the Valley, there are enough tasting rooms to make an entire day of touring.

Most are clustered around the upper Valley, in towns east of Snoqualmie Falls, with a few located in lower Valley towns like Fall City and Duvall. Production is small, the various wineries making anywhere from 600 to 6,000 cases a year, which is sometimes just enough for weekend sampling and wine-club sales. A few have made their way to store shelves and restaurants around Seattle, too.

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Don’t expect Woodinville. There isn’t one district and no fancy tasting rooms, and we see a lot of limos dropping off raucous bachelorette parties. Snoqualmie Valley puts the “country” in wine country. Relaxed and more European in a way, most of these wineries are part of family homes with makeshift tasting rooms on patios, in gardens or kitchens. The vibe is ultra laid-back, with the winemakers themselves pouring wine, each red, white and rosé oozing as much personality as its maker.

The best news is that the wine is good. All source fruit from well-known Washington AVAs like Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain; the resulting wines are high-scoring Bordeaux and Rhone-style blends, many garnering awards from around the state.

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“Out here we offer something other than just come and taste wine,” says Scott Greenberg, founder and winemaker of North Bend’s Convergence Zone Cellars. “You’re surrounded by nature and farms. The community is great, and it’s not as crowded as Woodinville or Seattle.”

To help generate interest in the Valley scene and plan future group events, the wineries created an unofficial alliance. The goal isn’t to become the next Woodinville or Napa Valley — those regions have big branded wineries with high-volume production, and some of these guys want to stay small. But with rumors swirling about a multi-winery tasting facility coming to a proposed Snoqualmie development, that could change.

“Sooner or later there will be more wineries and tasting rooms,” says Pearl and Stone Wine Co.’s Chris Stone. “Woodinville, as great as it is, is saturated now. People are starting to look at this area as the next wave of growth for the industry. It’s surrounded by great recreation and other attractions, and you can’t beat the proximity to I-90.”

Hopefully it won’t change too much. I love the casual drop-in nature of it all, meeting the family (pets included) and chatting with the makers about the latest vintage. And you can’t beat the views.

Visiting every tasting room on one trip is a lot, especially when you include the lower Valley’s Fivash Cellars in Fall City, Orenda Winery in Carnation and Cherry Valley Winery in Duvall. Instead, grab a Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience brochure from any of the wineries, get it stamped at each location at your leisure, and enter to win a basket of wine.

Like a good local, I’ll probably be at one of the wineries ready to toast your win.

Pearl and Stone Wine Co. co-owner Paul Ribary pours samples of current vintages for weekend customers at the new downtown North Bend tasting room. (Lesley Balla)
Pearl and Stone Wine Co. co-owner Paul Ribary pours samples of current vintages for weekend customers at the new downtown North Bend tasting room. (Lesley Balla)

Pearl and Stone Wine Co.

Pearl and Stone’s new North Bend tasting room sits on a busy corner across from Twede’s Diner (famous as the Double R in “Twin Peaks”). Currently only open one day a week, taste through five current releases, from 2018 Old Rickety, a crisp blend of grenache blanc and roussanne, to the intense 2016 Resolution Peaks red blend. $5 per person, which is waived after purchase. Wines by the glass range $8-$14.

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202 W. North Bend Way; pearlandstonewine.com

Convergence Zone Cellars founder and winemaker Scott Greenberg stacks barrels at his North Bend winery. He plans on keeping production small even if the Snoqualmie Valley region grows. “This is my retirement thing. I don’t want to be making wine 24 hours a day,” he says. (Lesley Balla)
Convergence Zone Cellars founder and winemaker Scott Greenberg stacks barrels at his North Bend winery. He plans on keeping production small even if the Snoqualmie Valley region grows. “This is my retirement thing. I don’t want to be making wine 24 hours a day,” he says. (Lesley Balla)

Convergence Zone Cellars

Scott Greenberg initially started Convergence Zone Cellars in Woodinville but wanted a piece of land big enough for a production facility plus a garden for his wife. Mount Si looms large over their North Bend winery and tasting room. Sample Bordeaux and Rhone-style blends and single-varietal wines like the Drizzle pinot gris. $10 per person for five wines, fee waived with a purchase of $20. Saturdays, 1-5 p.m.

10808 428th Ave. S.E., North Bend; czcellars.com

Jim and Elaine Larsen built their Mount Si Winery in their garage. The barrel room doubles as a tasting room during special events. (Lesley Balla)
Jim and Elaine Larsen built their Mount Si Winery in their garage. The barrel room doubles as a tasting room during special events. (Lesley Balla)

Mount Si Winery

Mount Si Winery winemaker Jim Larsen does everything — from crushing grapes to aging to bottling — in his garage in downtown Snoqualmie. Among the tanks and barrels is a little tasting area, complete with vinyl (sipper’s choice!) and an outdoor garden. $10 for a flight of four wines, waived with purchase. Open most Saturdays and Sundays, 2-6 p.m.

8463 Maple Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie; mtsiwinery.com

An extended flight of Sigillo Cellars wines in Snoqualmie, from a 2018 roussanne to the 2017 merlot made with grapes from the Bacchus & Shaw Vineyard in Columbia Valley. (Lesley Balla)
An extended flight of Sigillo Cellars wines in Snoqualmie, from a 2018 roussanne to the 2017 merlot made with grapes from the Bacchus & Shaw Vineyard in Columbia Valley. (Lesley Balla)

Sigillo Cellars

A pioneer of sorts, having started production in Snoqualmie almost 10 years ago. The current tasting room is located in a historic theater along the main drag with lots of tables, a dozen wines to sample and light fare for snacking. Plans to build a new production facility, tasting room and hotel on the next block are in the works. $15 for flight of three. Open Tuesday through Sunday; hours vary.

8086 Railroad Ave, Snoqualmie; sigillocellars.com

Tom Wilson pours the 2017 Ascension malbec for guests in his Château NoElle tasting room. The inky, fruit-forward wine is made with grapes from Gamache Vineyard in Columbia Valley. (Lesley Balla)
Tom Wilson pours the 2017 Ascension malbec for guests in his Château NoElle tasting room. The inky, fruit-forward wine is made with grapes from Gamache Vineyard in Columbia Valley. (Lesley Balla)

Château NoElle

Tucked away on a nearby Snoqualmie Ridge hillside, the home of Tom and Lorri Wilson features a small winery and test vineyard planted with pinot noir and a variety of other grapes. It’s a pretty backdrop for summer tastings; during the winter, things move into the house. Flights of whites and reds, including the delicious Numinous claret. By appointment only. $15 for five wines.

36105 S.E. 89th Place, Snoqualmie; chateaunoelle.com

William Grassie Estates

With a gorgeous vineyard and a secret path leading to it, Bill Grassie’s Fall City tasting room is popular in the summer. Come January, he’ll open a tasting room on Snoqualmie Ridge, which will allow for year-round weekday and weekend sampling. Once the Snoqualmie Ridge tasting room opens (mid-January), the Fall City tasting room will open during summer weekends only.

35922 S.E. 46th St., Fall City; wmgrassiewines.com

 

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the owners of Château NoElle and listed incorrect Saturday hours for Convergence Zone Cellars.