Wine Tasting Road Tripping – Puget Sound AVA

clockwise from top: View from my cabin at Alderbrook, Urban Enoteca, Washington Wine Commission Logo, Januik Cabernet Sauvignon 2008


When you think about local wine touring, what comes to mind? Most coastal British Columbians will go with the Okanagan or the Wine Islands – our nearby wine regions. But what about our southern neighbours in Washington State. It’s physically closer and quicker for people in Vancouver or Victoria to go wine tasting through the Puget Sound AVA then go up to the Okanagan Valley. And with Spring Break on the horizon (plus our strong Canadian dollar), this is a perfect time to head down and drink up.

Washington Wine & Puget Sound AVA: An Oeno-Overview

Washington is the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States (after behemoth California). The Puget Sound AVA, established in 1995, is Washington’s only viticultural area west of the Cascades. Similar to many wineries in the state, most of the wineries in Puget Sound AVA source their grapes from vineyards in eastern Washington. Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe and Muller-Thurgau are the predominant varietals grown and produced within the Puget Sound AVA. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir also show promise in this appellation.

The temperate climate rarely suffers from prolonged freezes in winter and enjoys long mild and dry summers. Precipitation averages 15 – 30 inches per year, mostly falling over winter, with a growing season of over 180 days.

Approximately 45 wineries are located within the greater Puget Sound region, and many more based in eastern Washington (Walla Walla) have tasting rooms in or near Seattle, smartly taking advantage of the concentration of travellers and locals through the city. The greatest concentration of wineries within the AVA lie in three distinct areas:

  • Northwest & Islands: Whatcom County numbers nearly a dozen wineries, with 6 or so more across the Skagit River Valley and nearly a dozen scattered around the Islands in Puget Sound and San Juan.
  • The Peninsula and Coast: Wineries are spread over the Olympic Peninsula, but the majority (8) are concentrated on the northern section, between Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
  • 1-5 Corridor: Nearly a dozen wineries surround Olympia and area, and a handful more have cropped up in Tacoma.

I started my Puget Sound Wine Tasting Road Tripping from Victoria, and an easy early morning ferry aboard the Black Ball Ferry’s M.V. Coho. If you’re starting in Vancouver, you can easily reverse my route, ending your trip in Victoria before heading back to the mainland (or perhaps tack on an extra day or two to investigate the Wine Islands?)


DAY 1 – The Mighty Olympic Peninsula

The scenic forested drive from Port Angeles down the Olympic Peninsula is a must-do. Skirting Olympic National Park, you will need to schedule an extra day to explore the giant trees and waterfalls of the temperate rain forest, though you are certainly up close and personal with ocean and forest vistas throughout the winding drive.

To Taste:

The small, family-owned wineries are welcoming and friendly, though hours vary widely, especially off-season. Visit for current details.

Camraderie Cellars, Port Angeles

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum

To Stay:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa is a rustic-luxury dream destination outside of Seattle. The waterfront property is nestled on the spectacular Hood Canal (in actuality a fjord, as I learned on my guided yacht trip aboard the 54-foot Lady Alderbrook), surrounded by the majestic Olympic Mountains. The resort was full of Seattle city-escapers – families, romantic couples and outdoor enthusiasts. The Resort, established in 1913 and renovated in 2004, offers numerous outdoor activities for adults and children on its 88 acres. This would be an ideal place for summer vacations – the cosy cottages are perfect for family or group getaways, with fully-furnished kitchens and a separate living room complete with cozy fireplace, and some with wide decks and docks, letting the fjord’s calm waters lap at your feet.


DAY 2 – Seattle Suburbs & Winey Woodinville

From Hood Canal, there are a few options for reaching Seattle, depending on your time and interests. I took the Bremerton Ferry across to Seattle, and while it doesn’t stop on any of the San Juans, it is a quick and easy picturesque journey. There are other great wineries (McCrea Cellars) located further south, around Rainier, south of Olympia, if you drive that route.

To Taste:

Walter Deacon Wines, Shelton

Andrew Will, Vashon

Instead of stopping in Seattle, post Washington State Ferry, we breezed through and drove the 30 minutes northeast to Woodinville. Last time I visited, nearly 8 years ago, this was a pastoral landscape of quaint B&B’s and a few wineries, nestled in the Sammamish River Valley. This time I was blown away by the expansion in the area, namely the number of winery tasting room grouped together. You can taste wines from over 80 wineries, all in one area. Smart Walla Walla wineries know that not all travellers will make the 4.5 extra hours to drive one way to eastern Washington, so they brought the wines to where the people are. Woodinville now boasts the largest concentration of tasting rooms in Washington State, and winemakers are frequently on hand to interact with guests.

To Taste (all are located in Woodinville):

JM Cellars

Betz Family Winery

DeLille Cellars

Kestrel Winery

Januik Winery

Columbia Winery

Chateau St. Michelle

Hestia Cellars

*Hollywood Schoolhouse District is home to more than 20 tasting rooms (surrounding intersection of NE 145th Street and 148th Avenue) and the Warehouse District, north of Downtown Woodinville, is an industrial part home to more than 30 tasting rooms. For current details, visit

You needn’t stop the sipping once you get back to Seattle. A proliferation of winery tasting rooms and wine bars have popped up within city limits, making it easier then every to get WA wine in your glass or suitcase. The Tasting  Room has been a worn and loved Pike Place go-to for years, offering tasting flights and sales of 7 Washington wineries. Newer, and much grander, on the scene is Urban Enoteca, a giant Mediterranean meets Northwest tasting room, restaurant and event space in industrial SoDo (South of Downtown). There is room for 14 member wineries to have tasting bars circling the main leather-chaired, communal-tabled and fireplace-fuelled space. When I visited last summer, 7 of those winery agreements had already been snapped up. In addition to tastings, there are a series of classes, private event rentals and a full kitchen. “We are trying to create a place where people can enjoy amazing events in a wine-country setting right in downtown Seattle,” according to  owner and developer Terry Thompson.

When we needed a small break from sipping wine, we popped over to Urbane in the Hyatt Olive 8 for locally inspired drinks, charcuterie and meats. Well-made cocktails, chic design and killer artisan cheeses and meats were a welcome and delightful pause from wine touring. PLUS they had trained baristas and very well made coffee – and any restaurant/hotel that devotes time and resources towards their coffee program gets huge props from me.

To Stay:

Best befitting a wine-soaked tour, make your reservation at the Kimpton Hotel Vintage Park. The only wine themed hotel in Washington, every room is named after a local winery and local winemakers and reps pour at the hotel’s hosted wine reception most evenings. The hotel’s Chef Concierge, Louis, is incredibly helpful and can arrange winery visits, transportation and organize itineraries. Because of the property’s excellent reputation and dedication to promoting local wineries, guests are often able to access tasting rooms not typically open to the public. And after a very full day of wine touring, you will especially appreciate the plush pillow-top beds and well appointed amenities. *When booking, be sure to ask about any wine-themed packages that are currently on offer.


DAY 3 – The Top Tip of Puget Sound AVA

Though the Peace Arch is a short 2 hours north on the I-5 from downtown Seattle, there’s a whole world of things to see, do and taste if you take the off-ramp. The northernmost tip of the Puget Sound AVA is full of idiosyncratic and personal tasting rooms and all are certainly a labour of love for the families that run them. Almost all of them make wine from grapes sourced in eastern Washington, though there are some fruit wineries and even a meadery. There are also 3 great brewpubs in the relatively small area around Bellingham and range from the nation’s largest (Boundary Bay) to one of the smallest (The North Fork Brewery, Beer Shrine and Wedding Chapel (!)), as well as an educational version (Chuckanut Brewery).

To Taste:

Mount Baker Vineyards, Everson

Challenger Ridge Vineyards and Cellars, Concrete

Glacial Lake Missoula Wine Company, Blaine

To Stay:

How many British Columbians know anything about Bellingham outside of Bellis Fair Mall? Not too many. Let me introduce you all to Hotel Bellwether, a waterfront hotel and conference centre wrapped around scenic Bellingham Bay. With picturesque views of the Cascade mountain range and Mount Baker to the east and the spectacular San Juan Islands to the west, each of Hotel Bellwether’s 65 spacious guestrooms luxurious comforts. For a very special retreat, ask for the Lighthouse Suite (three level accommodation inside a real lighthouse).


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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