Along the 47th line of latitude, is a place in France known as Burgundy, home to some of the finest wine growers in the world. In fact, it is where the Chardonnay grapes were first discovered and also well known for its Pinot Noir grapes.
Due to the prestige and mystique associated with wine produced in Burgundy, wine growers all over the world try to emulate the magic of Burgundy. But few ever succeed. Perhaps many who try do not have the right weather, the right soil, nor the right experience.
But about 5,150 miles to the west of this sacred wine growing region, also close to the 47th line of latitude, in Eastern Washington, is a place with similar weather known as Washington Wine Country. This part of Washington State is also known as Columbia Valley and is an American Viticultural Area. Sub-regions within Columbia Valley include Walla Walla Valley, Tri-Cities, and Yakima Valley.
Visiting Chateau Ste Michelle & Novelty Hill Januik wineries.
Nestled in the leafy suburbs of Seattle in Western Washington is a place called Woodinville. Here, you'll find award winning wineries with wines sourced from nearby vineyards and Washington Wine Country. This is where two of the best wineries in Washington, Novelty Hill Januik and Chateau Ste. Michelle can be found.
Chateau Ste. Michelle
I had never been to a French inspired winery before, and the beauty of the gardens and the European style was unlike anything I had seen before at an American winery.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is an estate that offers a retreat from city life, making you feel like you’re in the French countryside. As one of the oldest and biggest wineries in the state, producing premium wines since 1954, it’s no surprise it has been named “Winery of the Year” by Wine & Spirits magazine several times, and has received numerous awards.
The winery is on a 105-acre estate with a French-inspired chateau that houses their classic tasting room, gift shop, and other facilities. They also offer outdoor concerts and other special events. Needless to say, I was delighted to step foot onto their gorgeous property.
My day at Chateau Ste. Michelle began with a stroll through the dappled light of the gardens, past the neatly clipped hedges that border the austere facade of the chateau, and through the vast shadows created by the monumental redwoods that overlook the distant vineyards. The beautifully landscaped picnic area was perfect for lounging and enjoying the scenic views.
The winery offers different wine-tasting experiences in the beautifully furnished interior of the main building. Before I was ushered into the wine-tasting room, I walked around the gorgeous wooden wine racks, which held what appeared to be hundreds of bottles of wine in what may be the most beautiful display of consumables I’ve ever come across.
Included in the set of samples I was offered was a Columbia Valley Riesling I absolutely could not resist. With knowledgeable staff on hand to explain the storage, harvesting, and growing process, I came to quickly understand how much love is put into every bottle.
Novelty Hill Januik
Novelty Hill Januik was a wonderful modern wine tasting experience, and a big contrast from the previous old world winery. This is an innovative eco-friendly winery with stunningly modern architecture.
The winery was founded in 2000 by Mike Januik, a Washington state renowned wine maker for over 30 years, and has two separate labels: Novelty Hill and Januik. The Novelty Hill label focuses on Bordeaux-style wines, while the Januik label specializes in artisanal, single vineyard wines. The winery focuses on sustainable and eco-friendly practices and even the property’s building and garden design reflect this modern approach. They are certified by the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
My day started at their stunningly modern tasting room. I walked up to the main entrance and peered out across the open space and outdoor furniture. It was a perfect place for large groups and evening events. The staff in the tasting room were incredibly kind and helpful, and really a delight to interact with. They recommended I try their Januik label, which is their shining star, named after Mike Januik.
The 2020 Januik Sauvignon Blanc from Sagemoor vineyards was really lovely- light and citrusy with hints of tropical fruit. I purchased a couple of bottles along with their Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The diversity of Washington vineyards sourced for their wines is really quite spectacular. I felt like I had been taken on a regional Washington vineyard tour right from their tasting room!
Would I recommend Woodinville?
For much of the year, the skies above Seattle are gray and wet, typical of the 47th line of latitude. It’s often cold, rainswept and generally pretty dreary, but every year, a small, oval-shaped miracle happens in the vineyards in Eastern Washington. The same miracle that’s been happening in Burgundy for a thousand years.
One of the world’s most perfect wine growing grapes comes into fruition. Which is why any wine lover reading this article should not hesitate to visit the region. There, amongst the winding roads nestled in the leafy suburbs, in the vintage sustainable vineyards, are carefully curated bottles of wine waiting for your taste buds.