Welcome to the heart of the Pacific Northwest, where the city of Seattle not only boasts iconic coffee houses and stunning landscapes but also an increasingly popular wine industry.
I’ve done quite a lot of wine tastings in different parts of the world – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other parts of the USA. As an introvert and frequent solo traveller, it’s one of my favourite ways to have some social interaction in a new area – common interest with the people around you, mixed with a little bit of liquid courage!
Seattle is one of my favourite US cities, and I’ve tried the local wines at tasting rooms, wineries and on tours. So, here’s my guide to trying out some Washington wines when visiting Seattle.
The Tasting Room
This is my favourite place to do a wine tasting in central Seattle. They carry a wide selection of Washington wines with several wine flights and fantastic staff.
Why Seattle for Wine Tasting?
Seattle and Washington likely aren’t the first places that come to mind when you think of wine regions – California, France, New Zealand and Italy are the more obvious places.
This is especially true if you aren’t from the US – but Washington state is actually the 2nd biggest wine-producing region in the USA. Admittedly it is a distant second to the volume of California’s output, but Washington still produces some fantastic wine.
Seattle, a city more famously known for its iconic Space Needle and coffee culture, is central to the Washington wine industry.
Seattle’s Geographical and Climatic Edge
- Climate: Washington State’s climate is particularly beneficial for growing a wide range of grape varieties. The eastern part of the state, where most of the wine regions are located, experiences a continental climate. This climate provides hot, dry summers and cold winters, which are ideal for viticulture.
- Geography: The Cascade Mountains play a crucial role in Washington’s viticulture. They act as a rain shadow, keeping the eastern region dry, which is favourable for grapevines. This reduces the risk of diseases common in more humid climates.
More generally, I think Seattle is just a great city to visit, and while you are there you may as well indulge in the local produce!
Tasting Rooms in Seattle
Seattle’s wine scene offers both city centre tasting rooms and nearby vineyards. If you are in the area for several days then a day trip out to areas like Woodinville is a fun thing to do. If you are only in Seattle for a day or two, then you can make a short stop at one of the tasting rooms without spending a full day on it.
Location: Post Alley, near Pike Place Market
This is my number 1 recommendation if you don’t want to leave the city. I spent a fantastic afternoon in the Tasting Room.
When I arrived it was very quiet so I spent some time chatting with the staff about wine and travel. As more people arrived I got to chat with them as well. Wine tasting makes interacting with total strangers very easy!
They offer a couple of different wine flights, as well as small plates of food. I opted for a white wine flight and then persuaded myself into an additional small glass. I’ll admit I was a little tipsy by the end, but I had a great time and the wine was amazing.
The staff are knowledgable and friendly, the wines are all from Washington wineries and they know many of the owners of those wineries.
White Heron Cellars
Location: Pike Place Market
This wine-tasting room is inside the market, facing the water. You have to go down to the lower levels to access the bar, but that means it has the benefit of the market location without the chaos of people standing to watch fish being thrown around and queuing for tiny donuts.
The bar operates as Northwest Tastings and showcases a few artisan food producers, but the star of the show and the most obvious name is White Heron Cellars. All of the wine-tasting flights are the products of that winery so the selection isn’t as wide as at The Tasting Room.
Browne Family Vineyards
Location: Pioneer Square
This winery has several locations in the wider Seattle area, but the Pioneer Square location is perfect for wine tasting in the city. There are several different wine flights available, including a sparkling wine flight. You can also just buy wine by the glass, as well as bottles to take home.
It is a popular place for tasting and the space is limited so it is best to make a reservation so you don’t have to rush.
Location: Pioneer Square
Locus Wines has a tasting room in the city, with wine flights (including a chocolate pairing flight!) and food. Whichever flight you choose will come with tasting notes, and you can also buy by the glass.
Locus has a wider selection of food than some other tasting rooms so is a good choice if you want a more substantial meal instead of a snack to absorb some of the alcohol!
Vineyards and Wineries Near Seattle
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Location: Woodinville, a short drive from downtown Seattle.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is the oldest and most widely known of the region’s wineries and one of the few Washington wineries I’ve seen outside of the US.
It’s a bigger site but still busy enough that reservations are wise. If you go on a wine tasting tour, quite a few of them stop off for a tasting here.
The Chardonnay and Riesling are particularly well regarded, but they produced several different varietals so there are lots of wines to try.
It’s on a beautiful estate that also hosts concerts and events, so this one is perfect for a visit of a few hours rather than a quick tasting flight in a smaller wine bar.
Novelty Hill and Januik are two separate wineries, but they share a tasting room site in Woodinville.
The setup is slightly different from other tasting rooms in that you select the specific wines you want to taste from a list rather than a pre-selected flight of 4 or 5 wines. This does give more flexibility if you want to try both reds and whites, but the downside is that you don’t get the curated experience that you might have with wines that have been chosen by an expert.
At weekends you can order pizzas to enjoy with your wine selection, and the outdoor patio is a fantastic space on sunny days.
DeLille is located near Chateau Ste Michelle and focuses on Bordeaux-style wines. As well as typical tastings and flights, you can also join a session on blending wines to create your own unique wine.
The building is lovely and has an onsite restaurant. Again, reservations are wise and you should take a look at the events before you go in case you want to join in with one of the more specialised experiences.
Guided Wine Tasting Tours
One of the best ways to dive into Seattle’s wine scene is through its array of wine tours and events. It’s something I’ve done in many cities, including Seattle.
The biggest benefits are that you can visit wineries outside the city without having to sort out a designated driver, and you can meet people with a common interest.
Here’s a guide to some of the city’s most notable wine-tasting tours and events.
Bon Vivant Tours
I particularly enjoyed this wine tour as a solo traveller. We visit several wineries including Chateau Ste Michelle. At smaller wineries we got a close-up look at the wine-making process.
After a couple of sips at the first winery, I was chatting away with the other people on this small tour, which was a welcome change after several days of exploring Seattle alone.
The guide was amazing, the selection of wineries ranged from major producers to small boutique producers. You will try quite a lot of wine during this full-day tour, so make sure you keep hydrated!
The cost doesn’t include tastings which will vary according to which wineries you visit on the day.
Book your tour with Bon Vivant here!
Wine Tasting and Snoqualmie Falls
This tour combines some sightseeing and wine tasting so you’ll only visit 2 wineries but you will get to see a bit more of the area surrounding Seattle. This includes a stop at one of Washington state’s most popular natural attractions – Snoqualmie Falls.
Again, wine tastings and lunch aren’t included in the cost of the tour.
Book your wine tasting and waterfall tour here!
Making the Most of Your Seattle Wine Tasting Experience
If you haven’t done winetasting before, I highly recommend it as an activity when you are visiting a wine region. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy it. Although I’ve done my fair share of wine tasting I’m hardly a connoisseur. It’s all about trying something new, discovering what you like and generally having a nice day.
For Beginners: Getting Acquainted with Wine Tasting
1. Understanding the Basics
- Look, Swirl, Smell, Taste: Learn the four-step process of wine tasting: observing the colour and clarity, swirling to aerate the wine, smelling to identify aromas, and finally, tasting.
- Start with Lighter Wines: Begin your tasting with lighter wines and gradually move to heavier ones. This helps in distinguishing and appreciating the flavours and textures.
- Ultimately, don’t worry too much about doing it the ‘right’ way. Everyone has different tastes and the main thing is to enjoy the experience and have a nice time. You might hate the fancy expensive wine and prefer something much simpler and that’s totally ok.
2. Asking Questions
- Engage with Winemakers and Staff: Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Winery staff and winemakers often enjoy sharing their knowledge, and this can enrich your understanding of the wine. They will be used to meeting visitors from all parts of the scale from novice to expert.
3. Taking Notes
- Record Your Experience: Jot down what you liked or didn’t like about each wine. This can be a fun way to track your preferences and learnings.
General Tips for All
1. Pace Yourself
- Spit or Dump: Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to spit out wine or use the dump buckets. This allows you to taste more wines without overindulging.
2. Hydration and Food
- Stay Hydrated: Drink water between tastings to stay hydrated and cleanse your palate.
- Eat: Have a meal before you start tasting, and consider snacking throughout the day to balance the wine’s effects.
3. Be Open-Minded
- Try Everything: Even if you think you won’t like a particular type of wine, give it a try. Wine tasting is about exploring and discovering new favourites.
4. Drinking Age
If you are visiting from outside of the USA, be aware that the legal drinking age is 21 and you will need ID before you can go wine tasting. Make sure you take your passport as other forms of photo ID may not be accepted.
Don’t drink and drive. If you are out of the city and can’t get there by walking or public transport then either join a tour or have a designated driver.
Remember, wine tasting is not just about the drink; it’s about the experience, the learning, and the joy of discovering new flavours and stories behind each bottle.
Where To Stay In Seattle
Hotel Theodore – This hotel is very central for a lot of Seattle attractions. The rooms aren’t huge but they are very comfortable and reasonably priced in an expensive city.
Hyatt Regency – This hotel has bigger rooms but that comes with a higher price tag. The breakfast selection is great and the whole hotel feels very sleek.
Where To Eat And Drink In Seattle
Unfortunately one of my favourite Seattle restaurants, Bourbon Steak, has now closed. But I still have a few recommendations for you.
Purple – the first meal I ever had in Seattle was at Purple – mac and cheese paired withThe a white wine. It’s a relaxed restaurant with the staircase to the upper floor surround by wine bottles. It’s very popular so you need to make reservations.
The Pink Door – For something a little unusual, try some amazing Italian food accompanied by live music and occasionally aerial performances. Check out the website before you go to see what the entertainment will be that night. Reservations are strongly recommended!
And for coffee, you won’t be short of choices.
- Get a robot to make your coffee at Artly Coffee
- Head to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I’m not normally a Starbucks drinker but this site has different blends, a small cocktail area and coffee tasting flights. Go early as it is very popular.
Conclusion – Wine Tasting In Seattle
The diversity in Seattle’s wine offerings, from urban tasting rooms pulsing with city vibes to serene vineyards a brief drive away, caters to a wide array of tastes and preferences.
The genuine warmth and hospitality encountered at Seattle’s wineries make the experience more friendly and educational. Local wineries invite both novices and connoisseurs to delve deeper into the world of wines, making each visit both enlightening and enjoyable.
Seattle is a great place to go winetasting, and in my experience it’s just a really fun way to spend a couple of hours, trying something new and meeting people who are enthusiastic about the subject without being too serious.