Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grapes and Grits in Woodinville

By Paul Gregutt - Special to The Seattle Times

Since the prime slice of Washington wine country is rather inconveniently located east of the Cascade Mountains, day-trippers in the Seattle metro region have made Woodinville the favored destination for tasting and touring.Here, there are big wineries: Ste. Michelle and Columbia.

There are flashy new wineries: Januik/Novelty Hill. Veteran winemakers: Brian Carter, Lou Facelli and Mark Newton. And high-profile superstars: Chris Upchurch (DeLille Cellars) and Bob Betz (Betz Family). This is the Woodinville that most folks know — the glamour destination where wine auctions are set, concerts are held, and the glittery, gadget-filled tasting rooms reside.

But for the "been there, done that" crowd, there is another Woodinville wine scene emerging just north of town.

Here, more than two dozen tiny startups are clustered in a couple of plain-Jane industrial parks, places so nondescript that Wall• E the animated robot would feel right at home. "We're on the wrong side of the tracks," one new winemaker told me with a grin, referring to the rail line that cuts behind the tourist-magnet wineries to the south.

Most of these new micro-wineries are scattered among the rows of squat warehouses lining 144th Avenue Northeast.

On a recent Saturday, sandwich-board signs located at the 144th Avenue Northeast locale guided would-be visitors through a bland, industrial no man's land to the hidden cellars and tasting rooms. At virtually every stop along the way, a winemaker, owner or assistant winemaker was there to welcome, pour wine and answer questions.

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