Background and Intro
As mentioned in my prior post on The Herbfarm Restaurant, I spent Memorial Day weekend 2021 in Seattle. Part of the plans was to spend a night at Willows Inn in Lummi Island, 3.5 hours north of Seattle, but those dreams got dashed when the NYT Expose was published and we opted to cancel instead of supporting the toxic operations there. There are so many beautiful places near Seattle with plenty of accommodation options to choose from. After much debate, we finally settled on going with Willows Lodge, I guess we couldnt stay away from the name Willows, in Woodinville, just a short 25-30 min drive outside of Downtown Seattle.
Willows Lodge is a top ranked resort in Washington. It has a spa (partially operational with COVID protocols), restaurant (The Barking Frog, though The Herbfarm is right next door), lots of outdoor gardens and pathways, and is walking distance to most of Woodinville’s core attractions. Furthermore, every room category comes with a oversized soaking tub, with higher ones coming with jetted tubs. All have balconies or terraces. It may be super close to Seattle but the resort and area truly feels like a getaway and escape. Nestle amongst mountains and hills, it is very green, and the resort sits along the Sammamish River and the trails along it are easily accessible from the resort grounds.
From there, we started looking at things to do in the area. It is primarily Washington State Wine Country. But I soon learned that while there are in fact a handful of actual estates here, including the regions largest name Chateau St. Michelle, most wineries just have outpost tasting rooms located on the main road in Woodinville in what I call a strip mall of tasting rooms. Not only are there wineries, there are a few distilleries too, closest one being Woodinville Distillery. Being near a river, there are also many breweries as well. These are the main things to do. In the mornings or evenings you can bike/walk/run along the riverside trail. You can also arrange for bigger outdoor activities through the hotel such as kayaking, rafting, hiking and much more.
Willows Lodge reservations are easy. I did it through their website and booked a AAA discount rate. We opted for the Nicer Room category, the second tier rooms as it guarantees at least a garden view, entry rooms, the Nice Rooms, look over the parking lot which sort of ruin the escape vibes. Total for weeknight including taxes and fees, even though it was a holiday, was $307. Breakfast is not included. Cancellation policy is very lenient, can cancel up to the day of arrival. Some timeframes require a minimum night stay. We made a reservation at The Barking Frog for dinner which is open everyday.
The wineries here are also very easy and straight forward to book. Some use Tock, other use their own online system or a simple email and quick response. Regardless it is straightforward to make appointments online for the tasting rooms. Unfortunately many are not opening Mon-Wed, such as very oddly, Chateau St. Michelle. Appointments are recommended, especially on holidays and weekends as it can get very crowded. They seemed to all welcome walk-ins but when we were there on Memorial Day Monday they had a tough time squeezing walk-ins in. Tastings here are cheap, compared to California. Some were as low as $25 for around 4-6 pours, the most expensive one we booked was $50/person at DeLille Cellars, conveniently located next to Willows Lodge. All waive the fee with purchase of bottles. That is the other thing, the tastings here all come with at least 4 if not up to 6 or more pours, and you can always ask to try vintages not in the tasting lineup. A lot of produces from Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and Columbia Valley have outposts here since those places are a longer 3+ hour drive outside Seattle.
Woodinville Whiskey Co. is walk-in only, arrive early or expect a bit of a wait/ slower service. The Hollywood Tavern, next to the Distillery, takes reservations and walk-ins, again, arrive early on a weekend of holiday or expect a bit of a wait as its popular and one of the few eateries around.
We ubered out of Seattle at around 9:20AM on Monday arriving at Willows Lodge just shy of 10AM. While the rooms were not ready, they let us check-in and check out bags with them. I would later receive a text message just after 12PM that our rooms were ready and bags already there.
After checking-in and getting oriented with resort grounds and services and facilities (unfortunately the spa pool and sauna were not open due to COVID), we opted to walk along the riverside trail and soak in the sun and fresh air. It was a beautiful day out and it was a bit surreal that we had escaped to nature/farmland yet still so close to Seattle.
At 11AM, we arrived at Woodinville Whiskey Co, they open at 11. We were the first ones of the day, and opted in for a tasting, which is $10/person, waived with a bottle purchase. You get to try 4 of the main malts and they let you try their limited releases as well as their maple syrup. The Whiskey and Bourbon produced here are top quality. Very tasty, I was pleasantly surprised. I suppose though, it makes sense given the climate and geography of the region to produce top quality wheat/corn and with fresh flowing water sources abound, it lends itself to creating fantastic whiskey. They also dont blend their whiskey. My favorite was the Port Cask Finished Bourbon, rich, bold, mildly sweet and well-rounded. Dont miss out on their luscious but not overwhelmingly sweet yet earthy maple syrup. Or get a friend a at-home Whiskey aging kit.
Around 11:45 we hopped right next door to the Hollywood Tavern, housed in a former train depot it serves up tasty bar/Southern American flair with local twists, including the use of whiskey and syrup from next door. You can also have plenty of cocktails mixed with Woodinville Whiskey. Dont miss out on the Whiskey Glazed BBQ Ribs and Whiskey Maple Syrup Brussel Sprouts. If you like the Whiskey, try the Manhattan, very good. We were luck and got seated right before noon, for after that it was packed and a line began to form. Service here is friendly, relaxed and fast. There are also outdoor and indoor seating options availabale.
After lunch, we returned to the lodge since our rooms were ready and took a quick break before our first wine tasting.
2PM: Wine tasting at AirField Estates, located in one of the stripmall of tasting rooms. Walking distance from the lodge, a short 5-10 min walk. Tasting was $25, waived with purchase, and came with around 5 pours, and we asked for a couple more to try which they happily obliged to. This is an outpost tasting room for Airfield. I chose this one not necessarily for the wine, but definitely more for the name, branding and historic ties to aviation. It was founded on and still is part of a historic military airfield and yes, most labels here have an airplane on it. And so many of their merchandise have planes or are aviation themed. The wines themselves surprised me. They were all quite good and super well priced. Their rose is great and so is the founder’s Bordeaux Blend. Allot about 45 min for this one.
3:15PM: Tasting at Long Shadows, also an outpost and just a few doors down from AirField, their main estate is in Walla Walla. Allot around 50min-1 hour. In many of the articles and travel blogs on the area I saw Long Shadows mentioned as a must visit. It did not disappoint. Overall this was my favorite tasting of the 3 we did in the area. The staff here are super friendly, knowledgable and it was not packed as I believe they dont allow walk-ins. It is $20/person tasting, waived with purchase of at least $40 and includes 6 pours of the current releases. Long Shadows is founded by the founder of Chateau St. Michelle, and he worked with big name winemakers to produce each line of wine they have here showcasing the best the region has to offer. Most of the wines here I really enjoyed, but for me what stood out the most was the Alsacian style Riesling, a harmoniously balanced riesling, crisp, semi-dry, mildly sweet. Highly recommended tasting if you’re in Woodinville, worth it, laidback yet sophisticated at the same time and the wines are oh-so-good.
4:30PM: Afterwards we walked and made our way to DeLille Cellars, just a few steps across the parking lot from Willows Lodge. This again is a tasting room outpost for this label. It is a very large, commercialized tasting building and experience. Reservations required, $50/person waived with a 3 bottle or more purchase, allot around 45 min. Comes with 6 pours, additional vintages can be poured at request, there is also a food and snack menu to order from. Service here is friendly albeit distant given the larger commercialized scale of the tasting experience. The wines were mostly very mediocre, however, there was one absolute standout, and just happens in this case to be their most expensive bottle, the 2018 Chaleur Estate, absolutely fantastic and fairly good value if you ask me. For me, you come to DeLille Cellars for the views and bustling atmosphere and to try the Chaleur Estate red.
5:30PM: Return to lodge and a relaxing evening before dinner.
6:45PM: Dinner at The Barking Frog restaurant. I had missed a call from them informing us that our table was running late, but upon our on-time arrival they apologized and offered us each a glass of rose and said we could go meander the resort grounds and they would call/text us when the table was finally ready. We took our rose and went walking alongside the resort gardens and riverside trail as the sun began to set. Beautiful.
About a half hour later we got the text that the table was ready, again they were very apologetic but it was totally fine, they handled it very well. Dinner was over all not bad, good but nothing overly amazing, and probably it was the fact that for us, The Herfarm cast a looming shadow, it is after all right next door and we kept looking at it in yearning even though on this Monday eve it was not open. Definitely order the grilled asparagus, and the best main we had was the Scallops, the beef and lamb were not very good.
9:30PM: Return to lodge.
Following morning, at 10AM, we ordered room-service brunch from The Barking Frog. Over all pretty tasty, and with COVID room-service is packaged takeout, which to be honest I quite liked. The beignets served with Huckleberry cream cheese were quite good.
11:30AM: Check out.
Seattle locals and visitors alike are incredibly lucky to have so much nature so easily accessible from the city and its surrounding suburbs. Woodinville is a fantastic, easy, and quick getaway and escape from Seattle that offers a bit of everything for everyone. Be it the outdoor activities, or if you just want to laze in the Spa at the lodge all day, or those who want to get drunk on wine, beer or liquor and of course the food, the star of that being The Herbfarm. It is easy to plan, easy to execute and wont break the bank. What more can you ask for?