When a cluster of talented Washington winemakers descended upon an industrial park two miles south of Seattle’s stadiums, they changed everything. The complex known as SoDo Urbanworks, filled with wineries and satellite tasting rooms, offers a critical mass of great pours, and a closer alternative to the winery mecca of Woodinville. At the other end of the in-city winery spectrum, uncommon, out-of-the-way experiences beckon from down a Ravenna alley, or in tiny but well-regarded residential winery projects. Big or small, businesses have obviously adjusted their hours and protocols due to Covid-19. Please confirm current details directly with a winery (or its website) before visiting.
A prosaic facility in a South Park office development produces gorgeous, classically styled wines that deserve far more attention than they currently receive. The single vineyard bordeaux-style blends come from Red Mountain, an appellation often known for its brawn. But Cadence owner Ben Smith captures a more reserved style. His wines focus on the appellation’s inherent structure as much, if not more than, its plentiful fruit. Smith founded his winery more than 20 years ago and isn’t much for self-promotion; these wines speak for themselves. Similarly, his winery doesn’t keep regular tasting room hours, but is open by appointment.
Shoehorned into an alley just off Roosevelt Way, Eight Bells is the definition of an urban winery: Every square inch of the space is set up creatively for production and tasting. The winery focuses largely on fruit from Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima Valley, and here it is made in a style unadorned by much new oak, putting the fruit at the center. As a neighborhood winery, Eight Bells focuses on selling locally; this makes for modest prices, especially considering the quality.
Tim Sorensen got into the business with an internship at Cadence Winery (and there are some obvious stylistic similarities as well as differences here). In 2004 he started Fall Line to create very small bottlings that have “balance, grace, and depth.” His wines offer abundance of each, with the new oak dialed back on wines that focus on the Rattlesnake Hills appellation. After years in Georgetown, the winery moved its flag to SoDo in 2020, occupying the same industrial park as Elsom Cellars.
Within the critical mass of wineries at SoDo Urbanworks, Ryan Crane’s tasting room might be the most stylish, with a deconstructed barrel art installation splayed across the wall. His wines run the gamut from grenache blanc to cabernet sauvignon; he picks his fruit earlier than many other winemakers in an attempt to capture the essence of the vineyards he works with. Kerloo offers terrific quality plus a second label SoDo Cellars, that delivers even more value. An online reservation system lets visitors book indoor or outdoor tables.
Andrew Latta made a name for himself as the longtime winemaker at K Vintners/Charles Smith Wines before striking out on his own. Now he’s part of the group-of-friends winemakers at SoDo Urbanworks, where the production space includes a patio, but little else in the way of tasting room frills. However the staff pours rich, vivid, pure wines that largely focus on single vineyards and have a unique voice. The winery’s Lawrence Vineyards Roussanne is consistently among the state’s top white wines.
After two decades in fine dining, Brian Grasso became a winemaker focused on bottles that complement food. His facility in SoDo Urbanworks has a minimalist chic vibe and fills its patio with plentiful seating, plus heaters and firepits for cooler days. The wines that fill visitors’ glasses bring a freshness that makes them food friendly—they’re also quite well-priced relative to their peers in the industry.
Fans tend to think of owner Paul Zitarelli’s space in SoDo Urbanworks as the place to pick up the wines they snapped up on his Full Pull mailing list offerings. But Full Pull also has its own in-house winery, Block Wines, which focuses on single blocks from some of the state’s most unique vineyards. A who’s who of winemakers produce these bottles, thanks to Full Pull’s well-earned relationships. Other wines made specifically for Full Pull include Starside and Temp; Zitarelli also has negociant-style wines under the Full Pull and Friends label. Any actual tastings are on hold until (hopefully) the summer.
It wouldn’t be quite correct to call Animale a garagiste operation, as the winery wholly exists in the basement of winemaker Matt Gubitosa’s Ballard home. These are microproduced wines, focused on varieties rarely seen in Washington, from petite sirah to regent, rondo, and Russian golobuk. Gubitosa’s winery uses older barrels or even stainless steel on its reds (the stainless steel–raised cabernet franc is a revelation). No one else in Washington makes wines like these; in some cases Gubitosa is the only person in the state working with a particular variety. Tastings by appointment only.
Charles Smith is one of Washington wine’s most visible figures, thanks to a mane of curly hair, a background as a band manager, but mostly a string of successful projects—Charles Smith, Sixto, Vino, Substance, and K Vintners, his original winery founded in a Walla Walla garage. In 2015, Smith moved his productions to a former Dr. Pepper factory in Georgetown. The multilevel tasting room, which overlooks Boeing Field, is every bit as stylish as the wines that have made Smith famous.
Owner–winemaker Tom Stangeland makes fine furniture by day. Perhaps that informs his style of sturdy, impeccably made wines. This Georgetown winery can often escape notice, but its wines consistently deliver high quality as well as a whole lot of value. At present the compact tasting room is only open for bottle sales.
One of the state’s most exciting new wineries occupies a residential garage in Shoreline. When owners Kevin and Kathryn Mueller started Virtue in 2017, they bypassed the typical Western Washington locations (aka Woodinville and SoDo) in favor of their own neighborhood. Kevin might be new to the scene, but his winemaking shows a hyper-talented touch; his creations show piercing purity and depth due to little to no new oak usage. Best of all, they’re extremely affordable.
An urban tasting experience hides in an exposed brick room in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park. Locus takes a unique approach that focuses on food pairing, with winemaker Rich Burton making the wines and chef–general manager Ton Yazici making savory pastries, wild mushroom risotto, or even a brunch menu to pair along with them. The result is an experience unlike any other in the Washington wine scene.
A note on methodology: Wineries were selected based on the overall quality of their wines as assessed by Sean P. Sullivan. In each region, we focus largely on wineries that were local to that area, and do not generally include satellite tasting rooms for a winery located elsewhere.