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Cork Dork: More Tasting Rooms Open in Woodinville, Kirkland

The openings come as Woodinville prepares for the annual "Passport" weekend.

Ron Bunnell has made wine at some of the largest wineries in the country, including California giant producers Beringer, Chateau Souverain and Kendall-Jackson.

Now making wine at his Prosser-based family winery, Bunnell Family Cellar, Bunnell is turning to the more intimate confines of Woodinville's Warehouse District. Bunnell will be opening a tasting room during the Passport to Woodinville weekend, April 21-22. The new tasting room, sandwiched between and the tasting room for Kestrel Vintners, will also house the tasting rooms for Newhouse Family Vineyards and Upland Estates.

“I think it’s a very exciting time for Woodinville,” Bunnell said. “Needless to say, there’s lots of interest in the Warehouse District. This kind of critical mass for wine tourism, it would be very difficult to mount east of the mountains. I think Woodinville serves a terrific purpose that way.”

Bunnell said the Woodinville tasting room will be open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m., with the possibility of opening on other days.

The fun, for Bunnell, starts with Passport to Woodinville, the local wine industry’s rite of spring signaling the beginning of wine tasting and touring season. For a one-time fee ($65 for a Saturday-only passport, $75 for a Saturday and Sunday passport) guests can taste wines at 36 wineries (see below for a complete list). Passes for a shuttle that will be circulating Woodinville wineries is $10 for Passport to Woodinville participants. Click here for tickets.

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For Bunnell it will be the first Passport to Woodinville. However, he’s familiar with the Woodinville wine industry. Bunnell was hired in 1999 as the red winemaker at Woodinville-based . He worked chiefly out of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s winemaking facility in Paterson in Eastern Washington, making bi-monthly treks to the Woodinville headquarters.

Bunnell left Chateau Ste. Michelle to open Bunnell Family Cellar with his wife, Susan, a chef and lavender farmer. The 2004 vintage, released in 2006, was the first for his winery. They have since started two more wine labels: RiverAerie, named after the Bunnells' estate on the Yakima River, and Wine O’Clock, named after the Bunnells' wine bar in Prosser. Their niece, Julie Brown, joined the Bunnells two years ago as the assistant winemaker.

Bunnell will be selling wines by all three labels as well as the wines of Upland Estates and Newhouse Family Vineyards, which Bunnell makes. Altogether, the Woodinville tasting room will sell 40 different wines by the taste, glass and bottle. Four wines will be served on tap. The tasting room will also serve cheese and charcuterie platters.

“We are going for more of a destination spot,” Bunnell said. “We don’t want guests to just belly up to the bar and drink. We want a bar where guests can order a glass of wine and relax for a while.”

The new Woodinville location will also serve as a storage facility, freeing the Bunnells from a wine storage lease in Kent. It also brings them closer to their strongest market, Seattle, and its avid consumers.

“We needed an outlet here,” Brown said.

Wineries participating in Passport to Woodinville:

Bunnell Family Cellars

Domaine Ste. Michelle

Finn Hill Winery

Gecko Cellars

J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio

Kestrel Vintners

Newhouse Family Vineyards

Northwest Totem Cellars

Patit Creek Cellars

Piccola Cellars

II Vintners

Upland Estates

Northwest Cellars, Skylite Cellars, Waving Tree set up shop in Kirkland

Kirkland-based , Walla Walla-based Skylite Cellars and Goldendale-based Waving Tree Vineyards and Winery will be opening tasting rooms this weekend at 11901 124th Ave. N.E. in what the wine producers are dubbing the Kirkland Warehouse District. The weekend celebration will be on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The weekend festivities will feature specials on wine tastings and bottle sales, food catered by Kirkland’s , live music and art shows.

Skylite co-owner and sales director Ashley Bruton said it was important for her winery to have a presence on the west side of the state. Out of more than 100 Skylite wine club members, about half live in the Seattle area, she said.

“It gives our wine club members an opportunity to come to us without having to go to Walla Walla,” Bruton said. “We are trying to create a destination just off I-405 in the Kirkland Warehouse District.”

Wine Pick of the Week: 07 Kestrel Vintners co-fermented Syrah, Yakima Valley

Kestrel Vintners winemaker Flint Nelson co-ferments Syrah and Viognier in the style of Cote Rotie in France’s Northern Rhone region to produce a floral, seductive and juicy Syrah. The blend is 93 percent Syrah and 7 percent Viognier, all from the proprietary Kestrel View Estate Vineyards.

The Viognier gives the wine its distinctive aromatics of orange zest, Clementine, violets and lavender. Flavors of blueberries, plums, prunes and raspberries dominate the palate complemented by hints of espresso, vanilla and baking spices. The soft mid-palate and juicy finish complete this wine.

With barbecuing season upon us, Syrah is the perfect match for smoked barbecue ribs. Alternately, attend one of the “Everyday Gourmet Cooking Classes” at the Kestrel Vintners Woodinville tasting room for cooking and food pairing advice. For a complete schedule of classes check their Facebook page.

The wine is available at the Kestrel Vintners tasting room for $40.

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