Pacific NW: Efeste & exploring Bellevue

Our only wine tasting for the day was EFESTĒ to pick up our semi-annual allotment and try out some additional wines. Since it was Monday, we were the only people in the tasting room which meant a relaxed and casual tasting experience.

Working our way south, we stopped at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens which is a lovely (& free!) garden just east of downtown Bellevue. Volunteers were setting up the lights for the holiday festival so we got a sneak peek at what that is going to look like. There is a good mix of garden space and natural trail here and we will definitely be back during a different time of year.

holiday lights going up @ Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden

Bellevue Botanical Garden  Bellevue Botanical Garden

Finally hungry again, we stopped at Din Tai Fung and stuffed ourselves with xiaolongbao soup dumplings! We ordered 2 10-piece trays to start and then a third. So good.

xiaolongbao @ Din Tai Fung

With our parking validated for three hours, we had time to walk down the street to check out the Purple Cafe & Wine Bar for a glass of wine. We were hoping to meet another friend of mine from high school but he was swamped at work, so we stuck with one glass each and then entered rush hour traffic to get to our friend’s place in Burien.

We hung out with Jake and the dogs for a bit before grabbing a light dinner at The Point. I had the ahi sashimi appetizer and Eric went straight for dessert with the skillet cookie; we both had a local dark cider.

Pacific NW: Woodinville Wineries and hanging with friends

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we met my friend Barb (from high school) & her husband, Jon at Davenport Cellars at noon. Phil was our wine pourer and he definitely opened up a bit when we started talking about travel and discovered we both love one of the same wineries in
the Willamette Valley (Arborbrook!).

outtake of a photo with a friend from high schoolOur next stop was a two minute walk away – J&A Winery, one of our favorites from our visit two years ago. We got there just as Dick (the winemaker) was opening the doors and hung out for a bit while he got the tasting room ready. Once again, our tasting here was memorable. Eric loved nearly all of the whites and while I was less excited about the Bourdeaux-style blends, the rose and tempranillo were delicious. We put together a case and had him package it up for us in a shipper. If we lived near this winery it would be dangerous!

At this point we needed food, so we all decided on a burger place, Tipsy Cow. Great choice! Happy hour was from 3-6pm which meant $2 off selected bar snacks. I had the Silver City Fat Scotch Ale and Eric ordered the Crooked Belgian Wit from Two Beers Brewing. To eat, we split
the Pig Tails (panko-breaded pork shoulder, fried and served with BBQ Sauce), and an order of plain and truffle fries. Everything was filling (the fry plate was enormous) and tasty.

We had time for one more beer before meeting another set of friends for dinner, so we stopped at Hellbent Brewing. My winter ale was just okay but Eric liked the guest tap sour. The space is nice with an industrial feel and lots of seating along with comfy couches.

Parting ways with Barb & Jon, we met our friend’s Mark and Marie at their house in Shoreline. They had ordered take-out pizza, so dinner was a relaxed affair. Eric caught up with the adults while I learned how to play Pokemon with the kids. :)

Pacific NW 2017: Introduction & where we stayed

For the past two years we’ve had a Southwest Companion Pass that lets us buy one ticket, get one free. With only a few months to go before the pass expires we made it a priority to get back out to the Pacific Northwest, home to many friends and many of our favorite wineries. As luck would have it, prices for the weekend before Halloween were quite good, so we made plans to largely revisit our Oct 2015 trip.

Originally we considered exploring the Columbia River Valley in Eastern Washington for part of our time, but after checking drive times realized we could just as easily return to the Willamette Valley in Oregon where we are already club members of two wineries. So we did just that, driving the 3.5 hours from Seattle to Dundee, OR on Thursday, then returning on Saturday, leaving Sunday and Monday for wine tasting in Woodinville, WA. We experienced fantastic weather and fall color, caught up with a half dozen friends, tried some great wine, and may have come home with more bottles than our wine fridge can actually store. As usual, Washington and Oregon left us planning future return trips…

our wine haul!

La Bastide B&B – the Provence Room

Our room was large and spacious with the sink open to the main room, and the shower and toilet in a separate room. Two luggage racks and plenty of windows for natural light.

La Bastide B&B

our room @ La Bastide B&B

A refrigerator in the main dining room is available for guests, which we took advantage of for a bottle of wine. Leandra also tried out the coffee machine in the evening.

Given the nice weather we grabbed some of the backyard chairs and enjoyed the sunset one night.

enjoying a drink on the back lawn

Breakfast was rather fancy, and quite delicious, with a set menu each morning:

  • Friday:  Fresh fruit with coconut cream followed by egg custard with chanterelle mushrooms, salad and toast. Local roasted coffee and orange juice.
  • Saturday: Broiled grapefruit with toasted coconut to start, followed by french toast stuffed with brie and marionberry puree topper with rosemary toasted pecans.

We would definitely consider returning given their convenient location, friendly staff, comfortable rooms, and great breakfasts.

Hyatt House Redmond

We stayed here in 2015, so we knew the location was convenient for wine tasting in Woodinville. As with our last trip, our room was quite spacious with a large bed and wall of windows looking out over the trees.

our room @ Hyatt House Seattle/Redmond

our room @ Hyatt House Seattle/Redmond

Breakfast is quite good here, with an omelet station, several hot buffet items, breads, cereal, etc. This stay was as good as our previous stay, so we would definitely return in the future.

Seattle 2015: Woodinville Wineries

Most of the wineries we visited had a $10 tasting fee that was waived with purchase. No one minded if we split a tasting and more often than not we also had a chance to try a few extra unlisted bottles that were open behind the counter.


Novelty Hill Januik – As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we realized that we had been here before but it had been several years. On this visit Eric tried the Sauvignon Blanc, Rousanne, Rose, and Riesling. I sampled a few of the reds, one from each section of their tasting list: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and a Sangiovese. The wines were OK, but the tasting fee waiver was the highest we saw on this trip, with a three bottle purchase needed to cover one $10 tasting fee.

EfesteEfeste – We had a great tasting here, so much so that we ended up joining the wine club! Our wine pourer was the owner himself and as we got chatting about the wine, he started giving us samples of various bottles open behind the counter. Afterwards, we even sat down and chatted in an otherwise empty tasting room because the rain had scared all the locals away. Their loss! Our pours: Lola Chardonnay (little oak, big mineral-ness), 2013 Evergreen Riesling (lemon zest with minerals), 2013 Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc (drinks like a Chardonnay, rich & full), 2011 Nana Bordeaux Blend (tobacco & fruit), 2011 Ceidleigh Syrah (evergreen & black pepper), 2011 Upright Merlot (berries, chocolate, tasty) 2011 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon (chewy & big), 2014 Old Field Estate Rose (strawberry) and Final Final Red (big & fruity). Definitely recommended.

Elevation Cellars – We had a quick tasting here and found the wines to be just okay. Unfortunately they didn’t have their flagship Riesling open for tasting. Our pours: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (raisin, honey-melon), 2011 Jammin’ (‘pizza wine’), 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (dry, high tannins), 2011 Merlot (fruity w/ a bite), 2010 Monolith (inky, rich & fruity).


Sparkman Cellars – We were a bit disappointed in our tasting here. Parking was difficult but we found an opening around the corner. The tasting room itself was relatively quiet, with an odd selection of country music playing. More importantly though, the wine just didn’t impress us, as we found it priced quite high compared the flavor. We asked for a quick try of the Riesling since it was open and that was the bottle we wound up getting to offset the $10 tasting fee. Our pours: 2014 Apparition (dry and mineraly), 2013 Wilderness (brown sugar, light pepper), 2012 Ruby Leigh (violets!), 2013 Holler Cabernet (fruity but ordinary), 2013 Darkness Syrah (inky black, mild sweetness), 2014 Birdie Riesling (light & flinty).

Ancestry Cellars – I knew this place had a few more whites to choose from so we headed here next. It’s a small tasting room shared with another winery and the winemaker/owner was pouring our tasting for us. Our choices: 2014 Rejouissant Savignon Blanc (balanced, some acid), 2014 Reunion Chardonnay (clean, a bit nutty), 2014 Le Cortege Chenin Blanc (light peach, apricot, lemon), 2013 Reminiscence Riesling (German nose, peach, medium sweet), 2012 Di Donato Sangiovese (dry & spicy), 2011 La Soer (violet & tobacco, 2012 Le Frere (fruity, semi-dry), 2011 Reserve Cabernet (brown sugar and fruit). We really enjoyed out tasting here, definitely recommended.

Davenport CellarsDavenport Cellars – Once again, the owners were working the counter here, and we enjoyed our conversations with them. Of note was the Fume Blanc taste comparison –  Leandra preferred the creamier 2012, Eric the more acidic 2013. So good that we returned for a glass each as our final stop on Sunday (along with some Seattle Seahawks on the TV). Our choices: 2013 Meritage Blanc (medium acidity, some mineral-ness), 2012 & 2013 Fume Blanc (2012 was creamy w/ coconut; 2013 was crisp and tropical), 2012 Zinfindel (fruit & spice, brown sugar), 2010 R.D.H. (pepper & tart cherry). Additionally, the winemaker recommended J&A’s across the parking lot, so Eric scooted out to give them a try while I went on to the reds.

J & A’s Winery – I eventually joined Eric at J&A’s (just when the rose was being poured because my timing is good like that). He was really impressed with the whites on offer and I enjoyed the Tempranillo. After discovering they could track down a cardboard shipper for us, we wound up buying 9 bottles, rounded out by Venture Cellars (below). Our pours: 2012 Sirius Sipper (tropical & crisp), 2013 Roussanne (white peach, pineapple, star fruit), 2014 First Blush (strawberry & passion fruit), 2011 Riesling (earthy), 2014 Chardonnay (nice fruit).

Venture Cellars – Sharing the space with J&A’s, we tried their lineup and really liked what they were doing too. I don’t have tasting notes for this round but we did leave with two bottles of the 2013 Chardonnay and one bottle of the 2010 Barrel 72 (red).

The owners/winemakers for both J&A’s and Venture were very gracious to stay past their normal closing, and we heartily recommend a visit to their operations.


Laura Ashton Cellars – Nice tasting room with a view of courtyard (and fall color). We decided to split a Reserve Tasting for $10 (waived with a $30 purchase). Our choices: 2013 Riesling (pineapple, light mineral-ness), 2013 Roussane (zesty w/ good acidity), 2012 Semillon (good richness and honeysuckle), 2011 Cuvee Estelle (black currants, very aromatic), and 2011 Reserve Syrah (black pepper and herbal lavender).

Laura Ashton Cellars

Gard Vintners – Our pourer at Laura Ashton gave us a free tasting card for Gard, so we headed there next. The main focus of the tasting room was the big screen showing the Seattle NFL game but the wines were enjoyable too. Our pours: 2014 Freya (apple & cinnamon), 2013 Viognier (clean, mildly floral), 2013 Pinot Gris (creamy, good value at $14), 2012 Grand Klasse Riesling (oak, white peach, dry), 2012 Grand Klasse Pinot Gris (oak, pineapple, flinty), 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (dry, pepper), 2012 Vaucluse Red Rhone Blend (rich & fruity), 2012 Malbec (dark fruit & leather).

Locust Cider – Located next door to Gard, we decided to take a break from wine and try some cider. We choose a tasting tray of four options: Original dry, Dark Cherry, Thai Ginger, and the Aged Washington Dessert apple ciders. My favorite was definitely the Thai ginger as I thought the original was too light. Eric liked the aged cider best.

Locust Ciderour purchases on the trip!
our haul for the trip — two cases!

Woodinville wineries

We split up our winery visits over two days, Friday and Sunday. Unfortunately, this meant we missed a few that were only open on Saturday, so I have them on the list for next time. All the wineries in this area have a tasting fee between $5 and $10, but everyone refunds this fee if you purchase wine. Of course, this meant that we bought at least one bottle at each place! Sharing tastings with your significant other was happily encouraged by all the tasting rooms pourers.

Brian Carter Cellars—Our first stop on the trip, these wines were interesting as they had red blends based on the styles of different regions in Italy and France. Eric thought the whites were pretty good, but we both thought the Italian-style red was the winner here. The woman behind the counter made several good recommendations for other nearby wineries to try.
Purchased: 2006 “Tuttorosso” Sangiovese / Cab. Sauvignon / Syrah (1)

The tasting rooms for the next three are all in the same area behind the Historic Schoolhouse. It’s a converted garage with tables and artwork and all the areas had a TV (with the Seattle-Chicago football game playing on Sunday).

J. Bookwalter—Our second stop on Friday, we really enjoyed the tasting room, hostess and wine here (as you can see by the amount of wine we bought). We tried six wines, 2 whites and 4 reds, with some interesting varietal blending going on.
Purchased: 2007 “Conflict” Merlot / Cab. Sauvignon / Malbec / Cab. Franc / Petit Verdot (2); 2009 “Tercet” Rousanne/Marsanne/Viognier (2); 2009 “Anecdote” Riesling (1)

Mark Ryan Winery—Our starting point on Sunday. When we arrived just after noon, Stan was just opening up the reds and directed us to Joan for the two whites, a Viognier and Chardonnay. I thought the Viognier had more complexity and creaminess, so we picked up a bottle there. All the reds were lovely, drinkable now but clearly ready for a bit more cellaring too. The reds ranged in price from $32 to $95, which was a little steep for bulk purchasing :) Apparently, the two most popular red blends were sold out, so we’ll have to come back another time. Stan made a great host and we shared many stories of the endless politeness of Seattle folk compared to transplanted New Yorkers. Eric didn’t disagree.
Purchased: 2008 Viognier (1); 2008 “The Dissident” Cab. Sauvignon / Syrah / Merlot (1)

Ross Andrew Winery—Kiersten gave us a lovely wine tasting on two whites and two reds. This place sources grapes from Oregon so it was no surprise that we really enjoyed the Pinot Gris and white blend. The winemaker releases wines when he thinks they are ready to drink, an approach we appreciate, so both reds were very approachable and drinkable now.
Purchased: 2009 Pinot Gris (1); 2006 Syrah / Cab. Sauvignon (1)

JM Cellars—Though on our list last year, we never made it, so when it was recommended to us for both the wine and the setting we made it our next stop. The large tasting room is the ground floor of a lovely modern-ish house (the owner’s parents live upstairs). In addition to the eight-plus wines available for tasting, you could snack on salami, cheese and crackers and take a short stroll to a small lake on the property. I thought the Syrah was the best value of the reds we tried here.
Purchased: 2008 Syrah (1)

tasting at JM Cellars

Gordon Brothers Cellars—In general, we thought the wines here (especially the reds) were a little young to be tasted. Plus, for some reason they weren’t pouring the entry level wines, although you could purchase a glass if you wished.
Purchased: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (1)

Covington Cellars—This tasting room was a bit hard to find as it’s tucked away at the end of a row of warehouse space, but once inside I can see why someone would want to have an event here. Not to mention that the wine was great. We had already filled up our 12 bottle shipper, so thankfully, they generously gave us a six-bottle shipper with our wine purchase. Eric did the standard tasting flight, 2 whites, a rose and the dessert wine, and I got the reserve tasting flight of all reds—the only one we didn’t split on the whole trip. Eric really enjoyed the Rose and Viognier and the Super Tuscan won out for me again.
Purchased: 2009 Josie Rose (2); 2009 Viognier (2); 2007 “Prima Miscela” Sangiovese / Cab. Sauvignon / Cab. Franc (1); 2007 Sangiovese (1)

As usual, we had a great time wine tasting in the Woodinville area, and we can’t wait for a next trip back!

waterfalls in western Washington

After the long Wallace Falls hike, we continued down Highway 2 and did some shorter hikes (read: downhill scrambles) to several other roadside falls along Deception Creek and the Tye River. A few of these waterfalls were along a little nature trail near the Deception Falls area.

Deception Falls
Deception Falls

Monkey Cage Falls
Monkey Cage Falls

Alpine Falls
Alpine Falls

Log Choke Falls
Log Choke Falls

As you can see, the waterflow was good and the scenery was fantastic – moss hanging from every limb, as well as ferns and other undergrowth. All told, these waterfalls were a little over an hour from our hotel, and there are certainly more that we could hike to on future trips.

All the waterfalls we photographed on this trip (and other falls from Washington State) can be viewed in our Washington State waterfall gallery.

Wallace Falls State Park

After a hearty breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Kirkland on Saturday morning, our first stop was the longest hike of the day—5.5 miles RT for four waterfalls at Wallace Falls State Park.

The trail started off pretty flat and after a half mile, we came upon “Small Falls”, the first of the four waterfalls. The trail followed the Wallace River most of the way and even though the parking lot was mostly full, it felt like we had the place mostly to ourselves save for the overlooks.

Wallace Falls - small falls
the warm up – Small Falls

Almost two miles later, we got to the first real falls, Lower Falls… surprisingly the cascades below are not considered Lower Falls, you need to follow a short trail to the overlook. I wonder how many folks miss that one?

view of middle falls and cascades
cascades and the middle falls in the distance

A short uphill climb later and there were beautiful views of the Middle Falls and valley below. So it wasn’t just gorgeous views facing one way!

Wallace Falls - middle falls
the stunning Middle Falls

Snoqualmie National Forest
the Snoqualmie National Forest from the Middle Falls overlook

The next portion of the trail was switchbacks and a steady uphill climb to the top of Middle Falls and finally to Upper Falls. A total of 2.8 miles.

Wallace Falls - upper falls
Upper Falls – we made it!

The sign at the top says to allow for 2 hours to get back down, but I think it took us about 50 minutes. Hard on the lungs going up and harder on the knees coming back down but this was a great hike to start the day.