Our weekend getaway of winter wine tasting in Leavenworth, WA in February 2013
This trip to Leavenworth, WA, a Bavarian-style village in the Cascade Mountains, changed it’s purpose twice. Originally, we had planned to go to Leavenworth over New Years and play in the snow at Leavenworth’s own winter recreation park and tubing hill, but Paddy couldn’t get New Year’s Eve off work. We rescheduled for President’s Day Weekend, but when we got there, Leavenworth had only slushy remnants of snow and the only snow options were up at Stevens Pass. So, we ended up spending the weekend wine tasting in Leavenworth.
We stayed at the Best Western Icicle Inn on the west side of town, about a 10-15 minute walk from all the main town activity. It was a large hotel, and full of families ready to go skiing on the mountain all weekend. The room was comfortable and clean, and the hotel has an outdoor hot tub and pool and a complimentary breakfast. The pool was covered with a tent for the winter to keep the heat in, but you still have to make a mad dash outside to get in it. I poked my head in the door to find a chlorinated steam room that didn’t seem super inviting. Summer is probably a better bet with the pool.
We arrived Saturday afternoon, after a nice drive through the pass with no snow on the roads. We checked in to the hotel and then walked into town, doing the usual touristy poking about in the little shops and reading restaurant menus and trying to decide where to eat that evening. We had a late lunch at Cafe Verona, which was just getting ready to close as they only serve breakfast and lunch until 3:00. They accommodated us cheerfully, and we found their burger prices to be very reasonable.
For once in my life, I completely failed at taking photos on this trip (too much wine, maybe?), so you’ll have to use your imagination or visit the winery and restaurant websites for more details.
We went back and relaxed in the room for a bit, reading brochures from the hotel on activities and trying to decide what to do the next day. Neither of us downhill ski, but we considered going up to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There were also a lot of winery maps and information, and quite a few tasting rooms in Leavenworth itself.
That evening we ended up having dinner and a few beers at Ducks and Drakes bar and restaurant, where we successfully evaded all the large families staying at the Best Western. The food was decent, and it seemed to be a local watering hole. Quite a few locals were in playing video trivia or having a Saturday night beer at the bar.
The next morning, we woke up and headed down to the complimentary breakfast, which consisted of your usual continental fare, along with biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon, scrambled eggs, and a make-your-own-waffle bar. It was full of families shoveling food in their kids’ faces so that they could hurry and get up to the mountain for skiing. We realized that we would have crowds to contend with if we wanted to play in the snow, so we opted out.
Instead, we spent the entire day wine tasting. We completely avoided the crowds, and the sun came out to shine on our lazy, leisurely, boozy day. It was great.
We decided that the best plan of action was to start off driving to wineries, then come back to Leavenworth and park the car before we got too buzzed, and then continue our tasting on foot at the tasting rooms in town.
Our first stop was the Silvara Winery, which was a beautiful winery on a hill with a very nice tasting room. The tasting room is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and the tasting fee is $5.00 per person, waived if you purchase a bottle of wine. They had cheeses and sausage for sale a la carte if you wanted to make your own picnic. The sun filtering through the windows and the view made us yearn for summer wine drinking on the patio.
Next, we attempted to visit the Icicle Ridge Winery, but they were having a wine club party for members only and we weren’t allowed. We drove a bit further down the road to the Cascadia Winery tasting room where we were able to try several wines with no tasting fee, including their unique and award-winning apple wine made from Washington Gala and Golden Delicious apples. It was good, and we bought a bottle of the apple wine to take home to add to our “wine cellar,” (aka a shelf in the tupperware cabinet of our kitchen).
We continued on to Cashmere, WA and found a little shopping center with a few tasting rooms and a shop called Wine Design owned by a man who makes furniture out of wine barrels. We sat and talked to a lady in a tasting room who told us that she and her husband got into wine making as a hobby. She had a very nice pinot noir that we purchased, and unfortunately I can’t remember the name of her winery and we’ve long since drank that bottle of wine.
We turned back towards Leavenworth and made one last stop at Wedge Mountain Winery. The tasting room is in the winery itself, amongst apple and pear orchards. It is owned by Mary Ann and Charlie McKee, who got into wine making as a way to supplement their struggling sales of apples and pears. Their wine is fantastic and has won several awards. We bought a bottle of the very unique “Roses and Rubies” raspberry dessert wine, which is delicious with chocolate. We served it with homemade chocolate pot de creme for a New Years Eve dinner party we had that year, and it was the perfect compliment.
We figured we should probably park the car at ths point, so we headed back to continue wine tasting in Leavenworth. We were also getting hungry, and all this great wine was really making us crave some good food.
Back in Leavenworth, we visited Kestrel Vinters tasting room. Their Lady in Red wine makes a great gift with it’s 1940’s pin-up style bottle design. We moved on to Swakane Winery tasting room which also had a bistro. We were really in the mood for some tapas or brie. I ordered their snack plate which included cheeses, crackers, marinated olives, and almonds. It was a little disappointing. The cheese selection seemed like the party-platter variety that you would buy at Safeway. No brie or other gourmet cheeses, mostly grocery store cheddar and gouda, etc.
We made one final stop at D’Vinery Eagle Creek Winery tasting room on our way back to the hotel. The woman behind the counter was very friendly and talkative and made a nice end to our wine touring.
For dinner that evening we looked at more menus online and reviewed our options. We really wanted some fine dining after all that good wine, but the menus all looked a little boring for the price. All the wine also made us a bit lazy, so we ended up just having dinner downstairs at the J.J. Hills Grill in the hotel. They were slammed when we came down, but we were able to go back to our room and have them call us when our table was ready. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t super impressive either.
Overall, there is a lot of great wine in the area, and we had a great time wine tasting in Leavenworth. There is also a lot of snow sport activities, river tubing, hiking, and recreation in the summer, and the popular Oktoberfest in the fall. However, there just isn’t a lot of really good upscale or creative food in Leavenworth. We haven’t tried all the restaurants, of course, but the menus at all the fine dining places we looked at all seem a little generic.
If you’re looking for food to go with beer though, you are in luck. There is a lot of German schnitzels, sausages, and other pub grup that goes great with beer.