It’s never very fun going wine tasting and having to watch the poor designated driver sadly sipping and spitting or not drinking at all. And obviously it’s even less fun if you end up drawing the short straw yourself. Hiring a driver and a vehicle is one solution, but it’s an expensive one and it seems unnecessary to rent a vehicle if you have a perfectly good car sitting in your driveway.
Enter wine chauffeur service Main Street Drivers, which provides vetted drivers to chauffeur you in your own car. The company started in 2011 in the wine-tasting regions of New York state and is now moving into the Pacific Northwest, offering services in Seattle/Woodinville and Walla Walla.
We put together a short Woodinville wine-tasting tour to put them through their paces, though Main Street Drivers can also help you plan the perfect tour. The following itinerary is a great introduction to some of the best wines in Washington and to Woodinville itself – if you have a driver then you might as well explore!
Charming Nicholas arrived promptly as arranged at my home, parked his own car and then took the keys and controls of mine. Driving to Woodinville was much more pleasurable when I could chat to my friend in the back seats rather than worrying about dodging crazy peeps on the freeway.
Leaving Nicholas settled comfortably in the parking lot, our first stop was at Avennia’s elegant, minimalist new tasting room to try winemaker Chris Peterson’s elegant and interesting wines. Avennia is the Roman name for Avignon in the south of France, and these wines are smooth, complex and full of character, which is reflected in the quirky names they are given by arts major Chris. Personal favorites were the Sestina, a rich, full-bodied, Bordeaux-style blend, named after a medieval poetic form and the Arnaut, made from 100% Syrah from Boushey Vineyards, and named after a medieval troubadour, which had notes of berry jam on toast. Tasting Room Manager Andrew Bradshaw was a knowledgeable and personable guide throughout.
Nicholas then drove us to lunch at Woodinville stalwart the Hollywood Tavern, which features a menu of burgers and other comfort foods, carefully prepared using fresh local produce from the surrounding farms. Their famous deep-fried pickles were ridiculously more-ish, as was their juicy burger paired with a top-notch salad. Other good lunch options are the Commons Kitchen & Bar or Purple.
After lunch we were driven to Patterson Cellars’ pretty tasting room, with its outside patio, where owner and winemaker John Patterson took us through his portfolio of approachable wines made in a new world style which were bursting with ripe fruit and flavor. Although he makes wines across the color spectrum - he even makes a delicious port - Patterson most enjoys crafting whites and rosés, and his fruity but dry rosé with hints of Rainier cherry would make for splendid summer drinking. The Late Harvest Roussanne, a sweet dessert wine which tasted like melted peaches, was a delight and would work fabulously for both cocktails and cooking.
Nicholas then drove us across Woodinville to family-owned and operated Matthews Winery. The original winery has now been converted into a stunning event space, and they also farm the land outside to provide fresh produce for their series of farm-to-table dinners. The grapes for the all-important wines are grown in their vineyards in Eastern Washington and they have two brands – the Matthews brand of Bordeaux-style blends which includes a superb claret - the 2013 was named the 27th best wine in the world by Wine Spectator - and a stunning rosé, and the Tenor series of 100% single varietal wines, which are designed to showcase the fullest expression of what that varietal can deliver in Washington. The syrah is bursting with rich dark fruit and the sauvignon blanc converted this chardonnay drinker.
Our final stop was at Efesté and by now we were feeling somewhat the worse for wear and very glad that Nicholas was driving. Efesté (pronounced F-S-T) is a family label that grew out of the Ferrelli family’s annual tradition of winemaking. New Zealander Peter Devison joined the family as winemaker in 2012 to make characterful wines in an old world style with minimal intervention. The tasting room is adjacent to the winery, and it was fun to peek through the glass to see the winemakers in action. Their fruity, chocolate-y Ceidleigh syrah was a standout, as was the classic Lola 100% Chardonnay, with notes of citrus and shortbread.
Nicholas carried our purchases back to the car and we collapsed into the back seat of my car having given both Main Street Drivers and our livers a very thorough workout, and feeling very grateful for Nicholas’ presence as we sailed back across the 520 bridge. When we arrived back Nicholas carried several heavy bottles up my steep flight of front steps before returning to his own car and driving away. Winetasting had never been easier or as much fun.
Beyond wine/beer/distillery tours, Main Street Drivers is a great option whenever you might need to hire a designated driver. Services cost from $35 an hour. Go to their website or call 888-327-4460 for a customized quote.