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 Get the latest word on wine from two expert guides.

Willows Lodge has the rare good fortune to be located in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country, home to more than 100 Washington wineries and tasting rooms. Our Sommeliers, Cara De Lavallade - Advanced Sommelier and Anthony Berkau - Director of Food & Beverage, serve our guests as knowledgeable guides to the local wine community and to our nationally acclaimed wine lists at the Barking Frog and Fireside.

Cara DeLavallade


 Cara DeLavallade, Advanced Sommelier


One of the most common questions I get at this time of the year, "What wine should I serve with our holiday meal?"  Most importantly, Champagne is the answer to 99% of your questions.  Any decent holiday toast deserves a brimming glass of bubbles and sparkling wine pairs beautifully with everything from beluga caviar to potato chips.  Of course, nothing compares to the wines of Champagne - the combination of mineral-laden, chalky soils and hundreds of years of family, tradition, and knowledge make the region distinct and the wine singular. 

Enjoying a good bottle of Champagne is a celebration and should not be reserved only for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.  Champagne is appropriate at breakfast, on the beach, after lunch, at the top of a mountain, on a dock, at your cousin's graduation, on Tuesday or at the dog park.  

  Cara's Pics for the Season 


Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs.  This is the perfect way to begin the evening.  This extremely bright, green apple, pear, lemon zest, wine is so pretty and elegant it will remind you why drinking true Champagne matters.  Enjoy with oysters - fresh shucked from Hood Canal, Blue Pools farmed by Hamma Hamma.

Aubry L. Fills Brut Rosé

Rosé can get a bad rap as a non-serious, cheap, summertime-only wine.  Don't believe the lies!  Rosé Champagne, is a magical creation indeed.  Think of rosé in this way - it's the best parts of white wine - bright acid, zesty citrus, minerality - and the best parts of red wine - fresh fruit, earth, structure - put together in one.  It's a food pairing solution nine times out of ten.  Aubry Rosé, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier from Reims, is a cranberry-tinted, full-bodied sparkler with minerality, earthiness, and tart red fruit.  This is a wine to drink the whole meal through - as it warms slightly and the bubbles begin to dissipate, the wine's complexity is revealed - gala apple, white peach, just-ripe strawberry, and fresh herb.  Champagne expert Terry Theise describes the wine: "It's as pretty as strawberries you never forget because they are so divine."  Pair with literally everything on your table.

Egly Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru

"Burgundy with Bubbles".  This 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay blend from Ambonnay is made by Francis Egly, who pretty much spearheaded the idea of "Grower Champagne" and "Farmer Fizz".  For four generations, his family has made exquisite wines from their estate vineyards on Grand Cru land.  His style is not subtle, but robust, concentrated, and powerful, the wines spending extended periods of time on lees and in the barrel before secondary fermentation.  What results is an incredibly complex, full-bodied wine with notes of baked apple, toffee, crème brulee, peach pastry and dried orange zest.  This is a wine that stands up nicely to the main course - be it ham, turkey, or roast beef, and will gracefully transition to a post-dinner cheese and fruit course.

Unfortunately for most of us, the price of Champagne prohibits us from enjoying it daily.  Luckily, there are plenty of other regions in the world producing great sparkling wine at everyday prices.  Try these:

* Torre Oria Cava Brut (Spain)

* Gruet Brut (New Mexico)

* Olivier Morin Brut Rosé (Burgundy)

* Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige (Italy)

S O M M E L I E R   S E L E C T

Aubry, Brut Rosé
Champagne, France NV

Questions? Pink Champagne is always the answer.  This tiny estate in the Montagne de Reims is run by twin brothers, Pierre and Philippe, who carry on a family winemaking legacy that dates back to 1790.  Bright cranberry-red in color, this sparkling rosé is the perfect blend of fresh red fruit, citrus peel, and stony minerality.  A sweet-herb savory note on the finish pairs beautifully with food and makes you want to take another sip.  And another.  And another.

Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet
Columbia Valley, Washington 2014

A true Washington classic!  When Woodward Canyon opened in 1981, it was only the second winery in Walla Walla.  Today winemaker Rick Small is a bit of a legend, having helped create the Walla Walla AVA when there were only 40 acres of vines in the valley.  (These days there are around 3,000 acres).  This plush cabernet is full of classic notes - cassis and ripe dark berries, wrapped in a layer of vanilla, clove and coffee.  A splash of cabernet franc and petit verdot add complecity and earthiness.  92% Cabernet, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot


Force Majeure Estate Syrah
Red Mountain, Washington  2014

In 2014, Todd Alexander left a prestigious winemaking position at a 'cult' Napa winery to move to the Northwest and make wine from the highest elevation vineyard on Red Mountain.  Force Majeure Vineyard is distinct, with eight different soil types and a range of microclimates.  All fruit is hand-picked and fermented in small lots.  The result of such extreme winegrowing and meticulous winemaking is one of the most finely balanced Washington Syrahs you'll ever encounter - saturated with red, black and blue fruits, the wine is accented with jasmine flower, smoked meat, and crushed rock.  Yum!