School is back in session and Fall is right around the corner! Before we launch our next series in just a few short weeks (Taste of Terroir: A Virginia Wine Series), we wanted to share one last story from the West Coast that resonated with us for many reasons. On our journey to cover some unique and family owned and operated wineries this summer, we actually discovered a Washington state based family with roots back in Virginia! Enjoy hearing the story of the Armstrong Family’s discovery of wine, their passion, and their drive to craft a family legacy in Woodinville, WA.
Jen and Tim Armstrong fell in love with wine. As their story says, “once you’ve been bitten by the bug, there is no turning back.”
Meeting in Wisconsin shortly after college (Jen is an east coaster and is a fellow James Madison University alum, go D-U-K-E-S), Tim and Jen made their way to Chicago working as young career-oreinted newlyweds when they developed a deeper interest in wine, particularly in the Bordeaux region of France. The more that they learned, the more curious they became about the industry itself and the winemaking process. To satisfy their curiosities, Tim enrolled in an online winemaking class from UC Davis and soon the couple was spending each night after work tuning in, learning about the history of wine, the viticulture, the farming, the terroir and the people who make it all happen. In this learning and discovery process, the Armstrong’s realized that someday they hoped their life would take them down this path.
In the years that followed, the Armstrong’s continued to educate themselves on wine regions and the opportunities available in wine country. In 2010, while expecting their second child, the Armstrong’s discovered the Walla Walla, WA region through a bottle of Merlot. The Merlot reminded them of the wines of Bordeaux that they loved so much. Around the same time Tim’s career presented them with an opportunity to relocate to the Redmond area. During their first trip house hunting the Armstrong’s discovered Woodinville, the future location of their family owned and operated winery and a unique up-and-coming wine destination. In 2011 the Armstrong’s officially began making their own wine, starting a new legacy for the family and turning their dreams into reality.
Together, the Armstrong Family is making a name for themselves and their wine in Woodinville.
Tim Armstrong: Winemaker and Co-Owner
Shortly after moving to Washington Tim began volunteering at wineries, soaking up as much knowledge and skills as possible. He enrolled in Washington State’s viticulture and enology programs, purchased 6 tons of grapes, and began making the family’s first bottles of wine. Those first vintages earned him recognition right away, receiving Gold in the Seattle Wine and Food Experience competition and Double Gold in the Seattle Wine Awards. Not bad for a newbie. Tim prides himself and his winemaking style on his attention to detail and appreciation of the craft, taking the utmost care with each varietal as he continues to produce award winning wines.
Jen Armstrong: General Manager, Co-Owner, and JMU Alum
Jen’s diverse background in public relations, event planning, coaching, writing and non-profit management help her with her latest endeavor, running and managing a winery. Jen is responsible for the sales, marketing and day-to-day operations of the winery. On any given day you may find her greeting guests in the tasting room, running the forklift in the winery, or using her event planning background to throw a private party. She is a jack of all trades and is loving the adventure that life has taken her on.
Armstrong Family Winery is located in the warehouse winery district of the small town of Woodinville, WA, a unique and artisan driven wine destination just 30 miles outside of downtown Seattle.
To learn more about the Woodinville Warehouse Winery District check out this great video.
The Woodinville Warehouse Winery District is not the rolling hills and sprawling vineyards that you may be imagining, rather, it’s a wine tasting town in itself. Dozens upon dozens of boutique wineries fill the warehouses, many of which are crafting award winning wines, giving you the opportunity to try a variety of styles and interpretations of Washington wine without leaving the area.
This was the perfect location for the Armstrong’s shop to open up. The winery district provides a supportive community of winemakers and artisans perfecting their craft and driving wine connoisseurs to the area to taste the latest and greatest in Washington wine. The winery is a great place to enjoy a tasting of the current releases and have the chance to talk with the family, hearing about their journey and their winemaking style straight from the source.
Armstrong Family Winery sources all of their fruit from vineyards in Eastern Washington, primarily from the Yakima Valley. Entering the 2016 harvest, they have expanded to work with 6 different vineyards to bring in almost 50 tons of high-quality fruit. The Yakima Valley is the Pacific Northwest’s oldest wine region and grows a variety of grapes. Popular varietals include Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling and Malbec amongst others. Fruit is selected each season to ensure the quality and the elements of the grape are exactly what the Armstrong’s are looking for. All of the fruit is harvested at the vineyards and then transported via refrigerated trucks straight to the winery where all production takes place on site from the sorting to the de-stemming, pressing, fermentation, aging and bottling.
Although Tim and Jen’s journey is quite inspiring, perhaps the best part about this story is the end product– the wine. The Armstrong label truly represents the attention to detail that Tim prides himself on. His winemaking style brings out the complexity of the terroir in every bottle and highlights the unique elements found in each varietal.
Jen sent us two of their great wines to sample and feature, the 2014 Wild Angels white blend and the 2013 Four Birds, a Bordeaux-style red.
2014 Wild Angels
The 2014 Wild Angels is a refreshing and crisp blend of Chardonnay and Viognier (that’s right, a little VA state grape action in WA).
- The fruit is sourced from Columbia Valley, WA
- Blend is comprised of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Viognier
- Grapes were hand-picked and sorted, whole cluster pressed
- Fermented in stainless steel tanks
- 14.2% Alc/Vol
- Price: $18/bottle
- Gold Medal in Seattle Wine Awards
- Winos’ tasting notes: We loved this crisp blend Chardonnay and Viognier. Tasting more like a stainless Chardonnay, but with light floral and tropical notes on the nose attributed to the Viognier. Refreshing and slightly acidic.
- Where would we drink it? This is a great wine for summertime or a warm day. Share this bottle with friends at an afternoon BBQ, or on a warm night on the deck.
- Recommended food pairing? We had this with Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and roasted tomatoes, but it would be great with chicken or light seafood.
The Wild Angels is named for the Armstrong’s two daughters, a pair of real-life Wild Angels, who keep their home lively and exciting every day!
2013 Four Birds
A blend of Columbia Valley Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Four Birds is Armstrong Family Winery’s salute to the Right Bank wines of Bordeaux.
- The fruit is sourced from Columbia Valley, WA
- Blend is comprised of 63% Merlot and 37% Cabernet Franc
- Aged 23 months in 50% new French oak and 50% neutral French oak
- 14.8% Alc/Vol
- Price: $25/bottle
- 90 Points from Wine Enthusiast
- Winos’ tasting notes: We loved this red blend– it was well-balanced and held true to it’s form. Washington grows Merlot exceptionally well and the aging of almost 2 years helped to bring the dark fruit qualities even further along. The Cab Franc rounds it off with a little spice on the finish.
- Where would we drink it? Fall is almost here in Virginia and this would be a perfect sipper for a crisp fall day– think of carving pumpkins or handing out Halloween candy with this baby at your side!
- Recommended food pairing? Steak or pizza– we went with a filet seasoned with salt and pepper. The wine balanced out the meal perfectly!
What’s with the Birds? This wine was named in honor of Jen’s family (of four), the Robbins Family.
If you’re interested in trying some of Armstrong Family Winery’s current releases, check them out here. It might also be of interest to join their wine club. Members receive two Club Packs per year – one in the spring and one in the fall. Each Club Pack includes either 6 or 12 bottles depending on membership level. The wines you receive are up to you. You have the option of receiving our suggested selections or you may customize your Club Pack ahead of time.
- Free shipping on any purchase of six bottles or more, including club packs
- First access to new release wines, limited production bottlings and library wines
- Exclusive invitations, winemaker updates and wine previews
- Discount on purchases of Armstrong Family wines, including club packs (Discounts not applicable to North Avenue wines)
- Complimentary tastings for up to 4 people each time you visit the winery
- Discounted facility reservations for private events (corporate events, anniversary and birthday parties, etc.)
- No fee to join (Membership can be cancelled at anytime however they politely request a one-year minimum membership).