AWG Correspondent

Denise Gangnes

Swiftwater Cellars Photos

Swiftwater Cellars Review

Region: Washington

Reviewed: May 5, 2013 by Denise Gangnes
Published: June 18, 2013

Pop quiz time: name a winery situated atop a coal mine. Stumped? Ok. Name a winery located on a golf course. Intrigued? You should be! The right answer to both queries is Swiftwater Cellars, a unique and highly successful winery located within the upscale grounds of the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum. Less than 90 minutes from Seattle, it’s an easy day trip, or it could be the best part of a long weekend stay with friends or family.

The Place:  The massive building that houses the "tasting bar" (winery facilities are located below ground and are accessible by elevator) is home to a 4-star restaurant, golf pro shop and private event space. Extensive outdoor patios provide panoramic overlooks of the Cascade Range and the Rope Rider golf course. The tasting area is small but spills out onto a lobby area facing an imposing 2-story stone fireplace. Although golfers are entitled to their own club area, I quickly discovered that one doesn’t need to pick up a wedge to appreciate the spectacular view from decadently overstuffed chairs while sipping reds and whites on the stone cobbled veranda.

The Experience:  I had visited Swiftwater before, but it was unusually loud and bustling on this trip. The evening of our visit just happened to coincide with our 11th anniversary (sharing the date with Cinco de Mayo). A Latin fest was underway, complete with live band and a crowd that had obviously started celebrating much earlier. Not the intimate evening I had imagined. Thankfully, we were waited on by one of the best bartender/pouring staffers I’ve had the pleasure to meet, a certain Mikey Jr. Despite the constant activity and noise level in the room, Mikey provided exceptional service; a mix of charm, knowledge and attentiveness that turned what could have been a disastrous evening into a lively and fun celebration. While tasting, we enjoyed delicious food (including an incredible cioppino that I enthusiastically sopped up with crusty bread). Mikey’s pours were generous and continued long into the night. In all, we probably tasted more than a dozen wines each (thankfully the proprietors provide shuttle service throughout the resort). Paired with exceptional food and a band that seemed to improve with every song, it was an evening to remember.

The Wines:  Veteran winemaker Tony Rynders worked his way north after successfully consulting with several wineries in California and Oregon. In the fall of 2010, Rynders presented Swiftwater’s first vintage to the public at the winery’s grand opening celebration, three years after the winery was founded. The Zephyr Ridge vineyard has been tended for nearly 10 years. As Tony is a very busy consultant (one of his pet projects is Tendrils Winery in Oregon), fellow California ex-pat Linda Trotta assists with the winemaking duties at Swiftwater.

Wines range from an $18 Semillon with a citrusy zest to a $55 Pinot Noir that is more representative of the Tendril lineup. We tried everything. At $28, the 2009 No. 9 Red is a respectable, medium-bodied Merlot blend showing hints of plum and black cherry; mild tannins enhance the dark fruit flavors with a touch of herb and vanilla. We splurged for the $50 2008 Proprietary Red, a more complex cab-based blend from several vineyards 100 miles east. The silky tannins, aromas of clove and cassis bewitched our taste buds; explaining how it received several gold medals at regional competitions and 91 points last November from Wine Spectator.

Insider’s Note:  Swiftwater is housed in a beautifully designed building that gets a lot of traffic from both golfers and diners. Hopefully they will find a way to create a space specifically designed to enhance the experience for visitors who come looking for a singular wine tasting experience.

Address & Contact Information: 301 Rope Rider Drive Cle Elum, Washington 98922. Telephone: 509-737-0087, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Wed-Sun noon-close.

Overall Rating:  

Red Wine White Wine Service View/Ambiance

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