Charles Smith Wines
“This might all go down better if you’re a little intoxicated.”
This tip comes as Charles Smith refills my glass with his 2014 K Vintners Rosé, one of the dozens of sips from his wine empire. He’s fueling fellow writers and me for a tour of Charles Smith Wines Jet City — part winery, part tasting room, Smith’s new digs buzz with his signature passion.
Oenophiles start your engines; this is Destination “Drink It.”
As the largest independent winemaker in Washington State (over 750,000 cases produced each year), Charles Smith operates on the “go big or go home” principle. He’s going big in his former hometown, Seattle, by moving his Walla Walla operation to Georgetown. At Charles Smith Wines Jet City, an old Dr. Pepper bottling plant has been gussied up into a world-class winemaking facility. Smith collaborated with Olsen Kundig Architects and contractor Foushée and Associates to create the cool, industrial, Northwest-inspired space.
When asked why he chose Georgetown, Smith responded that it reminds him “of the Seattle I first knew when I lived here in the 1980s.” Smith wants to preserve the neighborhood’s tradition as the “land of makers and crafters,” which he upholds by inviting Jet City visitors to witness the winemaking process from the 2nd-floor tasting room.
Want to watch planes land as you sip Syrah? The two tasting rooms share a stunning 21-foot wall of windows overlooking the runways of Boeing Field. As if on cue, a plane roars overhead, seemingly adding an auditory exclamation point: This ain't your average wine bar! Jet City’s proximity to Sea-Tac makes it the perfect pit-stop for airport runs.
Charles Smith Wines
The move to Seattle extends Charles Smith Wines’ reach to those who can’t make the 5-hour trek to Walla Walla. More than marketing, Smith believes his wines will improve in their urban locale. Smith and winemaker Brennon Leighton explain that with “Seattle’s decreased humidity, alcohol, instead of water, will be evaporated;” the lower alcohol content has potential for a more “refined wine.” Another reason to appreciate Seattle’s gray days.
Charles Smith has won accolades—including 2014 Winemaker of the Year from Wine Enthusiast—making wine for the people. His belief in wine’s accessibility, not exclusivity, was formed while working as a 19-year old in a Palm Springs restaurant. There, he and the dining room captains would sneak sips of cold, mineral-heavy Sauvignon Blancs kept in ice buckets for by-the-glass orders. Smith shares, “I was thirsty and it tasted good. Wine came to me as a refreshing beverage.” His story embraces his ‘it’s just wine, drink it’ ethos. To cool off from Seattle’s sweatiest summer yet, Jet City is pouring Sixto Chardonnay, one of Charles Smith’s boutique brands that showcase his skills with single varietals.
In order to keep his wines approachable, Charles Smith Wines’ offer a range of affordability. He likens his repertoire to that of Daniel Boulud, the New York-based French chef/restauranteur. Boulud’s restaurants range from the Michelin-starred Daniel to a haute burger bar, DBGB, which Boulud opened so that others could access his food “not at a different level of quality but a different level of expense.” Like Boulud, you can taste Smith’s savvy at every budget, from a $12 Kung Fu Girl to a sipping a $140 Royal City Syrah.
Jet City Wines is an extension of the man behind the wine that bears his name. The space embodies Charles Smith’s signature blend of style, fun, and superior quality. True to Smith’s innovative ways, he has created a unique wine-tasting destination that celebrates his Georgetown neighbors. Pair a merlot with mole tacos from Fonda La Catrina, a Syrah with Fran’s Chocolates truffles. Smith even suggests a Jet City pit stop to “pre-funk before a Mariners’ game.” Wine and baseball? Anything is possible with Charles Smith.