Oliver Gonzalez talks with Mara Funk at JP Trodden’s new tasting room in Maltby. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Oliver Gonzalez talks with Mara Funk at JP Trodden’s new tasting room in Maltby. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Maltby’s new wine country is kept in a not-so-secret Vault

Six wineries and a distiller have moved to a new facility that was custom-built to their requirements.

Woodinville wine country was born in 1976, when Chateau Ste. Michelle built a $6 million winery there. It grew exponentially after 2000, when the Legislature passed a law allowing wineries to open satellite tasting rooms (much of the wine in this state is made in Eastern Washington). Today, more than 130 wineries and tasting rooms have made the suburban King County city their home.

With so many tasting rooms in one place, wineries that want to expand are finding there’s no more room in wine country. The same is true for whiskey distiller J.P. Trodden.

“We had simply maxed out our space in Woodinville,” said Mark Nesheim, who started J.P. Trodden nearly a decade ago. “We were looking to expand, but it just wasn’t going to happen in Woodinville.”

J.P. Trodden and six wineries — JM Cellars, Guardian Cellars, Two Vintners, Gorman Winery, Covington Cellars and Laterus Winery — have found room to grow in Snohomish County. They have moved their production from Woodinville and opened tasting rooms in three 18,000-square-foot buildings collectively called The Vault, 9206 200th St. SE, Maltby. It was built to their specifications, and is meant to be a new destination for lovers of wine and whiskey.

It all started with a drive though Woodinville. Erik Larson, a real estate agent representing The Vault, was brainstorming with developer Mike Budig of 90/50 LLC in Spokane about what to do with 5 acres near Maltby’s Flower World. Budig bought the land about three years ago.

On their drive, they saw that many of the top-producing wineries are outgrowing Woodinville.

“The wine industry is fairly underserved from a production standpoint,” Larson said. “The warehouses they were producing in were not designed for wine production. They were too old and too small. These wineries had frankly grown out of those spaces.

“A light bulb went off for us. It was a ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ ”

Larson called up JM Cellars owner John Bigelow with the idea. Not only was Bigelow intrigued, he soon championed the project.

Well-connected in the wine industry, Bigelow put his Rolodex to work. He called up some of the top producers in Woodinville and soon had a roster of five award-winning wineries willing to expand to Maltby. The Vault was 100% leased before it was even built.

“I wanted to be around other wineries who knew how wine should be made,” said Jerry Reiner, owner of Guardian Cellars. “I truly believe if you like one of us, you’ll like us all.”

The $6.5 million project in Maltby’s warehouse district was designed by Riverside Architecture and built by Build Smart NW to each vintner and distiller’s specifications. This meant trench drains, temperature and humidity controls, instant hot water, barrel rooms and awnings for bottling trucks to protect them from the rain — seemingly small but significant customizations when it comes to whiskey and wine production.

“John was the litmus test,” Larson said. “When he said he was optimistic about the project, I knew we had something.”

The Vault tenants

J.P. Trodden: After almost 10 years in Woodinville, J.P. Trodden has made its move to Maltby. The whiskey distillery has doubled in size to meet the growing demand for its bourbon. The tasting room has rustic charm and features large windows that overlook the production facility. Owner Mark Nesheim bottles three bourbons barrel-aged a minimum of three years.

JM Cellars: Launched in 1998, the winery is headquartered at Bramble Bump, a 7-acre property in Woodinville. Owner John Bigelow worked in Walla Walla vineyards with such acclaimed winemakers as Charlie Hoppes, Mike Januik and Holly Turner before purchasing his own — Margaret’s Vineyard — in 2006. JM Cellars’ tasting room in Maltby focuses on the winery’s trademark burgundy-striped barrels.

Covington Cellars and Two Vintners: These sister wineries are owned by David and Cindy Lawson. Winemaker Morgan Lee, who oversees all red and white wine production for Covington Cellars and Two Vintners, was named Winemaker to Watch by Seattle magazine in 2016. Lee said he’s going for a family-friendly vibe in the new tasting rooms. His motto: “There is no room for pretension in wine.”

Laterus Winery: A winery by Tyler Farnsworth, the assistant winemaker at JM Cellars. He was hired at JM Cellars in 2009 following graduation from Washington State University. The popularity of Laterus’ recent release of its rose, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and riesling wines is a sign that it’s one to watch.

Gorman Winery: Owner Chris Gorman has 28 years in the wine industry, 16 of those in wine production. Auction of Washington Wines selected Gorman as the 2019 honorary vintner. Though his focus is on cabernet sauvignon and syrah, Gorman’s rose, chardonnay and red blend have also won top honors at wine contests.

Guardian Cellars: This winery’s tasting room tells the story of the owners’ careers: Jerry Reiner is a cop; Jennifer Sullivan is a journalist. The downstairs wallpaper looks like stacks of newspapers. Black-and-white booking photos and police silhouette targets adorn the walls upstairs. While they’ve kept their day jobs, the husband-and-wife team has been making wine since 2004.

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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