Five landscaped acres bordering the Sammamish River in Western Washington make up the Willows Lodge, a rural and rustic Northwest-style lodge surrounded by woodlands and wineries.
The Willows Lodge, in the heart of Washington's Woodinville wine country.
Woodinville, Washington is wine country. This valley, now home to more than forty wineries, was originally a forest of huge cedar trees that were logged more than 100 years ago. A natural wood sculpture of three towering remnants of a 1,500-year-old burned-out cedar at the driveway entrance to the Willows Lodge pays homage to that past.
“We call it ‘Cedar Snag’”, says Janene Varden, Willows Lodge Director of Sales and Marketing. “It was brought from the Olympic Peninsula.” Varden is referring to the northwest corner of Washington State that is home to the Olympic mountain range and an existing rainforest on the North American continent.
Through front doors fashioned from old wine casks, we enter a reception area dominated by a massive fieldstone block fireplace and reclaimed timber beams. A skilled local craftsman created the two sofa tables in the lobby from the same 100-year-old reclaimed wood featured in the architectural design of the Lodge and grounds—Douglas Fir timbers originally cut for the construction of waterfront buildings in Portland, Oregon. The 30-foot-tall stone fireplace faces into both the lobby and the Lounge, where the hours of 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. are declared the “Happier Hours.”
We’re welcomed with a complimentary coffee bar, a basket of green apples, and a dog lying on the stained concrete floor. “Ruth is our resident lobby dog,” says Varden. Ruth has her own couch with patchwork quilt, and a nearby sign proclaims her head of the “Complaints Department".
A complimentary coffee bar and basket
of Northwest apples in the lobby.
The Willows Lodge is pet-friendly.
Willows Lodge is a pet-friendly hotel. We meet “Cooper”, a part chow/part Australian Shepherd belonging to Concierge Jonathan. “I found him in the San Juan Islands when I moved into a house and he wanted my help to stay there.” Mellow and well-behaved, Cooper was only supposed to “work the lobby” once a week, but since he began to get letters from guests, he “worked himself in here” and now appears five days of the week.
But not only Ruth and Cooper are pampered. In 2006 Willows Lodge launched its Very Important Pet (WVIP) program. It includes such amenities as a doggie room service menu especially prepared by Seattle’s Three Dog Bakery (rrrRibs yappatizers? Pup Tarts?), Willows Lodge bottled water, and a map and directions for pet and owner walks. Your pooch receives its own welcome card from the house dog, a recent issue of Citydog magazine and a doggie bed with turn-down service including a night time rawhide bone.
Not far from the business and social community of Seattle, this area has historically seen the country homes of leading Seattle families. Willows Lodge is on the site of the hunting haunt of Seattle business leader C.D. Stimson, who once hosted Houdini here. Today’s Willows Lodge is a definitively country place devoted to a warm fire, comfort dining, relaxing, romancing, and inspired business brainstorming. Umbrella stands at every exterior door remind me that this is, after all, the Pacific Northwest, where rain is a regular winter visitor.
Our cozy corner suite with all the
comforts of a Northwest country home.
Soak and enjoy a clear sight line
to window, television, and fireplace.
Our room is a cozy corner suite in mustard and pastel olives with red wood trim, high ceiling and our own stone fireplace. The Lodge’s architectural commitment to recycling and preservation can be seen in guestroom ledges and tabletops—recycled slate pool table tops from old bars in British Columbia.
Our four-fixture bathroom has a soaking tub with a clear sight line to window, television and fireplace. My husband peers at the shower temperature control, which looks like a digital heat/air conditioning thermostat set in tile. “That’s the hippest thing I’ve ever seen,” he says.
All guests enjoy Australian lambswool mattress pads, down duvets, and 300-thread count linens by Frette, the Italian maker of fine linens for Europe’s luxury hotels. Beds have four pillows, two of soft goose down and two non-allergenic. High-speed Internet access, personalized voice mail, robes, safe, iron, and French press coffee are also complimentary.
Suites include a WillowTini martini bar. Perched next to the martini bar is a basket containing Thyme “Sleep Well” Epsom bath salts, chocolate cherries, Snickers, potato chips, Pez candies, Fiji Water, and an Intimacy kit—two condoms, towelettes and lubricating jelly.
Willows Lodge has 80 guestrooms and six suites, nearly all overlooking expansive gardens of bamboo and ferns and rock pathways and sculptures created by noted local artists. Here art and floral architecture mix to create a sensory outdoor experience. The Kitchen Garden, filled with classic herbs, heirloom vegetables and even edible flowers serves the needs of the neighboring Herbfarm Restaurant. The gazebo area in the center of the herb gardens is a popular wedding spot.
Garden bronze heads are
reflective of earlier peoples.
Behind the herb garden live the resident pigs, Borage and Basil, eager recyclers and a favorite of guests and local folk. Past the pig pen is the composting area where bio-degradable garden waste is turned into a humus-rich soil that can be returned to the garden.
A walk along the Sammamish River side of the Lodge reveals 20 varieties of native plants, established at river’s edge to mitigate the affect of the hotel on the environment. This area blooms through spring with red flowering currant and Oregon grape. Red and yellow dogwoods offer winter color and great wildlife habitat. Throughout the grounds, Willows Lodge has carefully chosen plants to use precious resources like water more efficiently, while at the same time enhancing the Lodge environment with color, fragrance, and beauty. All the beds are maintained with regard to the natural workings of soul and nature, so that no pesticides or herbicides are necessary.
Private spa cabanas are scattered
among the landscaped gardens.
The Willows outdoor spa pool.
A “Garden Walk” brochure lets you discover the Gazebo Courtyard, River Walk, Stonehouse Courtyard, and North Courtyard at your own pace in a self-guided tour. It supports the Lodge’s commitment to the environment with a quote by Jacqueline Heriteau: “In the age of environmental crisis, we’re discovering that gardening is essential to human life.”
Along a gravel pathway, scattered among the landscape of gardens are private tented enclosures for spa treatments and pedicures, such as the Carita Riverside Cabana for two. The 2,000 square-foot Spa and Health Club at Willows Lodge offers a variety of treatments that include hot stone massage, detoxifying wraps, chakra therapies, facials, and anti-aging microdermabrasion. Or you might want to enjoy the simple pleasure of relaxing in the sauna or outdoor jacuzzi.
With a light breeze and temps in the mid-70s, our dining choice this evening is en plein air at the Barking Frog, Willows’ casual bistro offering country fresh Northwest Cuisine with a European flair and an extensive Northwest wine collection. Our umbrella table is near the fountain in a garden setting netted by lush grapevines. The music is so soft it almost isn’t there.
Patio tables at The Barking
Frog are in a garden setting.
The Lobby bar has a “happier” hour.
While perusing a menu of fresh, herb-based fare, we indulge in a “specialty cocktail". I choose the Lemon Mojito, with Bacardi Limon Rum, mint and lime juice, a twist on the classic cocktail from South America. My husband selects the Summer Martini, Hendrick’s gin, cucumber and ginger syrup described as “summer in a glass".
We celebrate our senses Northwest-style with a grilled sea scallop floating atop a Strawberry & Cilantro Gazpacho. Other beginnings on the menu are a Dungeness Crab Beignet, Roasted Red Grape & Baby Arugula Salad, and Northwest Kobe Beef Tartare & Carpaccio. The Ocean Sampler consists of an Ahi Tuna Slider, Asian slaw, Scallop & Lobster Terrine, and a Northwest Salmon Cake with Dill Aioli—creatively delicious.
For entrées my husband selected the Seared Sea Bass & Lobster Ravioli while I enjoyed the Grilled Kurobuta Pork Chop, tender and almost two inches thick. Our waitress recommended “medium for the best flavor, and it’s completely safe.” My chop came with Sage & Yukon Potato Pillows, asparagus, Prosciutto di Parma, Pecorino Gran Cru and a balsamic reduction. Other entrée features are Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, Oven Roasted Alaskan Halibut and a seasonal Vegetarian Dish.
The Grilled Kurobuta Pork
Chop is almost 2” thick.
For dessert we couldn’t resist The Campfire: smoked chocolate, marshmallow, banana brickle ice cream. Chosen over the Artisan Cheese Plate, Chocolate Cherry Bombe, and Classic Crème Brulée.
Barking Frog received the Washington Wine Commission’s 2006 Washington Wine Restaurants Grand Award and the Washington Restaurant Association Award. For the past four years The Barking Frog has been honored with an Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine “for having one of the most outstanding restaurant wine lists in the world.”
Morning is misty over the creek and wild countryside vegetation. Taking a deep breath on our outdoor balcony, I’m overwhelmed with the spicy aroma of damp cedar and ferns. I come back in to make ourselves coffee from instructions that read, “Here’s how to brew a great cup of coffee in a coffee press.” Willows Lodge provides Starbucks Premium Coffee with the additional advice to “use less if you prefer weaker coffee.” My husband is delighted to discover in the mini fridge real half & half for his coffee.
A complimentary Continental breakfast is served mornings in the Lounge, with French doors leading to a patio and one of the Lodge gardens. Wine tastings of regional favorites are offered here in the late afternoon.
Continental breakfast is
served in the Lobby.
For play with purpose there’s a Challenge Course at Willows Lodge that provides the opportunity for you and your family or group to experience adventurous fun and learning. Here you’ll find a series of obstacles that can encourage people to communicate, develop self-esteem, and help each other in order to be successful. Challenges of both physical and mental obstacles may be custom-designed to any level of team-achievement philosophy. Trained, professional challenge-course facilitators help make experience-based learning fun and memorable.
Willows Lodge was selected in 2002 by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the 50 Most Romantic Getaways. It has also garnered positions in Travel + Leisure’s top 100: #20 in the Continental U.S. and #80 in the world.
Willows Lodge can be found about 26 miles northeast of Seattle, just down the road from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia wineries, the Redhook Brewery and the Sammamish River Trail. It is within easy access of Willows Run Golf Course, Marymoor Park and Eastside “Silicon Forest” businesses such as Microsoft, Attachmate, Nintendo, Sierra On-Line, Vulcan Northwest, Mosaix and InfoSpace.
Feature by Carolyn Proctor, Jetsetters Magazine Adventure Edtior. Photos by Carolyn Proctor and courtesy of the Willows Lodge and Richmond Public Relations.