Review: JM Cellars – Woodinville, WA

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

Washington State….hmmm….let me think.  Could the scene include RAIN?  But of course!  But, unfortunately, there is even more…a SICK winer!  So, the story goes that Elizabeth, The “Hippy” Winer was giving a “Hippy” talk about how to start a private medical practice, at a “Hippy” Naturopathic school just North of Seattle. 🙂 She asked me if I wanted to go and immediately I thought, “Well, why not?  I could spend a few days by myself visiting wineries, meeting new people and sharing my experiences with our audience.”  So, plans being all made, hotel booked, wineries notified that I was on my way for a visit, step one foot on the plane in Oklahoma City and am immediately greeted by, none other than, the allergy sniffle and cough. YES!  All the way to Washington…sniff, cough, sniff, cough cough, sniff cough!  By the time the plane reached Washington,  I was in pure misery and begging for a pharmacy stop to purchase some NOT so natural Nyquil and Vicks Vapor Rub!

After a terrible nights sleep and taking Elizabeth to the University so she could teach her “Hippy” stuff, I went back to the hotel and came up with a brilliant plan.  I was going to take a very hot shower which would help me open up my sinuses and chest, and head out on my already planned wine trail.  Rain (yes, it was!) and allergies be damned!  I was going to carry on with my well laid plans!  Okay, okay…maybe not the most brilliant plan in the world, as it turns out, but here’s the story nonetheless.

Just like so many winery stories of late, the story of JM Cellars is kind of like talking about “new money” vs “old”.  There is no Great, Great Grandfather in the hills of Italy, caring for the vines as if they were his only beloved child.  The story is one more recently brought to life when John Bigelow, owner and winemaker, and the notorious “J” of “JM Cellars”, tried his hand at the ‘ole home brew back in the 1990’s.  Between reading books on the art of making wine, taking classes at U.C. Davis and making case after case of the fermented juice of the gods in his home garage, a wine maker was born.  The story goes that circa 1995 John’s brother, who was then head wine maker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, tasted the “garage juice” and encouraged John to enter his creation into Ray’s Boathouse blind tasting.  As the 1st place accolades were being bestowed to John it is told that he then said “Hey, maybe I DO know what I’m doing!”.  So, the story goes and a star is born!

Margaret, the “M” in “JM Cellars”, who goes by Peggy and is married to the now famous “J”, is also a character in this story.  In 2000, Margaret and John purchased the property that now houses their winery and tasting room in the small town of Woodinville, Washington.  The property has a long history.  Back in the early through mid 1900’s the property was once a very prosperous and large (550 acres) dairy farm.  In 1965, the then owner gave 7 acres of the land to his daughter, Jan and her husband, Smitty Smith, who were both very serious horticulturists.  Their land, called Bramble Bump, was their passion, and they filled it with all variations of amazing and rare plants and trees.  To this day, Margaret and John have barely made any changes to the property as they want to preserve the beauty that was so carefully planted so many years ago.  In order for others to also be able to have an appreciation for the beauty, they have maintained walking paths and family recreation areas throughout the property and encourage their visitors to wander about taking in the scenery.

As you can see from the picture, the house on Bramble Bump has now turned into the on-sight winery and tasting room.  The garage area is split, with one side being the nicely decorated and warm (especially the day that I visited….a bit cool and very rainy) tasting room with plenty of space for groups to mill about and chit-chat, and the other side being the working winery where they start the wine making process by trucking in grapes from the Eastern area of Washington and crushing, destemming, fermenting and aging directly on site.

Well, if I am anything, I am nothing but fair!  So having said that, I have an immediate admission for you all.  I was SO sick with my “sinuses gone amuck” that I couldn’t taste a thing!  Believe me, I tried, but it just wasn’t working.  Because of this, I am NOT going to give you my ratings for the wine.  Although, even with screwed up taste-buds and palate, I still rated them quite high, I am just not comfortable putting my flawed (who are we kidding, it’s always flawed, just more so this trip! 🙂  ) ratings on their wine.  However, just note it to say that JM Cellars produces a very nice quality selection.  What stood out in my mind were the following: the fact that their 2012 Chardonnay (no longer available) won 33rd in the WORLD from the Wine Enthusiast; loved the name of their 2012 blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Mourvèdre, Malbec and Petit Verdot – Bramble Bump Red (makes you just want to give it a whirl); and their description of their 2012 Syrah from Klipsun which they say has “a hint of bacon fat with a lasting finish”…I tried, I tried, I tried to find the bacon fat, but the stuffy nose just didn’t allow this discovery.

If you follow our travels and winery reviews you will notice that this review is different than all our others.  Okay, I’m NOT talking about the obvious in that I could not smell a skunk, but rather the fact that all of our other reviews have been conducted by at least two, usually four, members of our team.  Well, there are more wineries in the world than we can possibly get to as a group, so any chance one of us has to visit, even if venturing out alone, is an opportunity to experience new treasures, great wines and  new friends.  Let’s just hope the next time I venture out on my own that my nose decides to accompany me.  Sorry for my “ill attempt” (I should do stand-up!) of a visit, JM Cellars, but just know that when I have the chance to return with a good “sniffer” I definitely will.


Miki “This Is The Life” Winer

…..”Oh where, oh where did my little nose go…oh where, oh where could it be?”…..  JM Cellars, I promise next time I’ll bring it!  But thanks for the accommodation, none-the-less.  Your staff were very kind!

*Note: The grape rating above is my personal rating of the winery and overall experience.  No “Official Vineyard Trail Rating” will be awarded this visit as our policy requires at least two members to be present at the tasting in order to give a more fair opinion.

The Winer’s Experience

​Relaxing, inviting…felt like a place that you would go after work to mingle with co-workers  An extensive wooded area with rare, unique plants galore; walking trails and family fun areas including bocce ball ​A spacious, warm feeling tasting room (but be aware, no seating available…standing only); medium-sized bar large enough to go through a tasting, learn about the wine then step aside and let others have the space
​Traditional, tasting of the wines at the bar, but with an added air of “hanging out” as many of the patrons were there with a group of friends and appeared to have purchased a glass of wine – felt more like an afternoon “outing” instead of a traditional taste each wine to determine if I would like to purchase a bottle Friendly, engaging and approachable staff ​Staff seemed to have a good knowledge of the history of the winery and the owners, and of the operation as a whole and were happy to answer questions

Vineyard & Winery Information

JM Cellars 14404 137th Place NE, Woodinville, WA  98072
Friday – Sunday 11am – 4pm
No Yes $15
No No  Beautiful, spacious grounds open to public, including a bocce ball court;  Private Tours & Tasting available – check website for details
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