Willows Lodge and the Barking Frog restaurant rest in the heart of one of Washington State’s premier wine destinations. The Lodge and restaurant were built to give guests a high-end experience incorporating excellent food, pristine service, and comfortable surroundings in a relaxed Pacific Northwest setting.

Willows Lodge Lobby
Photo courtesy of Willows Lodge Resort

Rustic Elegance in the Design

Refinished 100-year-old timbers decorate the property. Builders sourced these beams from buildings torn down in the Port of Portland, Oregon, and refurbished them to use in the Lodge’s construction. Designers also fabricated tables and other furnishings from these recycled timbers.

The resort boasts 92 fireplaces and 82 rooms. Guest rooms feature one fireplace, and certain meeting rooms have two. Several years ago, owners realized the need for additional meeting space, and a few bedrooms were joined together to create a single new area with two fireplaces making for an even more inviting space for meetings.

In March, my daughter Brittney and I visited Willows Lodge. This time of year the weather is still cold. We entered the Lodge and were immediately enveloped in warmth from both the lobby’s enormous fireplace and the staff’s hospitality. Our large room encompassed a garden view, fireplace, soaking tub, refrigerator, and a king-size bed. The room afforded rustic elegance, and the 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets along with a snuggly duvet dressed the bed making the room extra cozy.

Serenity at the Heart

Flowering trees, native plants, and tasteful works of art grace the property with color and beauty. A small barn sits amidst the herb garden and houses the resident potbelly pigs, Basil and Borage.

Spa Relaxation Room - ladies on chaise lounges
Spa Relaxation Room – ladies on chaise lounges. Photo courtesy of Willows Lodge Resort

The Willows Spa offers treatments including massages, facials, body wraps, and polishes. I opted for a Lomi Lomi massage. According to Wikipedia, “In the Hawaiian language, the word ‘Lomi’ means to knead, to rub, or soothe, to work in and out.” The therapist explained that the movements were similar to waves in the ocean using long, broad strokes. This treatment was one of the most relaxing ones I have ever had. The newly remodeled spa opened in early April 2018.

Chateau St. Michelle
Chateau St. Michelle. Photo courtesy of Tracy Beard

Delicious Wine for Tasting

Woodinville is one of Washington State’s most popular wine destinations. Visitors spend days tasting wine and browsing the numerous shops and wineries. Surprisingly, this wine country has very few actual vines. Most winemakers import their grapes from AVAs on the eastern side of the state.

Patterson Cellars Woodinville, WA
Patterson Cellars Woodinville, WA. Photo courtesy of the Winery

With so many options, it is difficult to choose which wineries to visit. Chateau Ste. Michelle, the first and largest winery in the area, was remodeled in 2017 and is a must-see. Patterson Cellars is owned and operated by John Patterson who has been making wine for 31 years. He began right out of high school and has been instrumental in training interns who eventually moved on and started their wineries.

John says, “At Patterson, we make everything from sparkling to dessert wines.” Due to the number of small wineries in the area, many collaborate by sharing equipment creating a remarkable but unusual support system within the industry. The competition seems minuscule compared to the camaraderie.

Pondera Winery 2020 Malbec Stillwater Creek. Courtesy of Pondera Winery
Pondera Winery 2020 Malbec Stillwater Creek. Courtesy of Pondera Winery

My favorite wine at Pondera Winery was their spectacular viognier, and Warr-King Wines makes some tasty red varietals. The William Church Winery tasting room is in the center of town, and they offer appetizers for sale along with some fantastic wine tasting.

JM Cellars. Photo courtesy of Tracy Beard
JM Cellars. Photo courtesy of Tracy Beard

JM Cellars not only makes delicious wine but also resides in one of the oldest gardens in Seattle, Washington. John and Peggy Bigelow own the winery. John says, “The property, registered as an arboretum, boasts 125 Japanese maples and over 400 rare conifers and pines but no grapes.” The winery includes a spectacular event space used for wine dinners, weddings, and other celebrations.

Novelty Hill-Januik Winery. Courtesy of the Winery
Novelty Hill-Januik Winery. Courtesy of the Winery

Novelty Hill-Januik Winery incorporates three different winemakers all working in one building that opened in 2007. The winery received 425 Magazine’s Best of Award in the winery category for both 2017 and 2018. The building has also received awards for its interior and exterior architecture. The winery hosts numerous significant events including the “farm event” where local farmers are brought together to be celebrated, and numerous weddings take place in the evening throughout the year. Onsite Executive Chef Seth Fernald delivers “talk of the town” lunches for both employees and guests.

The wine club at Novelty Hill-Januik Winery consists of three different tiers accommodating a variety of wine enthusiasts. A fourth tier, NHJ Underground, has just been added. According to Dana Jackson, General Manager of Hospitality, this new program is all about creating new and unique experiences for people between the ages of 21 and 35ish. The winery is bringing the wine directly to the younger market by hosting exciting new events in and near the city where they work instead of having them visit the winery in Woodinville each month.

Barking Frog Restaurant
Barking Frog Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Tracy Beard

Delectable Food

Dinner at the Barking Frog can be ordered a la carte, or guests can participate in the four-course tasting dinner. The tasting menu allows customers to choose from the main menu, but each course is prepared in smaller portions. This menu is a fantastic way to sample a variety of Chef de Cuisine Chris Smith’s delicious offerings. Chef Smith changes the selection every three months, and he doesn’t like to repeat dishes. However, once in a while, he will bring a dish back with a new twist. Chef Smith says, “I love working at the Barking Frog because I am always looking for a new challenge. Over the last five years, I worked my way up to almost the top.” The chef explains that he loves working with the people and enjoys the experiences they create for guests at the restaurant. He says, “We get to do upscale stuff with none of the pretentiousness. We get to work with neighboring farmers that grow custom produce for us and with all sorts of local purveyors that offer amazing products.”

Mediterranean Octopus
Mediterranean Octopus. Photo courtesy of Tracy Beard

At our dinner, Chris suggested the purple clams. The clams were tender and mild and arrived in a savory bath of prosciutto nage with tallow toast and herbs. Another of our favorites was the grilled Mediterranean octopus with Castelvetrano olives, chorizo, pine nuts, and hazelnut romesco. Throughout the evening each dish arrived artistically designed and delicious to the taste. The key lime pie was an explosion of sweet and tart flavors in each bite, and the cucumber sorbet was refreshing and light.

Hydropath pool
Hydropath pool. Photo courtesy of Willows Lodge Resort

A Blissful Night

After dinner, Brittney and I walked through the gardens to discover the hidden courtyard. We spent an hour soaking in the hydrotherapy pool under the stars. The Asian-style garden inspired a spirit of calmness, and the warm waters relaxed our bodies preparing us for a delightful night of sleep.

Experience the Getaway

The Barking Frog is open for breakfast and lunch, so eat your fill before heading out to sample more exciting wines in the area. Willows Lodge is only a short distance from urban Seattle, Washington, but it feels like you’ve traveled hundreds of miles away to peace and tranquility.