At the Amavi Cellars-Pepper Bridge tasting room in Woodinville, there's a mural of the actual winery outside Walla Walla.
Should you arrive at Willows Lodge in Woodinville before the 4 PM check-in time and have a couple of hours to wander: don't do it. Don't wander, that is. Instead, make like a frog (lots of frogs out there adjacent to the Sammamish Slough) and hop ("Geo-Hop") across road and stream, bridge and highway, planter box and parking lot, to the nearby wine tasting rooms.
Winery hopping is a favorite pastime in Woodinville, home to dozens of tasting rooms. The actual wine country, the vineyards of the Columbia and Yakima valleys, are hundreds of freeway miles to the east, of course, but the wine business isn't about growing grapes so much as selling bottles, and the cash register has to be where the buyers are. Hence the rapid evolution of Woodinville from sleepy farms and pastures to busy, close-in suburb. Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia have anchored the visitor circuit for a quarter century, but it's in the past five years that "Woodinville Wine Country," promoted by Willows Lodge, has come into its own.
Whcih brings us back to the Lodge's front desk, where you sign up for the Geo-Hop. For a $25 fee, they hand you an information sheet and a GPS, and off you go on a high-tech scavenger hunt called geo-caching. (Sample question: what's the mileage on the vintage motorcycle at Mark Ryan Winery?) A dozen or so local tasting rooms have signed up and waive their normal $10 fees for thirsty wanderers bearing the GPS talisman. And you've got a canvas bag, too, in case you make any purchases.
The Geo-Hop concept comes from former Microsoftie John Chen, whose company, geoteaming, provides "technology-powered team building."
Geo-Hop Tours start in the lobby at Willows Lodge, 14580 N.E. 145th St., Woodinville, at 2 PM, Sunday through Thursday, 2-4:30 PM, until the end of August. You don't have to be a guest of the lodge to participate; but you do have to be 21. And you have to give back the GPS at the end of the tour.