Charles Smith has a knack for hitting cultural pulse points. A traveler from an early age, he lived in Scandinavia for years, managing concerts and rock bands like The Raveonettes. His culinary experiences on the road stoked his passion for wine, and in 1999 he moved to the Pacific Northwest, eventually opening a winery in Walla Walla, Washington. Soon enough, his rapidly expanding offerings (he has seven labels to date) were earning accolades throughout the industry—he’s been named Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and Seattle Magazine, and Robert Parker has scored 19 of his current releases between 95 and 99 points.
Now, he’s widened his scope and opened what may be Seattle’s most-needed newest attraction. Jet City is an urban winery that checks all the boxes off the list: prime location for locals and visitors, capacity to accommodate crowds and offer versatile experiences, and a way to appeal to all types, from highbrow to low. “Seattle is a great epicurean city, with lots of great reasons to visit,” he says. “This is one more reason to make it a travel destination.”
Housed in 32,000 square feet of what was formerly a 1960s-era Dr. Pepper bottling plant, he’ll be producing all of his wines at the space, and they’ll be poured in two tasting rooms. Smith enlisted frequent collaborator Tom Kundig, the architect who designed his Walla Walla property, which won an AIA award, to bring a similar sensibility to the West Coast’s largest urban winery.
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The first floor lounge sports a rustic, Northwest design, and the large second-floor tasting room takes on an aviation vibe—a nod to the 21 feet of windows that look out on the Boeing Field runways nearby (with views of Mt. Rainier). At another wall of floor-to-ceiling glass, guests can watch what’s going on in the winery, whether it’s harvesting grapes or barrel aging vintages. There’s a full commercial kitchen and the infrastructure to support meals, concerts, and more. Smith expects to host a variety of unique events regularly at Jet City.
The industrial décor pays tribute to the building’s origins, and the come-on-come-all attitude inherent to Smith’s ethos jibes well with the surrounding neighborhood. “It recalls old Seattle, before Amazon and Microsoft changed it over the years,” Smith says. “Everything is mixed together—nearby there are chocolatiers, distilleries, gutter punk bars and record stores,” he says, noting that the space is also close to great restaurants, the airport, sports stadium, and downtown.
Since Walla Walla is 300 miles from Seattle, Smith likes that Jet City gives people who may not have time to visit his headquarters the chance to experience his wine, which can range anywhere from $12 to $150 a bottle, appealing to casual drinkers and aficionados alike. “This way, I can bring my wine to the people,” he says. “We are truly an urban winery in all sense of the word, geographically and culturally—and that is really, really satisfying.”
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