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Swiftwater Cellars

Now you can visit in Bellevue!

Swiftwater Cellars in Cle Elum has been a wonderful destination spot-only about 90 minutes from Seattle to Cle Elum, and in the midst of the Suncadia Resort area. You'd go every day if you could, but 90 minutes is 90 minutes. Since September 18, they have a new location open in Bellevue. Now you really can visit every day.

Located on Old Main in Bellevue (for those of you oldies, it's always been 'Old Main,' but now it's really 'New Main' with all the modern buildings and many more stores and restaurants), it's a sort-of replica of their main tasting room. First, the words 'tasting room' don't begin to describe what Swiftwater does. Both locations offer all their wines, 13 on the list from Chardonnay to Cab Sav. All wines are available for purchase to take home, and there are new releases quarterly. They also offer a full bar with spirits and beer. There are full restaurants at both locations, with some pub-type options (flatbreads, Kobe burger), but also higher-end items (Mishima Reserve A5 Wagyu New York strip, scallop capesante, rack of lamb, seared duck breast). While Chef Taylor Widrig in Cle Elum is the 'old hand,' and oversees the menu in Bellevue, Chef Paul Bourdain creates dishes and executes the menu. "We do everything as a team," says Bellevue Restaurant Manager Bryce Andrews. "It's part of our culture to work this way. In fact, Chef Paul and his Sous Chef River Widrig have worked together at other places, as well as at Swiftwater in Cle Elum. And River is Taylor's brother, so there is good history." The menus also differ slightly based on location. "People eat differently when they're on vacation. In Cle Elum, everyone gets an appetizer, meal, and dessert. It's vacation! In Bellevue, they might be on lunch hour, or they're watching their diet. So, we've tweaked the menu to include more salads and easily-split dishes," says Swiftwater General Manager Leena Haija. "A lot of people stop by just for wine flights and appetizers."

The Cle Elum location is much more intricate with a lot of iron (door handles, light fixtures, etc.), an enormous barrel room and space for weddings and other events, a mezzanine for semi-private dining overlooking the lobby and fireplace. Bellevue is more restrained, but still has the feel of the original. "We wanted to have the woodsy-ness and warmth of Cle Elum, but also a city feel," says Leena. "The similarity is in the wood walls, light fixtures, and leather seats. But our leather banquettes have clean lines and lower backs giving the room a more modern look, and light fixtures are much simpler than those at Cle Elum. The tables and banquettes are modules that we can move around to accommodate guests' needs. Plus, there are the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Main Street that give it a definite city view and feel." While there is plenty of artwork on the walls in Cle Elum, Bellevue has simplified that as well with barrel tops on the walls holding wine bottles. TVs are placed in the bar for guests to watch games, and one has been strategically placed in the front of the dining room and one in the private space so people are able to check scores, but not be distracted. "Our hope is that we can provide whatever experience the guest is looking for, whether it's a celebration, business dinner, girls' night out…we have it all under one roof," says Leena.

Restaurant manager Bryce Andrews

One of the biggest things they've brought with them from Cle Elum is their culture. "We empower people to take our culture and make it better," explains Leena. "We want to replicate the team culture here. When people visit Cle Elum, they're generally happy already. We take them to the next level. In Bellevue, people may come in after a tough day at work, and we need to turn that around for them. Plus, we wanted to have some familiarity here for our long-time guests. Some employees moved here and brought that culture with them. We want people to be greeted with smiling faces and have a great experience. Wine isn't something to be chugged: we want people to know they can come in and stay for hours if they'd like. No rush." Bryce is a great example. He worked as assistant restaurant manager in Cle Elum, and worked with restaurant manager Stephen Malek there before returning to the west side, where he worked with Bon Appétit management company for three years, and recently with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "Stephen was the one who got me in touch with Leena about this job opening," he explains. "I've enjoyed my other jobs, but I've never seen anything like this culture before. I was more than excited to come back to Swiftwater. It's fun and a great quality of life. You work with great people, food, and wine. I really feel like this atmosphere makes life better. We treat each other well and we treat guests like family, anticipating their needs and providing exceptional service." Besides continuity, this stable staff is familiar with the Swiftwater wines and how they pair with menu items.

After the holidays and the private party bookings, they will be looking at doing wine- and beer-paired dinners. Their private space can be opened and used for overflow dining, but have doors that can be raised/lowered for complete privacy. It's a large room that can be sealed off into two rooms for smaller groups.

"We're looking forward to working with other businesses on Main and becoming part of the community. We love the foot traffic in the area," says Leena. As an added bonus (and this is big if you know Bellevue), there is free parking in the building. So many reasons to visit frequently!

Swiftwater Cellars-Bellevue
10360 Main Street
Bellevue, WA 98004

Connie Adams/December 2017

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