There’s been very little movement on the Whatcom County wine scene over the past 10 years, and while craft breweries and tap houses have proliferated in the area, the addition of new wineries has been few and far between. 

But Welcome Road Winery is set to change all that. The winery opened last October in the space previously occupied by the Black Drop Coffeehouse on the corner of West Champion Street and Grand Avenue in downtown Bellingham. 

Owners Leigh McMillan and Kristen Dorrity selected Bellingham as their second location, which they feel is a perfect extension of their West Seattle tasting room and fulfills their desire to be a community-oriented/neighborhood-friendly winery. 

Leigh is a native Washingtonian while Kristen, originally from New Jersey, moved to Seattle via California in 1993. 

“We own a cabin in Glacier, about 45 miles east of Bellingham and we’re up there a lot,” said Leigh. “Welcome Road is the name of the ‘street’ our cabin is on.” 

“We’d stop in Bellingham, have lunch, drink some beer… so when we started to think about places we could expand, it was just natural for us. And how we approach our tasting room experience just seems to be a fit with Bellingham.” 

“Call it our brand,” said Leigh. “We’re laid-back, we’re unpretentious, we’re outdoor-centric. We wanted to grow…but we wanted to do it in a way that still enabled us to be a part of the community.” 

That makes Welcome Road a much-needed addition to a Northwest Washington market that already has more than its share of microbrew-loving recreationalists. And with an impressive list of award-winning wines to back up their brand, this boutique winery has local wine enthusiasts abuzz. 

Welcome Road became commercially licensed in 2011, after Leigh earned her enology certificate from Washington State University’s Viticultural and Enology Program two years earlier. 

Since day one, the winery has purchased the majority of its grapes from Yakima Valley’s Dineen Vineyards and Marcella Vineyard, both located in Zillah, Washington. 

Leigh notes that she likes to make wines in a French tradition.  

“The varietals we work with, for the most part, are Bordeaux varietals,” she says. “We like a lighter, earthy style that’s easier to pair with food. We do a lot with cabernet franc…and pair that with malbec and merlot and create some interesting and unique blends.” 

Kristen, a self-described “detailed person,” built the Bellingham tasting room bar and has also been “busy with fun stuff like scheduling, record-keeping, and working in the tasting room.” 

And whether it’s in Bellingham or West Seattle, Leigh notes that their love of the outdoors translates into sustainability practices that their customers will notice. 

“We don’t put foil on our bottles [because] it just adds waste; we use lighter-weight bottles which helps reduce CO2, and the vineyards we work with are certified sustainable. That’s all an important part of how we operate.” 300 W. Champion St., Bellingham, 206.486.0788,