Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Walla Walla Winery Adventure, Part 1

Tasting Team Member Dr. J continues with his travel report from Washington State. We’re presenting his Walla Walla report in two parts…
My wife and I spent the final couple days of our Pacific Northwest trip in Walla Walla, Washington. Our intent was to spend one day there and head up to Yakima for the last day. We loved Walla Walla and there was so much to do and see that we decided to just finish our trip there. It is an incredible wine region that is really coming on strong. I heard a lady mention that Walla Walla is the Napa of the ‘70’s. I have no reason to believe otherwise.
We visited several wineries each day, so to give an abstract, I’m going to list our favorite bottles at each place. Mind you, there were numerous others at each stop that were excellent. These were just our favorites.
Entering Walla Walla from the west, our first stops were two of the oldest wineries of the area; Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole. We really enjoyed the Merlot and Chardonnay at WC and the Semillon and Syrah at L’Ecole. I like to ask for recommendations when there are so many wineries to pick from. We were told we needed to visit Long Shadows.
Long Shadows, as we found out, requires an appointment for tasting. Luckily for us, they were in between tastings and welcomed us. Long Shadows is comprised of 9 different highly acclaimed winemakers who bring their expertise from different regions of the world. This was quite evident as we went down the tasting list thinking there was no way the next could possibly be any better than the previous. We were completely delighted and I told our hostess that I wanted one of each of the reds sent to me. I would definitely recommend making this stop to anyone in the vicinity.
Another appointment only stop we made was Tranche. Tranche means “slice” in French. They focus on some of the southern Rhone varietals, as well as other diverse varietals. Slice of Pape is their version of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This was our favorite along with a Barbera.
I am one to judge a wine by its label. This is not something I am proud of. I have heard some say that they look for fun and interesting labels. I prefer the fancy and “rich” looking labels, thinking that the wine will follow suit. Without a recommendation, I may have missed Sleight of Hand Cellars. How tragic that would have been! The motto is “Simply Magical Wines”, and that they are. Each wine is magician-themed. My wife and I arrived soon after opening and received our pours from the assistant winemaker. I got to talk viticulture as well as various pruning and winemaking techniques; something that really interests me. Our shining star here was the Funkadelic Syrah. This comes from a single vineyard that was an ancient riverbed and contains softball-sized stones. The vines are very deep rooted. The grapes are crushed by foot and fermented with native yeasts. This is a truly unique wine that comes from quite possibly one of the best Syrah vineyards in the country.
Next door to S of H is VaPiano. This is a very nicely put together Italian-style tasting room and winery. This is another lineup that I could have taken one of each. We chose the 2007 Aloysius Cabernet Sauvignon and our first bottle of Sauvignon Blanc of the trip.
(Part 2 Coming Soon…)
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jtryka said...

Great article on what was undoubtedly a fun trip! I was touring Walla Walla in late May, but I drove (from Grand Rapids!) so I didn't have to deal with shipping wine. I wish I'd spent an extra day but it was still a lot of fun, especially since so much has changed since my first trip there in 2000. I wrote about it on my blog, you can read about it here if you like: http://allaloneonaplanetfullofpeople.blogspot.com/2012/06/my-road-trip-to-walla-walla-wine.html

Dave Nershi, CSW said...

That's a long road trip, but based on your story, certainly a worthwhile one. Walla Walla is a great wine destination with winteries producing top-flight vino. Thanks for the comment.