My wife and I spent the past weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, for an anniversary trip to check out the booming wine scene they have going on. How booming? Well, they have some 130 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley (an area that also encompasses Milton-Freewater in Oregon), and 85 of those have tasting rooms open to the public.
And, an interesting coincidence: the weekend we were visiting also happened to be the weekend of the Wine Bloggers Conference.
I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of all the wineries we visited, but I will highlight at least a few that stood out:
- L’École No. 41 is one of the biggest and oldest wineries in the area and on Friday afternoons (starting at 2:00) they have a special "Honor Roll" tasting for a nominal fee. We got there just in time to not only get an inside tour (with tasting wines from the barrels, even) but to enjoy a vertical tasting of their Perigee line of estate wines. Pretty fantastic.
- Tertulia Cellars was a fun stop not only for the wines but also the lively conversation of the hostess (I don’t remember her name).
- Similarly good conversation and wines at Rulo Winery, along with a large platter of artisan cheeses to help ones’ self to. We loved their Syrca red wine and I particularly enjoyed their oak-aged Chardonnay—I was most impressed with the side-by-side tasting they did with their stainless steel-aged Chardonnay so you could taste the difference: it was like the kind of beer geekery I’m all over.
- Saviah Cellars was another great source of conversation and information; in addition to getting an interesting impromptu lesson in viticulture, we got the lowdown on some good sources of beer in the area (though we didn’t get any) and some inside info on the local wine industry. Oh, and good wines, too.
Friday night we attended the Walla Walla party of the year: the Charles Smith/K Vintners party held in part for the Wine Bloggers Conference. It would sound much cooler to say, "we crashed the party," but in reality we were legitimately on the list so there was no party-crashing involved.
And by "party of the year" I mean just that: apparently Charles Smith is a rock star in Walla Walla, the area’s larger-than-life personality who is eccentric, makes incredible wine, and throws the best parties. We had no idea who he was or that the party was a big deal; we almost didn’t go until we heard it was going to be the place to be. (And afterward, everyone who heard we were at the party was highly impressed.)
In addition to the free wine tastings, live rock band, and burlesque dancers, the other highlight of the party was meeting fellow beer blogger The Beer Wench (AKA Ashley Routson), who was
undercover attending the Wine Bloggers Conference and, well, generally partying, as near as I could tell.
By our count, we ended up visiting 13 wineries, and tasting the wines of several others. That sounds like a lot, but on our first day (and second winery), we met a couple who was on their 20th winery of the day. They were tasting then pouring their wine out, but even so, how they were still standing (much less driving) is a bit of a mystery.
A good weekend, all told. And I may have some more anecdotes from it to post. We’ll see.