Monday, August 14, 2017

Cayuse Release Weekend in Walla Walla

Trip date: April 2016

April means Cayuse Release Weekend, the annual pilgrimage to collect my only cult wine and taste around the charming town of Walla Walla. This time I was also on a mission to bring home a few cases of rosé for the arrival of summer.

My friend Chris and I headed east, his first time, and we decided to drive across the Columbia Gorge as it was a brilliant spring day. It was interesting to see that the makeshift campground where I spent much of my late 20's partying at is now all paved with proper fire pits, picnic tables, and tent pads.

We arrived in town and immediately stopped at Gramercy who always has a member's party that same weekend. I've been a fan of Gramercy wine for years now, the quality is amazing. If you haven't been I really recommend a visit (ask if they have any Picpoul!)

However lovely Walla Walla is, it is not without a few flaws; one of them being the lack of good, affordable hotels close to downtown. In years past I have always stayed at the Holiday Inn Express- not posh but well priced. This time we chose to stay at the newly opened Courtyard Marriott. For the same price as the HI we were within walking distance to the wineries, bars, and restaurants downtown. Very nice!

We checked out the bar and although the service was great, the drinks were made with overly sweet mixers. Stick to whiskey neat or on the rocks here I'd say.

We walked to Brasserie Four, one of my favorite restaurants, and had an excellent meal complete with escargot. I really love their escargot!
The next morning we drove over the state line into northern Oregon and onto the Cayuse property. This is the only time Cayuse does any type of tasting, and it's only for members. My friends know that I don't roll out with handcarts of Cayuse, just a few bottles to keep things interesting, such as my 2014 Cailloux Vineyards Syrah which The Wine Advocate just gave 100 points!

The folks here put on a great party and now that the new cellar is open there are beautiful views of the vineyards and much more space for everyone. They had an awesome spread of both passed small bites and stations of hand carved Iberico ham and cheeses. And of course, there was a lot of wine to taste!

Taking advantage of the warm and sunny day we headed to Sleight of Hand, got a few glasses and sat outside while listening to winemaker Trey's rock music play on vinyl from inside.

We dropped the car back off at the hotel and set out to go tasting at some new (to me) wineries.

First up, Trust. I really liked the wines here, very solid Syrahs with excellent QPR! Recommend giving them a taste!
Seven Hills, which is a classic in Walla Walla, but I had never been to a tasting there. We loved everything and ended up buying a lot! And good thing as the winery was sold in 2016 so upcoming vintages will be different. Their rosé was especially lovely.

DaMa. Nope. Overpriced, underdone. And the tasting came with some serious high-pressure sales pitch. YMMV.

Final stop at Otis Kenyon left us on a high note. Lovely wines, some which came home with me, and a fun staff and tasting room. Another one I'd recommend!
It was time for dinner and we had reservations at Whitehouse Crawford. I absolutely love the space here and my meals are always good, not fantastic but good. Walla Walla also needs more restaurants.
The next morning I had a nice visit with my friend Abra who moved to Walla Walla from Seattle to study wine making. We were able to sit outside in her garden with our tea in the sunshine and catch up. The weather can be so great over there in the spring!

Before leaving town Chris and I had a fantastic breakfast at Bacon & Eggs which is now on Main Street in downtown! So handy!

We had one more tasting, at Kerloo as I had been told they were doing a good rosé and indeed they were. Rosé goals were achieved and the trunk was just about full.
We got on the road heading west, this time going through Tri Cities and Yakima, but made a little stop at Owen Roe's new tasting rooms high on a hill in Union Gap.

This is another winery I've been a fan of since first tasting them in Willamette Valley, Oregon. The new Washington space is awesome and I had a chance to taste some wines I am familiar with as well as some new ones. Absolutely make a stop here if you are passing by!
I missed this year's Release Weekend as I was in Palm Springs soaking up some vitamin D with friends. I will most likely miss next year's as well because of the same. First world problems and all that. Here's looking to 2019!

Pssst... If you're in Seattle you can taste Walla Walla greats such as Sleight of Hand, Kerloo, Rotie, Waters, and more at SoDo Urban Works!

All wine weekend photos here!

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