Saturday, June 11, 2022

New Finds in Walla Walla

Trip date: November 2021

Last fall the ladies from the wine group I'm in decided a return to Walla Walla was in order. Covid was still wreaking havoc so it wasn't a normal Walla Walla trip but it was still incredibly fun!

Sarah and I decided to fly over, while Lorraine, Sandra, and Sonja drove. I had actually never flown to Walla Walla before; it's a quick 1 hour flight on a small prop plane, very similar to the flight into Santa Rosa wine country. 

When we landed we found out our friends, who were to be picking us up from the airport, were running a bit late. We tried to find an Uber or Lyft, thinking we would just meet them at our first wine tasting appointment, but Walla Walla still doesn't have car share services. When we found out the only restaurant in the airport didn't serve wine ("we don't want to seem like we are playing favorites" was the reply when I asked why not!) Sarah and I took the advice of the cashier and wheeled our suitcases down the street to Cavu Cellars and had a glass until our friends made it into town. 

Our first tasting of the weekend was at Grosgrain Cellars. It's in a beautiful location and the wines here are very very good. They even have a gorgeous vacation rental if you want to stay! 

We checked into our own Airbnb afterward; a HUGE 5 bedroom, 4+ bathroom house directly across the street from Pioneer Park. This was a great rental for a group with a super well stocked kitchen, lots of comfy seating, and big tv for movie watching. 

After a quick tasting at El Corazon, we had a stellar dinner at Hattaway's.  It was my first time here and I loved it! The food was great, our table in the wine cellar was perfect, and the wine selection was awesome. Highly recommend!

The next morning we called in salad orders from Graze -as we had a full day of tasting appointments and didn't want to have to worry about finding a lunch spot- and hit the road. Except for El Corazon, all the wineries we had lined up for the weekend were new visits for me and I was super excited! 

First up was Devison where we tasted in their working cellar. The reds here are absolutely delicious! I also recently had a chance to try their rosé which is super solid as well. 

We didn't have far to go for our next appointment at Rasa as they share the same building. They have a small tasting room set up with comfy lounge chairs and poured us through quite a big line up. I think the group had mixed opinions on the wine here but I did buy a couple of their QED which is a nice Rhone blend. 

Our third stop was at Dillon which is near the airport. Dillon specializes in Chardonnay and Syrah and although domestic Chardonnay does not tend to be my favorite varietal I absolutely loved Marc Leahy's! This is one talented winemaker! They were also kind enough to let us eat our salads as we tasted. Another stellar stop!
We were all very excited for our final tasting of the day. Alton Cellars has been getting a lot of press since opening their new tasting room in 2020. The building, by Architect Jon Gentry of GO’C, is simply stunning. Sitting in the middle of rolling hills, the steel/glass/wood structure manages to look both completely out of place and somehow natural in it's setting. 

And that's the end of my positive experience at Alton. As we walked inside and were seated we all commented on the VERY strong scent of what we assumed was someone's cologne. So strong was the smell that I could actually taste it in the back of my throat. This is obviously something that you don't want while wine tasting.

One of my friends finally asked/commented about the smell to the woman pouring for us and she responded excitedly that it was actually a scented candle that they had burning. And in fact they consider it their signature scent.

WTF????? What winemaker has scented candles burning in their tasting room?? Especially one called Cowboy's Camp? Did I also mention that their tasting fee was $30? Utter bullshit. Enough said.

We decided to have dinner at home that night and picked up an order of Greek food from Yamas, which had been recommended to us by one of the (better) winemakers, and to-go cocktails from Passatempo. Both were absolutely delicious! 

The next morning, after some mimosas and pastries, we had our first tasting. The winemaker of Tempus Joe Forest was great and took us through a tasting in the cellar room. The wines here are super approachable, very well priced, and the staff were all great. I think everyone bought a few bottles!

Down the road and very near the airport we stopped at the incubator area. These cute little buildings are part of a program to help growing wineries and winemakers get a foothold in the industry. We had an appointment to taste at itä where winemaker Kelsey Albro Itämeri charmed us while pouring some absolutely delicious rosé, semillon, and pinot noir. 

This was such a great stop! Kelsey is from Seattle and does club pick up parties both in Walla Walla and Seattle making joining her wine club an easy choice for all of us. 

So enamored by the incubators we headed next door to Hoquetus (rhymes with lettuce) and tasted through the three wines that winemaker Robert Gomez was making. You may know Robert as he worked at Montana bar and Dino's Tomato Pie in Seattle before moving to Walla Walla in 2017. His wines are crunchy and lovely.
Before leaving the airport region we stopped at Prospice where they were holding tastings outside under a big tent. Sarah and Sonja went to the nearby taco truck and brought over lunch while we tasted some gorgeous syrahs. Jay Krutulis (former cellarmaster at Tranche) and Matt Reilly (former cellarmaster at Gramercy) aren't new to wine making but this is their first venture together and they just started in 2019.

The wines are great, well-priced, and they made it very easy to join their cellar club :) 

We headed back into downtown after this and Sandra, Lorraine, and I did a final tasting at House of Bones which is in the old Rotie space. I was pretty excited about trying the "French-style" chardonnays here but they only served one and the other 3 tastes were Proper Syrahs. All good, but I somehow thought we'd be tasting all Chard.
They did pair the wines with some delicious chocolates though!

We met everyone at Brasserie Four and had a cocktail out on the patio with some oysters & escargot while waiting for our delicious to-go order which we thoroughly enjoyed back at our home.  

The next morning the car-crew headed out fairly early as there were reports of snow in the pass. Sarah and I called every "taxi" driver in town before finally getting hooked up with some random guy and his SUV. 

I headed across the street to Pioneer Park to take a little walk in the sun while Sarah packed up. It's a gorgeous park with huge trees, a pond, and an aviary.

We picked up another order from Graze and headed to the airport. After checking in (1 case of wine free per person flying out of Walla Walla!) we found an area upstairs in the airport where we could have our lunch away from other people. 

It was a great weekend, with some great ladies, and a chance to taste some really lovely wines! 

All Walla Walla photos here

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