Tag Archive | Walla Walla winery

Walla Walla 2017: Wine on the Way…

Day 4 – Monday, May 29, 2017

The last day of our trip we headed out of town, stopping at Sleight of Hand Cellars along the way.  I had known about Sleight of Hand, but never been, and Lelani had found them and decided that should be where we went.  Of course, she didn’t have to twist any of our arms…

Sleight of Hand has a Magician theme.  Their wines are delicious and have magician themed names!  The tasting room has is brightly decorated in a modern theme, and they have a ton of music posters (many are autographed) and magician posters on the walls.  They also have records – over 2,000 of them – they always have something playing on the record player!

I brought home their Magician’s Assistant Cabernet Franc Rosé and their Conjurer Red Blend.  That isn’t to say I didn’t love all their other wines, because I did, but they are a bit above my price point, starting at $45 for their varietal reds.  I did get a tank top though – which I love!  Lelani found a Prince Purple Rain themed tank top there too!

Me at Sleight of Hand – I’m not sunburned – it’s just the red umbrella above me

 

Lelani took this photo, not realizing I was photo bombing her!

 

After Sleight of Hand, it was time to get on the road and start working our way home.  We stopped in Yakima for Miner’s Burgers – Home of the Big Miner Burger – these burgers are huge!  Trust me, if you go, split the fries.  One order of fries is probably enough for four people if you plan on having a burger to yourself!  Especially if you have a milkshake, and trust me on this too, you should have a milkshake!  Miner’s has been a Yakima institution since 1948.  We left stuffed, and happy.

Waiting for our burgers!

Our next stops were the Fruit and Antique stand in Selah, just outside of Yakima, and the Thorp Fruit and Antique stand.  I love going there!  We all spend some time poking around and checking out the fruit, gourmet foodie items and antiques.

Brandon, me and Lelani waiting for Joel

Soon enough, it was time to hit the pass and get back over the mountains toward home.  The traffic was just as bad on the way back and this time I was awake for it!  It was, however, the end of a really great friends weekend…

 

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Boomtown Pinot Gris

Another tough couple of weeks at work, but at least it is the weekend!  When I got home from work, I cracked open the Boomtown Pinot Gris.  Boomtown is the second label from Dusted Valley, a Walla Walla winery with a tasting room in Woodinville.  Two Wisconsin natives with a dream for wine making opened a winery in Walla Walla, and they make some really good wine!

The Boomtown Pinot Gris is a wonderfully balanced wine; crisp with just a little sweetness.  It is certainly a Pinot Gris done the Washington way, with much less of the sweetness of the Oregon style Pinot Gris.  Not that I don’t love a good Oregon Pinot Gris, but this one is fantastic!

Boomtown Pinot Gris

Boomtown Pinot Gris

I paired mine with a tuna fish sandwich with pickles, because, hey, I like to class things up on a Friday night.  And you should drink what you like, and sometimes don’t worry about whether or not it goes with what you are eating.  Don’t tell anybody, but I had dinner in my pajamas too.  I said it was a long week!

Boomtown is available at grocery stores, restaurants, and through the tasting room, but you can’t buy it on their website.  If you see it, pick some up!

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

The first white wine that I tried from the mixed case was the 2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc, by Bergevin Vineyards in Walla Walla, Washington.  The wine is a nice, light straw color, with light tropical notes and a lemongrass scent.  On the palate, it is a crisp, clean, wine with flavors of melon, lychee, and crisp citrus.  The flavors are nicely balanced, and the result is a wine that has a lot going on, in a good way.

The first night, I paired this with simple baked fish and vegetables, and it was still fabulous the next day when my girlfriend and I finished off the bottle with an appetizer assortment of fresh vegetables, cheeses and crackers, sushi and hummus.  The flavors in this wine offered something for each food we tried.  And although my friend is a self-professed red wine drinker, she really enjoyed this wine.

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

At the $10.99 price point, this was an amazing value.  I will certainly buy this again!  And it is on my list of tasting rooms to visit next time we are in Walla Walla.

Have you had this wine?  What did you think?

A Happy Ending at L’Ecole

Our last tasting of the day on our Walla Walla wine tour weekend was at L’Ecole No. 41 in the historic Frenchtown School just outside of Walla Walla in Lowden.  The building was built in 1915,  to replace the first Frenchtown School, a log cabin from 1870.  L’Ecole was founded in 1983, and is the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla area.

We arrived towards the end of the day, but our server was more than gracious about guiding us through a tasting and answering our questions.  The tasting room retains many of the original historic features, including the hardwood floors, and has been decorated with period Barrister Bookcases collected by the winery’s original owner. The ambiance of the tasting room just adds to the charm.

L 'Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

L ‘Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

We began with the 2011 Estate Luminesce, a blend of 67% Semillon and 33% Sauvignon Blanc, from Seven Hills Vineyard.  It showed tart citrus and floral flavors.  Then we had the 2011 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, a very well balanced wine with apple and minerality on light oak.  It is a Chardonnay that both Jon and I can enjoy because it is a great balance between the unoaked Chards that I love and the big, buttery Chards that are Jon’s favorites.

Moving on to the red wines, we started with the 2009 Estate Merlot, with grapes from the Seven Hills Vineyard.  It was a nicely balanced wine with medium tannins and black cherry flavors. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine aged in 40% new oak, with flavors of tobacco and heavier tannins.

Next we tried the 2009 Estate Perigee, a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot.  This is a very elegant Bordeaux blend that was aged for 22 months – a very nice wine.

The last wine that we tasted was the Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine.  It hasn’t been released yet; it will come out in April 2013.  It is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Merlot.  This is a fantastic wine with flavors of blackberry and chocolate.  There are only 350 cases, and I’m sure it will sell quickly.  I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t buy it that day!

It was a great end to a wonderful day of wine tasting – L ‘Ecole was a real treat.

Our Trip to Tero Estates

While wandering around downtown Walla Walla trying to decide where to visit next, we found Tero Estates on the first floor of the Marcus Whitman hotel.  Tero was one of the recommendations that we received from Va Piano, so we were confident that we would find some good wines there.

Tero Estates’ vineyard is Windrow Vineyard, which is Walla Walla’s oldest commercially planted vineyard; it was planted in 1981.  From 1983 to 2000 Windrow Vineyards grapes were used by Leonetti Cellars.  The vineyards was purchased by the current owners in 2007, and they have been making wine since.  They also sell grapes to Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla Vintners, Waters and Glen Corrie.  In 2010, they hired Ashley Trout as consulting winemaker, who was making Flying Trout wines.  Flying Trout wines is Ashley Trout’s personal venture; she travels half the year to Mendoza, Argentina and makes wine there.  She specializes in Torrontés and Malbec under the Flying Trout label.

We began our tasting with the Flying Trout Torrontés.  I hadn’t heard of Torrontés before, and upon looking it up, discovered that is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouthfeel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose (thanks Wikipedia!).  Sounds fantastic!

The Flying Trout 2011 Torrontés is a crisp white with flavors of honey and pineapple, and a hint of floral on the nose.  I really liked it.  Next we tasted the Windrow Field Blend, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; instead of being barrel aged, it was cask aged.  I was not a fan of this one though.

We quickly moved on to the Windrow Cabernet Franc, which was smoky and spicy with flavors of stewed plums.  It was a big, bold masculine wine.  The 2010 Flying Trout Malbec was its feminine counterpart – a lovely Malbec made with fruit from the Gamache Vineyard.  We finished off our tasting with the 2009 Tero Estates Petite Verdot, a solid wine with a big balanced flavor.

Our server was friendly and provided a lot of information about the wines – she made the tasting a very pleasurable experience.  And the icing on the cake – was really icing on the cake!  REALLY!  They had chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting!  They had been delivered by a friend of our server and they were delicious.

All in all a fabulous visit!

Otis Kenyon – A History in Flames…

After leaving Va Piano, and getting some recommendations from the server there, we headed back into downtown Walla Walla to check out some of the wineries in the City Center.  After parking the car, we headed down the street and were intrigued by a logo of a man in a bowler hat.  We stopped inside.  Otis Kenyon is located in a long and narrow space in one of Walla Walla’s historic buildings on Main Street.  The space has hardwood floors and beautiful high ceilings.  I’m not sure if they have just recently relocated to the space, but it seemed like the space isn’t finished yet; their tasting bar seemed to be a 6 foot folding table with a tablecloth.

Our server guided us through one of the fastest tastings I’ve ever been through!  Sadly, she didn’t tell us anything about the wines, or the history of the winery, or even talk to us at all.  So, what I can tell you has been gleaned from other sources.  We tasted three wines – their 2008 Matchless Red, the 2009 Merlot and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Matchless Red was balanced and approachable with medium tannins and lots of fruit.  It is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot.  The Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon weren’t my style though – they both had very heavy tannins and strong smoke flavors.

After leaving Otis Kenyon, I looked up a bit more about them.  I was curious about the man in the bowler hat and the interesting name of the red blend wine.  As it turns out, there is a story there.  In the early 1900s, James Otis Kenyon was working as a dentist in nearby Milton-Freewater.  He had a wife and kids, and was struggling to make ends meet.  And then another dentist set up shop – Competition!  For some reason, James got the idea to burn down his competitor’s office and he got caught.  While he was serving time in jail, his wife left him with the kids and moved to Walla Walla, and planted the idea that he was dead.

Almost 50 years later, James Otis Kenyon’s grandson Stephen discovered that his grandfather was still alive and living on the Oregon Coast – and happily the two met and formed a relationship that lasted until James’ death at the age of 101.  Stephen owns Otis Kenyon Wine and wanted to pay tribute to his grandfather – the man in the bowler hat is a silhouette of James Otis Kenyon, and Matchless Red is a nod to his criminal past.

Being the history nerd that I am, I wish our server would have shared that story with us!

Northstar Winery – the Tour Begins…

After our lunch at Olive, Jon and I decided to begin our day tasting at Northstar.  Northstar came with the recommendation of a friend of mine from childhood, and since we didn’t really know much about any of the Walla Walla wineries, that seemed good enough for us. Northstar was founded in the early 1990s, with their first vintage in 1994.  David Merfeld has been their winemaker since 2005.

Our server was a friendly gentleman who had spent years in the ski industry, and then started working part time at Northstar after he retired.  We were the only ones there, which seemed a little unusual, as it was about 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday, but we chalked that up to the mountain passes being bad (two other couples were heading in as we were heading out).

Northstar Winery

Northstar Winery

If you know anything about Northstar, you know that they specialize in Merlot.  Their lineup has 3 Merlots, but it also had 5 other wines – you get to taste 7 of the 8 wines.  4 of the wines are only available at the winery.  Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2011 Stella Blanca Semillon – a blend of 93% Semillon and 7% Muscadelle – which was interesting because Muscadelle is not typically seen in Washington.  The Stella Blanca was crisp and bright, with flavors of honey and citrus – it was very appealing.  The tasting notes say there are flavors of coconut, but I didn’t taste any.  Since this was one of the wines only available at the winery, I made sure to buy a bottle.
  • 2009 Stella Maris Red Blend – another blend of 65% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Cabernet Franc.  This blend was a pretty bold spicy blend with flavors of vanilla interspersed.
  • 2009 Northstar Petit Verdot – I’m always intrigued when a winery does Petit Verdot as a varietal wine, and this one is very good.  It is dark and rich with fruit, and would be excellent paired with dark chocolate.  Also available only at the winery, so I left with a bottle of this one too.
  • 2009 Northstar Malbec – Interestingly, this wine is the only wine sourced from Northstar fruit, plus Spring Valley vineyard grapes.  Considering their specialty is Merlot, I would have thought their estate would be planted with Merlot.  This Malbec is fruit forward and smooth, with white pepper flavors adding a bit of spice.
  • 2009 Northstar Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine had flavors of blackberry, raspberry and vanilla, and was lightly oaked.  I often don’t favor Washington cabs, as they are too bold and oaked, but this one was approachable and pleasant.
  • 2009 Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot – Our server did a side by side tasting of this wine and the Walla Walla Merlot (below), so you could compare the two wines and the differences imparted by the vineyard and the climate.  This wine had flavors of of vanilla and blackberry, and was very smooth.  After tasting both wines several times, this one was my favorite by a nose.
  • 2009 Northstar Walla Walla Merlot – this wine has flavors of raspberry and blackberry and excellent, but it was still a bit tart.  I think this would have been my winner if it had a few more years on it.  Jon declared this wine his favorite.

All in all, Northstar has some very good wines, and there certainly wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch.  I have to disagree with the Merlots being their best wines though – I thought their standouts were the Stella Blanca, the Petit Verdot and the Malbec.  The tasting fee is $7, but is refundable with purchase – and the spacious tasting room would certainly be able to accommodate busy days without making the place seem crowded.  If I get the chance to visit in the summer, the patio would be a great place to relax and enjoy a tasting or a glass of wine.

After we purchased our Stella Blanca and Petit Verdot, I asked the server which other places he would recommend, particularly any wineries that had some white wines.  One of his recommendations was Va Piano, which I had never heard of before we started getting ready for our trip.  And that’s where we headed next!