Sunday, October 03, 2010

Walla Walla Wine Tasting - Day 2

Read about our Day 1 adventures in this post.

Day 2 started off early, with everyone hitting up the showers and jokes about "fire in the hole!". We set out in Woody's Rover Disco, with me in the far back manning the iPhone Charging Station (AC inverter and powerstrip), since everyone had an iPhone, and maps/GPS. Since we had a couple tasting appointments (1:00 at Long Shadows, 2:30 at Rasa Vineyards), we decided to head way out west, and start at Woodward Canyon, one of the oldest wineries in the area. Woodward Canyon is located on Highway 12, out in the tiny (TINY!) town of Lowden, and has some delicious wines. No detailed tasting notes here, but the Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing, and my wine of the flight. Tasting fee: $5.

Woodward Canyon is is conveniently right next door to L'Ecole No. 41 Winery, which we made our second stop of the day. If you go, be sure to "ring the bell" before you walk into the winery. You'll know what I'm talking about when you arrive. This winery was packed, with people standing 3 deep at the tasting bar. Huge wine list too, with Columbia Valley and local Walla Walla Valley options. I loved their Syrahs, as well as the Apogee/Perigee Bordeaux blends. As a bonus, we were able to taste some older vintage (2002) bottles of these two tasty wines, and what a difference age makes! While they had the 2002's available for sale, they were a bit above my price range, and I ended up taking a bottle of their 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah home, for $24. Tasting fee: $5 (waived with my bottle purchase).

We were able to fit in a third winery before our 1:00 tasting appt. with Long Shadows, and Reininger Winery fit the bill nicely. Great tasting room, that would be excellent for a big party (hint-hint), and delightful tasting room staff. They took very good care of us, and had plenty of knowledge about the wines. I think everyone's favorite wine was their 2009 Helix Rosé. I really loved the Ash Hollow Vineyard Syrah, because of it's funkified nose. Really dirty and earthy...yum! We lingered here a bit too long, and had to beat feet to get out to Long Shadows in time. Tasting fee: $5.

Long Shadows Wineries is off all by itself, up Frenchtown Road off Hwy 12, in the midst of rolling grain fields. The winery is of ultra-modern design, and situated such that when viewing outside from within, the sense of being in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around is incredible. Inside, it is very modern and luxurious, with a tasting 'host' and viewing windows down into the working part of the winery. You can tell they spared no expense when creating the winery! We were fortunate enough to chat with Bonny, who schedules the tasting appointments, and handles most (all?) of the sales and such at the winery. The wines here are all delicious, from the Riesling to the blends, and Syrah. Each wine is made by a different well-known winemaker, most from outside the US. Resident winemaker Gilles Nicault, who makes their Chester-Kidder wine, also takes care of the wines when the others are not in residence. My two favorites were the Pedestal Merlot, by Frenchman Michel Rolland, and Sequel Syrah, by Australian John Duval. Both were tasting perfectly that day, and I ended up splurging and took home a bottle of 2007 Sequel. Tasting fee: $10 (waived with my bottle purchase).

Our fifth stop was also our second 'scheduled' appointment, with relative newcomers, Rasa Vineyards, owned by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane. Their winery, previously the Artifex crush facility, is now the Hence Vineyards winery out on Powerline Rd. A beautiful winery, with river rock walls and a "lodge" feel to it! Rasa is only just preparing to release their second vintage (2008), and are already making a huge splash in the Washington wine scene. Their wines are all amazing! Had I the cash, I would have bought a case, at least, of each wine! The tasting lineup consisted of 2 vintages of their QED Rhone blend, Vox Populi Mourvedre, The Composer Riesling, Principia Reserve Syrah (my favorite), and two new wines from their second label, PB Wines. Released at a much lower price point than the regular line, the PB line is going to be a winner. They have a Red Mountain Syrah, and a Red blend as well, for just $29. Comparatively, the QED retails for $50, and the Principia $85. This was by far my favorite experience that day. Pinto and Billo were excellent hosts, and had a great story behind every wine. I could have spent all day just talking to them about wine and their philosophy behind it, let alone sampling their delicious wines! Almost everyone bought at least a bottle here, with me taking a Principia, QED and a couple bottles each of the PB Wines line. We're trying to get the brothers to come out for some tastings in Portland, so stay tuned! Tasting fee: $0.

After spending the rest of the afternoon at Rasa, we ended up back in downtown Walla Walla, attempting to hit Happy Hour at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. But guess what? No Happy Hour. See ya!

Next stop, Sleight of Hand Cellars tasting room. I love the wines here, and winemaker Trey Busch is super cool. We were picking out records (yes, actual LP records!) to play and having a great time chatting with Trey. He was unfortunately sold out of my favorite wine, the 2007 Levitation Syrah, but was gracious enough to pull out a yet-to-be-released 2008 Levitation for us to sample! Awesome wine, and one that I will be purchasing when it is finally available! Thanks Trey! Tasting Fee: $0.

About this time, we were starting to get hungry, and looking at food options. I happened to wander off, and stumbled upon the DaMa Wines tasting room on Main St, just down from Sapolil. Mel, the tasting room host, was awesome, and she had us all laughing hard from the start. The wines were great, with my favorite being the Syrah. I didn't make a purchase here (others did), but I probably should have! Tasting fee: $0.

Finally, dinnertime! We hit up Sweet Basil Pizzaria for some excellent pie and (you guessed it) more wine! Nothing ever tasted so good as that pizza...

We ended the night back at Sapolil Cellars Tasting Room, with more of that yummy Syrah and live music (different band), before crashing out back at camp.

Read about our adventures on Day 3 in this post.