Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend - Day 1

I recently took a weekend trip to Walla Walla for the Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend event, December 3-5. And finally got my girlfriend, Kristina, to come along, and see some of where I spent a lot of growing up. The 3 1/2 hour drive from Portland was uneventful, even with snow on the side of the highway. Once we pulled into the outskirt towns of Walla Walla, we made our first stop: L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden, just west of Walla Walla on Hwy. 12. While all of their wines were delicious, we especially loved the 2008 Walla Walla Valley Estate Syrah, and the 2007 Perigee and Apogee Bordeaux blends. The barrel samples here were 2009 Perigee and 2009 Apogee.

Our group had all driven out from Portland the day before, and were already deep into wine country, so we decided to meet up with them south of town, at Basel Cellars. Of course we had to drive past my grandparent's old place on Wallula Road (wow, has it fallen apart since they sold it 20 years ago!), since it was on the way. We were the first at Basel Cellars, and proceeded to start the tasting. I think we were the only customers in the tasting room! Stand-outs at Basel Cellars were the 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah, 2007 Walla Walla Valley Estate Syrah, 2006 Basel Cellars Merriment Bordeaux blend, and the 2008 Cabernet Franc. We got a private tour of the winery, which used to be a huge garage for collectible cars and motorcycles. A very cool operation there. Upon returning to the tasting room, we met up with our group, and got to taste the barrel samples, a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and (I think) Merlot. Much wine was purchased, for me, the 2006 Syrah.

After Basel, we raced over to Gramercy Cellars before they closed. I love MS Greg Harrington's wines, and we got to try a new one this night: The 2008 "Lower East" Cabernet Sauvignon (which gave the standard Gramercy Cab a run for it's money!), basically juice from the regular bottling that didn't quite make the cut. The 2008 regular Cab must be amazing, because the Lower East was damn tasty! The stand-out wine for me was the "Inigo Montoya" (My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.) Tempranillo. I can't remember the barrel sample here (2009 Syrah?), but I liked it a lot. Along with Gramercy, we got to taste Substance (fun website!) wines too. My favorites here were the Malbec and Syrah. I don't recall any barrel samples from Substance.

While everyone was tasting away, I boogied over to Waters Winery to taste through their Syrah line-up. I recalled from our Labor Day trip that I really, really liked one of the Syrah's, but not which one. Turns out, they are ALL amazing, but the meaty, stinky 2007 Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah. Wow, what a wine. I went home with 2 bottles of this treasure. Barrel samples were the 2009 Forgotten Hills Syrah and 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.

After tasting, we all headed into Walla Walla to our hotel, the Walla Walla Best Western, to freshen up and prepare for our dinner at T. Maccarones (we had to go back, after our stellar meal last trip). Great food, as always, and an amazing server (Nikki, I'm talking to you!). Although my favorite wine from last time, the Adamant Cellars Syrah, was out of stock, we ended up bringing a couple of our own bottles to enjoy.

After dinner, we walked around downtown (in 20+ degree weather, no less) before heading over to the Sapolil Cellars Tasting Room for some live music and a glass of their tasty Syrah, before stumbling back to the hotel for the night.

Read about our Day 2 and Day 3 adventures next!