Walla Walla Wine Weekend...

Enter Walla Walla...one of the best wine growing areas in the world and home to some of the best wines available anywhere! After numerous little jaunts around our hotel, trips to the fair, and local restaurants, we found ourselves in the heart of town at a small artisan shop called Salumiere Cesario, a storefront that caters to the foodies and appreciating many of all things tasty and good. It is a unique shop featuring a handful of artisan cheeses, being stored and tasted in a the "cheese closet", a small chilled room with a person who will discuss the cheese and sample you on them, as well as a plethora of artisan salumi, olives, oils, salts and wines, amongst others. We sampled several aged cheeses varying from a few from Neal's Yard, Cypress Grove and various others from Italy, England and France. An aged Goat's milk Gouda was nice and nutty from Neals Yard, the Midnight Moon from Cypress Grove are but two what we brought home with us. We ordered a "box lunch" filled with shades of salumi from Armandino Batali's Salumi, in Seattle, Fra'Mani cured meats from Paul Bertolli out of Berkley and another one from New York. Taking on a tin "flask" of Spanish Estate Bottled Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Merula, we were on our way to the wineries. Our first stop was to pay a visit to some friends from Buty Winery, whom I have known for several years, but alas after several attempts, to no avail. Bummer. People have long asked me why do taste if I do not drink, or how do I create elaborate wine dinners since I do not have a long history with wines. Simple...I enjoy the marriage. I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making wines, and I respect the art. I taste and spit. For me, a simple taste on my palate can help paint a picture of a food and wine harmony that will be on my next menu! So even though I have been abstinent for many years, I enjoy the company. A block away amongst abandoned military barracks, where many winemakers, brewers and such take residence, we stopped at Russell Creek Winery, a seemingly well recognized(by the Wine Spectator) producer who focuses mainly on reds. We tasted about five, several of which were awarded 90 points and above! Around the corner was Dunham Cellars, ran by Eric Dunham, the wine maker. Here, a much cozier tasting room, complete with a food and wine "studio" or living room is attached where they hold lunches, dinners, intimate barrel tastings, soirees and an occasional "jam session"! We tasted a handful, from a Bordeaux-style blend called "Trutina", meaning balanced, the "Three Legged Red", another wonderful blend, the Lewis Vineyard Syrah(great!) some cabs and merlots and an exceptional Riesling. Next, we traveled just a vine's width in a southerly fashion towards a gathering of unique wineries with very high acclaim.
First stop was to Saviah Cellars, where winemaker; Richard Funk, who we had the pleasure of meeting a couple years ago when we were paired up with him at a local fundraiser, handcrafts his passion. A self-taught artisan, he makes some great wines to be held against any. Of the varietals produced; cabs, merlots, malbecs, syrahs, chards and a few Bordeaux-style blends, the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend and "The Jack"(a red blend) were our favs. The syrahs and cabs were also exquisite. As were saying good-bye and expressing our gratitude, we ran into one of our club members; an aficionado of the fermented "jus de raisin", Mr. Chan. We said au revoir to Saviah and followed our found foodies to our next watering hole...Pepperbridge Winery.
~the winery at Pepperbridge~
~Vineyards at Pepperbridge~
These wines here are very tasty. Phenomenal comes to my mind, as I am the least experienced, being the non-drinker of almost 2 decades. However, in my own defense, I have a good palate, and I know what tastes good. Pepperbridge does a great job! They are perched atop a small hill with vineyards draped over the landscape like what I recall of my trips to Tuscany. Simply beautiful! Their cabs were outstanding! We sampled several vintages and concluded that the 03' was the most stellar. A stones' throw across the grapes was our next destination to Northstar,
~Winery at Northstar~
~rows of grapes growing at Northstar~
another unique and exciting winery featuring and known for their outstanding merlots, as well as cabs, syrahs and Bordeaux-style blends, along with a semillon or two. Very highly rated, we enjoyed them all, yet opted for the prized 03' merlot and the Stella Blanca 06' Semillon...very clean and refreshing. We finished up our visit with a special personal tour of the inter-workings of the winery as a courtesy to "the industry". Very nicely done! We may just find ourselves coming back sometime soon for a guest chef dinner. We were invited back to the Chans' "vineyard estate" atop the hillside overlooking the grapes and wineries to visit and for a quick bite. One could truly retire in such a tranquil and picturesque setting. As the late afternoon slipped away and the sun drew close to the seven hills vineyards far in the distance, we started our journey back to Seattle. As I drove out of town and along the road from Walla Walla, past Lowden (home to L'Ecole and Woodward Canyon), past Prosser (Kestrel, Alexandria-Nicole and Hogue Cellars) and towards the Cascade Mountains, I knew that I would be returning, for there is still much to see, taste, sample and appreciate in this wonderful wine country named and found in Walla Walla, Washington.


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