Walla Walla Wine Country

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Our Saturday was spent visiting the town and  wine area of Walla Walla, located 13 miles from the Oregon border.  Leaving Yakima Valley, it was about an hour’s drive, I think – I did not time the drive, there was so much to take in and besides our unofficial wine guide, John, kept us fascinated with wine and historical facts. 

Cayuse Vineyards tasting room in town - open to the public one day a year

Walla Walla is named after a Native American tribe who, along with the Cayuse tribe were firmly settled in the area.  Interestingly, the first settlers to the area were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman who tried, unsuccessfully, to convert the indigeneous people to Christianity.  The Whitman’s were eventually killed by the Cayuse tribe and today the Whitman College stands in their honour.

Our first tasting was at Woodward Canyon and the two whites, Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay confirmed the quality that Woodward delivers.  The 2010 Washington State Chard delivered beautiful citrus tones, married with aromatic toasted hazelnuts, hints of vanilla.  The wine retails for $44 and is worth every US cent!   

In Walla Walla we visited Charles Smith, a trendy spot that has found a following amongst the younger generation.  Previously a rock band manager, Smith’s tasting room reflects that same kick-ass attitude and wines for tasting include the K Vintners and Charles Smith ranges.

Leaving the rock stage behind our next taasting was at Pepper Bridge and here I tasted wine that Walla Walla AVA should always be known for – intense and concentrated fruit backed with careful oaking rendering classic wines.  I am sure the self-rooted vines (99% of WA vineyards are ungrafted) lend much to this purity of fruit and overall quality.
Apart from the ever-present Blue Mountain, the undulating hills and surrounding vineyards made this particular memorable.  Leonetti vineyards are close by too, but not open for public tastings.  There is a trend in the USA for high-end wineries to sell by mail-order only, which is sad news for the avid wine lover…
Our final stop at tastings rooms was Dunham Cellars where Riesling found favour with me, the Late Harvest style in particular.  Paired with Stilton, happy days continue…

My tasting buddies...

Pepper Bridge

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