Walla Walla Wine Trip. (Day one.)

In Washington on November 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Monday morning I got on a bus with about 50 other industry folk, and headed to Walla Walla. Our first stop was Pepperbridge winery, which is just south of the town of Walla Walla. There, we tasted wines from Longshadows, Va Piano, Abeja, Amavi, Pepperbridge, Trust, L’Ecole, and Sleight of Hand. I may or may not come back to this and fill in more thorough tasting notes, but for the moment I’ll just list some of my favorites. 
The 08 Trust Walla Walla Valley Syrah, which I’ve written about before, and I’m still quite fond of. I also reaffirmed my love of the wines from Pepperbridge and Va Piano. I hadn’t tried the wines from Sleight of hand before, and I was very fond of all 3 that I tried. The 08 Renegade Red (branded as just a red table wine, but this vintage is 100% Merlot from the Canoe Ridge Vineyard) was a fantastic example of what I think an inexpensive wine should be. It sees no new oak, it’s just pure, clean fruit with great acidity, and it retails for less than $15. The Sleight of Hand Spellbinder was one of the bigger surprises of the tasting, as I’m not generally much of a Cab Franc fan, and it’s 54% Cab Franc and 46% Merlot. Again, no new oak, just great cassis and blueberry fruit, and palate-cleansing acidity. Last was the 08 Levitation, 100% Syrah from Lewis and Les Collines vineyards, and the only wine that sees any new oak. A bit of smoked meat/bacon fat and spice on the nose, delicious sweet fruit on the palate. Raspberries and bacon.

Our next stop was Va Piano, just a short way down the road from Pepperbridge, where they were thoughtful enough to have some beers for us. Now, some people may think beer would have no place on a wine trip, but sometimes your palate just needs a bit of a break. The sun began to set while we were there, and we departed for pre-dinner appetizers and tasting of Cadaretta wines. The later in the day it gets, the harder it can become to keep good notes of what you’re tasting, and by this point in the evening, my tasting notes werer significantly less detailed, but I was particularly fond of the 2007 Cadaretta Cabernet.

Cadaretta winery and Middleton family vineyard have a beautiful glass gazebo at the top of a hill overlooking Milton-Freewater, which is actually on the Oregon side of the border. Most people think of Walla Walla wines coming from Washington, but the AVA actually extends south over the border, covering the area surrounding Milton-Freewater. The Cadaretta wines were great across the board, I was particularly fond of the Cabernet.
For dinner we returned to Walla Walla, to Waters winery, where dinner was catered by Andrae’s Kitchen, a food truck owned and operated by former Boise chef Andrae Bopp. We tasted through the Waters wines, as well as their second label, Substance. I’ve always been a big fan of Waters, and this was no exception. It was especially a pleasure to try a few of their wines that aren’t currently for sale in Boise, including a Pepperbridge vineyard Syrah, which was absolutely excellent.

I am endlessly grateful that I get to travel to beautiful places like Walla Walla, taste wine, and call it work. That’s why it annoys and offends me to see people who take a trip like this and use it like a college trip to Cabo San Lucas. Monday night one guy got so drunk he tried to pick a fight with my sales rep. Another guy first attempted to light a cigarette in a non-smoking bar, and then either wet his pants, or just urinated on the sidewalk (reports vary). I like a drink as much as the next person, and yes, I’ve been too drunk before. But work time is work time, and play time is play time. And if you’re unable to make that distinction, perhaps this isn’t the best industry for you.

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