Walla Walla is an awesome wine experience. The town is a quaint sexy little town that oozes charm and you can either experience the downtown walking wine tasting scene or if you prefer you can explore the vineyards and grand tasting rooms around town.
People assume since I am in the wine business that I get out and go wine tasting all the time. Actually it is quite the opposite. This was my first visit to Walla Walla since before Nectar Tasting Room opened in 2010. My last visit I had the opportunity to taste quite a bit and tour a few amazing facilities as a part of the Wine Bloggers Conference. It was at that conference that I met Ben, our tasting room manager…small world.
With this visit, my time was limited to an overnight stay, so visiting a large number of wineries was out of the question. I started the afternoon off exploring the cute downtown area. After a quick stop to say “hi” to my friend Catie at Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, I ventured down main street checking out the little shops and boutiques. My goal was to visit Charles Smith Winery tasting room on Spokane Street just off Main. Smith is a brash rock star winemaker that is known for his flamboyant style and for his quality wine. Charles Smith’s tasting room is a converted old auto shop with roll up doors and a very minimalistic and modern style. I hear this place gets pretty jumping in the evening. Instead of doing a tasting, I opted just to relax with a glass of K Vintners Northridge Vineyard Merlot. This is exactly what I would expect from a Washington (Wahluke Slope) Merlot, big and bold with lots of fruit and medium tannin.
The next day started with a visit to Basel Cellars. I had heard that the experience and views were great and those recommendations were right on! The big tasting room and expansive grounds look out to an estate vineyard. A great romantic spot for a tasting. I loved how the staff was accommodating by bringing the tasting to me as I sat on the patio. For the most part, the wines were solid. I ended up purchasing their 2901 Blend (Merlot, Cab, Syrah) and their Rose of Syrah. Looking for an amazing experience? Rent their 8 room guest house for groups of up to 16 and enjoy a private pool, hot tub, movie theater and more.
Next up was an experience I had been really looking forward to…Long Shadows! “Long Shadows brings seven highly acclaimed vintners from the major wine regions of the world to Washington State, each an owner-partner in a unique winery dedicated to producing Columbia Valley wines that showcase the best of this growing region.” (from their website) So, basically, they brought in some of the world’s best winemakers to showcase their style of wine with Washington fruit! The tasting room was minimalistic, modern and cold feeling with lots of concrete. The lone Chihuly blown glass chandelier was the center of attention. The tasting room manager was my tour guide through some incredible wines. You don’t go to Long Shadows for the vineyard experience, you go for the wine. I highly recommend adding Long Shadows to your list of wineries to visit. It is recommended to call ahead for an appointment. I purchased two Pedestal Merlot, a Poets Leap Riesling, Chester Kidder (Cabernet, Syrah, Petit Verdot) and a Pirouette (traditional Bordeaux style blend).
The final stop on the quick trip was based on recommendation from Facebook friends…Three Rivers Winery. This winery is another with a large tasting room and decent views. For those that love golf, you can enjoy their three hole mini course after your wine tasting too. If you are looking for the “shopping” experience, Three Rivers has lots of trinkets, wine paraphernalia and foodie items to fit most everyone’s tastes. The tasting experience was little tainted because our server really seemed like he was just mailing it in. I get it, I’m in the business and you say similar things all day long, but as he gave his scripted talk on each wine he seemed to just look off into the distance not really engaging. To his credit he did warm up toward the end as I made an effort to engage him in conversation and wine geekery. Three Rivers has some great vineyard sources including Champoux and Weinbau. Price points were good and I left with a bottle of their Malbec, Rose and Svelte.
OTHER NOTABLE POINTS
I stayed at the iconic Marcus Whitman Hotel. This seems to be the place to stay when in Walla Walla. It is convenient and even has four wineries with tasting rooms right in the hotel! I was less than impressed with their use of social media (I tweeted them directly several times) and avoid the “cheesecake” on the dessert menu, highly overpriced and just weird.
I really enjoyed my lunch at Saffron (excellent Mediterranean restaurant). I wish that I would have had dinner here the previous night.