Walla Walla means “many waters” but the region might be more aptly be called, a land of “Many Wines.”
Walla Walla (a.k.a. Walla2) hosted this year's Wine Blogger/Writers Conference. Wine writers, hobbyists, and wine industry professionals gathered from across the States and from around the world, including Australia, Canada, Brazil, and more. My husband and I made it a road trip and drove up from the Bay Area. We drove through hour after hour of stunning and desolate spaces to Washington's south-west wine country.
With a population of just under 33,000 people, and under 13 square miles, Walla Walla boasts 120 wineries! Those are amazing wine to people ratios by anyone's count.
This city is a culinary and wine lover's dream. After three days of the conference, I truly believed you can die from too much of a good thing. The sessions, excursions, local food and wine started at 9:00 am and continued until 9 or 10 pm. The wineries and local chefs shared their best.
You won't find a Whole Foods, a Trader Joe's, or a even a Costco here. But it doesn't matter. The fresh local produce, meats, and wines will win you over. The conference was hosted downtown at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center (Link.) Guests can walk out the door, stand, and count anywhere from 5-10 tasting rooms within sight. If you walk and meander the downtown grid, you could wine taste for days, or weeks! And for the size of the area, the plethora of local restaurants rivals some of the West Coast's finest cities.
You would think that with so many wineries in such a small community, there would be heavy competition. But the opposite is true. Just 10 miles south is Milton-Freewater, Oregon. The two semi-connected border towns form one wine region. And since Walla2 is miles from any major cities, winemakers lean on each other to share ideas, promote the region, and spread the word on their note-worthy wines.
Here's a glance at the local wine scene:
Cadaretta Wines hosted a special evening excursion at their Glasshouse.
The Glasshouse is reserved for special occasions. Perched on the hills,
it offers dynamic views of the Milton-Freewater and Walla2 valley that are truly special!
The Middleton family owns and operates Cadaretta Wines.
With roots in the lumber business, the winery is named after the family's
early 20th century lumber schooner. The tasting room is located on Walla Walla's E Main St.
Visit the site for their current wines: https://www.cadaretta.com/
The Cadaretta's dinner and pairing was a great launch pad for
combining wines, foods, and flavors at home.
2014 Cadaretta Windthrow. This blend of Rhone varietals was served with
wild Canadian Arctic Char, Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms, and plum relish.
2015 Cadaretta Southwind Malbec. Served with maple braised lamb shanks,
risotto, mushrooms, and dates.
And for dessert, the 2014 Cadaretta Springboard, Bordeaux Blend,
accompanied petite fours and chocolate truffles.
G. Cuneo Cellars
Located in the Latin Corner, catty-corner from the hotel,
Gino Cuneo hosted a small winemaker's chat and private tasting.
Conference attendees had the chance to visit the tasting room and sample Gino's wines.
Gino produces classic Italian style wines from eastern Washington fruit.
If you've had Italian wines and been turned off, try Cuneo Cellar's wines.
Gino's wines are smooth, full flavored yet not heavy.
Experience pleasing acidity—no hint of vinegar here.
Full expressions of fruit frame the wines, each with its own personality.
Gino has 30 years of winemaking experience in Oregon and Washington.
He used to focus on making Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
In the process he started making Italian wines: then, exclusively Italian.
Each wine needs to be crafted with special care.“You don't treat your kids the same,” Gino shared.
G. Cuneo Cellars started offering their wines DTC (direct to consumer) 5 years ago.
Tastings and purchasing are available at their tasting room downtown.
Or find their wines via wine club, phone, or online: https://www.ginocuneocellars.com/
For the tastings:
2016 Rosato, dry Rose' Wine, Columbia Valley WA.
2013 Nebarro, red blend (Nebbiolo & Barbera,) Columbia Valley WA.
The grande dame of the wines was Gino's 2013 Seccopassa.
This unique wine is made in the Appassimento method.
At harvest, mature women who are not going for speed, gently pick the grapes.
They lay each whole cluster separately on a flat basket/rack to dry.
After 3 ½ months of drying and resting, the grapes are pressed.
The juice from the dried grapes is combined with juice from fresh grapes, about 50:50.
The result is this Venetian tradition-inspired wine, smooth and utterly layered with flavors.
Walla Walla isn't a town that shouts at you.
Instead, it's a place to explore layer by layer.
From its famous Walla Walla sweet onions, wheat production and apples, to the wine;
the local restaurants can offer flavorful dining.
A contrast and collection of activities is available.
Downtown, Sotheby's is located next to a local 4H display.
Rent a bike for the day, hike, walk, or visit a local farm.
The Walla Walla wine region reminds me of a patchwork quilt or a collage.
The pieces are all unique.
But as each individual feature is combined, Walla2 is
showing the world it deserves a second look in the wine world.
A toast to you as you try new wine regions!
If you're in Washington and heading North, see my post on
Church & State Wines, Brentwood BC.
Join me at California Wine