The 2007 Walla Walla Barrel Tasting event was the first for me as a visitor since I can’t remember when - maybe seven years ago? I've been stuck working in a tasting room! What a glorious event it was! The weekend started for us Friday evening at a wine club event. The snow gave the event that bit of ambiance that really made for a winter party. We kicked it into four-wheel and off we went!
During the weekend I followed my own advise: we started our Saturday morning at home around the kitchen island revisiting the happenings and dialogue of the night before, pondering our list of wineries to visit, while I made pancakes and fried up slices of bacon. "Big breakfast." I tell everyone, "eat a big meal if you are going to taste a lot of wine."
A girl has her priorities and the crush-worthy male French winemakers were at the top of this girl’s list. Gilles Nicault at Long Shadows Winery was the first stop Saturday morning. This isn’t the first time for Steve and me to visit Long Shadows. However, we had no idea about the name change of the road. It use to be Ireland Road and in the last six months it has changed to Frenchtown Road and neither one of us had a clue. Where was the road? Our chatter about what road to turn on reminded me of a few years back as I attempted to give Steve the directions to Waterville, WA from Leavenworth, WA. To make a long story short - - men and women should never discuss directions and I will never design a GPS - heh.
To sum it up - we tasted through the new releases of Long Shadows - Poet’s Leap, Chester Kidder and Sequel. Wonderful as always. We were in awe of the new Dale Chihuly glass pieces that had not arrived during our last visit. This was an excellent move for Long Shadows to be included in the Barrel Tasting and to allow the public inside. A previous news article had coined the new winery, "The Most Beautiful Winery That You Will Never See." Now, many of the wine-loving public can finally feel included.
French winemaker, Serge Laville at Spring Valley Vineyard was our next stop. Their new tasting room on Second Avenue is gorgeous! Dean and Shari were on hand to greet guests and the spirit of their family history, using old photos, was displayed deep into the walls as if the photos had been ingrained there forever. The room had an elegant feel, yet warm and inviting. We tasted through the wines with Serge and as the Frederick blend always does - it made my tongue happy! But then again - so did the Derby and the Uriah and...and...
I must admit this: the Nina Lee Syrah has never really woke up my old taste buds like the other Spring Valley wines. Now don’t get me wrong, I never, ever turned down a glass, but there were other Walla Walla Syrahs I preferred. However, the 2005 Nina Lee made me happy! Nina Lee romanced my taste buds! This is one of my new favorite Syrahs! I am a tough one when it comes to Syrah. They must scream, "Old World Rhone" and Nina Lee screamed. She sang! It just so happened that Australian winemaker, Jeff Martin and his wife Niva, owners of La Frenz Winery in Okanagan, BC, were visiting the tasting room at the same time. Jeff is high on the list of making more Shiraz/Syrah than anybody during his wine making days in Australia, so Steve sent Jeff to the tasting bar to sample the Nina Lee. We wanted Jeff's opinion. Jeff agreed that the beauty of the Nina Lee Syrah was matched by her beautiful profile on the label.
Yes-yes-yes - we did half pours, shared pours, turned down some pours, spit-a-bit, noshed as much as we could on the assortments of cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates that were offered by the various wineries and most important, we kept ourselves hydrated. Next door to Spring Valley is the new tasting room of Sleight of Hand Cellars, owned by winemaker Trey Busch (former Basel Cellars winemaker). We visited with Trey and his business partner, Jerry Solomon as they poured their "magical" offerings. The "Magician" is an off-dry Gerwurztraminer. Crisp, aromatic and if paired with a plate of Thai food or curry it's guaranteed that the contents of the plate and glass will disappear like a rabbit in a hat (groan). The "Spellbinder," a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauv and Sangio is a great wine for every day sipping or casual entertaining and most of all - priced right! The Sleight of Hand is worth a visit, of course to taste the wines, but to view the vintage-style Houdini and other magic posters.
Down a couple of blocks we caught up with Don and Nicole Redman at Mannina Cellars. It is no secret that I love their wine varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese (one of the best in the State) and their red blend, "Cali." Don’s wines are elegant, rich and structured. We barrel sampled a 2006 Merlot and I am here to tell you it was perfect. So perfect I wanted my own barrel of it. Why wait for it to be bottled?
David McDaniels of Sweet Valley Wines (the 500th winery to register in the State of WA) shared the tasting bar with Mannina and we were able to sample Sweet Valley’s newest red blend release, "Double Barrel" - 2005 and a barrel sample of their 2006. The 2006 Double Barrel is going to be winner! We really liked it and will keep our eyes and ears tuned to Double Barrel's future.
Okay boys and girls - that was our morning. Stay tuned to our afternoon...