Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring Release 2009: The After Mass - Final

After my visit to Mannina Cellars, I decided to venture out to the end of the airport to the Port of Walla Walla winery incubators. Stopping at the Winery Incubators is one way to taste several wines without having to drive and look for another parking spot in the rain. And wow! Were they drawing a crowd and it would soon be time for lunch! But sure enough, someone just pulled out of the parking lot, so I secured my space. Also, this was my opportunity to find out what Seattle's Skillet Street Food was all about, but first - wine to taste.

My first stop was Kontos Cellars to taste the new release of their Merlot - 2006. I had tasted it back in November during a tasting with Cameron, but wanted to see how it had changed (oh and btw - the Merlot was beautifully constructed with fruit from great sources: Alder Ridge, Boushey, and Ash Hollow Vineyards). And most of all I wanted to drop in and say hi to Chris and Cameron's better halves - Kelli and Becca. The Kontos brother's may be pouring the wine, but these two "wild Walla Walla wine women" are the ones really keeping the show going.

After my visit, I stood under the eaves of the Kontos building and looked around the incubator village - who do I "prey" upon next? I had met Andrew Lodmell a couple of years ago, and in fact at his lovely home for a dinner party, but I hadn't had an opportunity to visit his winery. For Lodmell Cellars, it seems it is a natural progression in their family to have a winery. Andrew is a Walla Walla fourth generation, whose family's original interest was farming wheat. Now a portion of their family's original land is home to Lodmell Vineyards.

Not only have the Lodmells received praise for the Merlot from their vineyard, but praises should go to their wines, especially the whites! I was very impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc - 2006 and even more so with the Lodmell Cellars Chardonnay - 2006! The Chardonnay was very Burgundian in style, bringing fruit and minerals to the palate. Truly a great food wine and one that you need to keep on hand (chilled, of course) for "porch sippin'" and especially with light summer meals. Andrew's Saigne Rose' was another nice surprise! A blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon that was barrel fermented. Another perfect summer sipper which left the palate with touches of rhubarb and tart fresh berries. I believe that Lodmell Cellars is a winery to keep an eye on and visiting with the Lodmell family and hearing about their wines, really added to my day.
(Photo Right: Andrew, winemaker and his sister, Kristie Lodmell Kirlin, Lodmell Cellars Marketing Director)

And just next door was Adamant Cellars ("No!" to my wacky sisters! It is not Adam Ant!) Winemaker and owner, Devin Stinger also added to my day with bliss! Bliss, I tell you! Bliss is the name for one of the most aromatic whites I've encountered. The Bliss - 2008 was alive with floral and citrus notes. In the nose I detected grapefruit and tangerines and frankly - - I wanted to dab a bit of it behind each ear as my new signature fragrance. It really caught me by surprise! 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Semillon makes this blend a very fruit-forward wine with overwhelming notes of honey, pear, citrus, and yet with only 0.5% residual sugar. Seriously, I think this is a wine you need to drink with caution because before you know it - - you could drink the whole bottle by yourself. I mean "you" could - ummm - but I would never...

As always it was a delight to visit with Devin. When he first opened his winery, the first Semillon he produced made me realize, as someone who has never really enjoyed Semillon, that I could change my mind and actually enjoy them! And it is still holding true today. Now Devin's reds ain't too shabby, either. The new Adamant Red is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon & 40% Merlot. Lots of dark fruit (even rich dates!) along with cigar box and spice. And no matter if it is an Adamant red or white - if you want them, you have to get them NOW. Adamant Cellar wines sell out - - fast!

It was the first big weekend for CAVU Cellars at the incubators. Why CAVU? CAVU is an acronym for the aviation term ceiling and visibility unlimted. Winemaker, Joel Waite's father, James is a former pilot and the aviation reference is very appropriate when you consider their location is in the airport area and was also a former Air Force base. James is also helping Joel fulfill his goal of producing small-lot, unique varietals that Joel himself enjoys drinking, such as Malbec and Barbera.

Joel is a graduate of the Center for Viticulture and Enology at Walla Walla and his former profession was a chef and he owned a catering company that focused on high-end private dinners in the Washington DC area. With a food background, such as Joel's, there isn't any doubt that he understands the "art" of great food and wine pairings. It was a treat to be able to barrel sample his Barbera that is set for release this fall.

Before I knew it, my time was running out and my watch was letting me know if I didn't make my 2:30pm obligation, my coach would turn into a pumpkin and my glass slippers would turn into an ordinary pair of Birkenstocks. However, I could smell the food from Skillet Food. Many satisfied stomachs extend their thanks to Denise and Steve from Trio Vintners for bringing Skillet Street Food from Seattle to Walla Walla for the weekend. I waited in line for my bacon cheese burger with ARUGULA! And to my surprise, it even came with a generous serving of pomme frites! Skillet Street Food is not your ordinary lunch truck with not your ordinary lunch menu. Instead it is a bistro on wheels, based in a shiny Airstream, serving up fine cuisine or making the "ordinary" not so ordinary!

And how was my burger? It was delicious and grilled perfect for my taste. I was happy! The crispy arugula and eggy brioche-style bun really complimented it. The fries were crunchy with the right amount of salt and fresh parsley for added flavor. However, later I thought the burger and fries was missing just one important element considering where I was and everything - - I should have gone back into Kontos Cellars and had Cam pour me a big glass of Merlot to pair with it!

My one and only day of the Spring Release weekend was great fun and ever since I keep hearing from many locals how the "Three-R's" (Rain, Remoteness and Recession) did not keep the crowds away. Some wineries were saying it was one of their biggest turn-outs and other locals told me how the highway coming into Walla Walla on Friday afternoon was bumper to bumper. And as I pointed out earlier, the traffic downtown Walla Walla absolutely showed no signs of "remoteness" as the oh-too-eager journalist pointed out our so-called "remoteness" in an earlier article. And let me say this about Spring Release in Walla Walla:

I know that for many lovers of the grape, they are still shocked to hear that Walla Walla is a viable and growing wine community featuring many world class wines, and far too often these wine lovers are still in the mind-set that we are only known for onions and the Washington State Penitentiary. So for those of you who still don't understand - Spring Release is not a weekend in Walla Walla where the inmates are released on a Spring weekend into the community...


(For more photos of Spring Release in Walla Walla, check out the "Walla Walla Wine Woman" Fan Page on - - and don't forget to become a fan! )

1 comment:

denise said...

Catie - Great round up of all the action at the winery incubators in Walla Walla during Spring Release! Yes and Yes on Skillet - they have already told me they will be back next year - if not sooner! Thanks for stopping in and come back to try Trio Vintners. We were soooo packed on Saturday that I am hoping we did not overlook folks! One of the reasons we have a "small" winery is so that we (one of the three winemakers at Trio) can actually talk to people who want to try / buy our wines. That's uber important to us. But The Big Weekend event made it tough! But honestly, we are so grateful to sell our wine - I can't be picky! Cheers! Denise Slattery / Trio Vintners

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