Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting - The Aftermath

Take one magazine editor, two viticulture/enology students and - - me! Then toss all four into a SUV with a map of the Walla Walla wineries and it becomes the recipe for a journey. There was really no schedule or list that one had to adhere to. The day was meant for an adventure and indeed it was.

Some of the wineries we visited were my reliable and go-to wineries who never fail to bring my palate pleasure. Other wineries, we may have tasted the wines, but had never visited the winery and for the enology/viticulture students, many of the wines and wineries were all new to them! Here is a summary of the highlights from every winery we visited during Barrel Tasting Weekend:

Forgeron Cellars: The single vineyard Merlot - 2004, made with Klipsun fruit from Red Mountain AVA really gave me a happy mouth. Big and bright! The Orange Muscat - 2007 was a nice treat and appropriately paired with little "MEGS" - tiny nibbles of gingerbread women named after winemaker, Marie-Eve Gilla.

Lowden Hills: A lifesaver in this economy, Lowden Hills offers many affordable and tasty wines produced by owner and winemaker, Jim Henderson. The real show stopper for the weekend was the "See You There" Syrah - 2005. It's a serious wine that demands attention, besides a beautiful presentation (more on this wine in a future blog).

Kontos Cellars: If you had an opportunity to barrel sample their powerful Malbec and if that doesn't get you to join their future wine club, then I don't know what will. While I had toured their new facility a few weeks before, I still wanted to check out the final touches that Kelli Kontos (wife of Chris) had envisioned for their winery. From the label to the brilliant green walls to the final splashes of well appointed black and white - it's beautiful, Kelli!

Mannina Cellars: Does one ever really need an excuse to go visit Nicole and Don? Their new winery is beautiful and especially festive this time of the year with Nicole's special holiday touches. Anybody who reads my blog knows that Don's wines are some of my favorites. The barrel sampling of Cabernet was so aromatic and delicious, I wanted to roll the whole barrel home.

Trust Cellars: It was a must that my friends, who are students of enology/viticulture at WWCC, meet Steve Brooks and have an opportunity to taste his wines. We sampled from the barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon and were able to compare it with the current and very bold and intense 2005 Cabernet. Equally as rich. It was great catching up with Lori Brooks. The shared parking lot of Trust Cellars and Chateau Rollat gave us a sunny and colorful view of the Blue Mountains.

Chateau Rollat: Earlier this summer, I had tasted through their very ageworthy red beauties but winemaker and old friend, Mike Golden kept telling me I needed to taste the Ardenvoir Semillon he was pouring. But - - but, Semillon is not one of my favorite grapes. Bowin Lindgren, owner and winemaker of Chateau Rollat said, "Did you taste the Semillon? You have to taste the Ardenvoir Semillion - 2007!" I was told by both Mike and Bowin that I would love it. With some arm twisting, I finally tasted the bight yellow wine. Pineapple! Starfruit! Honey! I loved it!

Glen Fiona: I was surprised to see a "Claret," as Rhone-style wines have typically come out of this winery. In fact the Claret had also won some very nice medals. Also offered was a good solid Viognier. Standing in front of the winery, the view was large and the Blue Mountains wrapped around us.

Gifford Hirlinger: A couple of years ago, I had a bottle of their first Stateline Red - 2003. On Stateline Road, you can just see the winery roof, but once we turned into the graveled stoop, all four of us let out "ooo's" and "ahhh's" The winery structure was unexpected, yet extremely attractive.

We relaxed in front of the outdoor fireplace while watching the sunset that the Berghan family told us they "made" just for us. Chewy and Charlie, their Border Collies, kept us company as we sipped on a show stopper of a wine - The L.V. - 2006. Much to our surprise, the L.V. is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley - yes, you read this right - - Napa Valley from California with 10% Merlot from their estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Wow!

VaPiano: The winery was packed and of course, the tasting room staff had been on their feet all day. But in spite of it all, Kathleen Powers, tasting room manager and her staff had to be one the friendliest tasting rooms (Kirsten Telander - left photo) we encountered - - and they were always smiling! The winery is beautiful, scenic and it seems remote especially with a sundown in the distance. The outside patio is inviting while guests were bundled around it. It was the exquisite VaPiano Cabernet Sauvignon that kept me warm.

And then - - we ran out of time, and it's okay. Because after all, we are the lucky ones as we live in the Walla Walla Valley and can take in this wealth of wine, talented people, and the beautiful scenery that surrounds us any time we want.

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