Monday, November 22, 2010

WineTrails of Walla Walla by Steve Roberts

Author Steve Roberts did it again. Steve is best known for his popular book, WineTrails of Washington that arrived in 2007. It is a comprehensive guide for visiting Washington's wineries. The book became a best-seller in 2009 and now in its fourth printing. Along the way, came two other guidebooks, WineTrails of Oregon and WineTrails of Idaho (Yes, Idaho. They have more than 40 bonded wineries). I was so excited to hear from Steve earlier when he informed me he had a new book ready to be released this month - "WineTrails of Walla Walla."

WineTrails of Walla Walla is much more than a guide for uncorking your memorable wine tour. This 250 page book contains plenty of detailed photos, wineries listings, but also lists lodging and restaurants. One of the many things about the winery guide I found so handy, yet so clever, is that each of the wineries locations are listed in five separate distinct "trails" about Walla Walla: WineTrail West, Downtown WineTrail, Airport WineTrail, WineTrail East, and WineTrail South. There is also a listing for "Apointment-Only Wineries."

And when I say WineTrails of Walla Walla is more than a guide, it also gives some wine history, wine labels, tasting notes on the varietals, winery amenities, "sipping and cycling," wine touring with kidlets, wine tasting etiquette, and shopping and recreation listings. There are even pages to jot your own wine notes. Steve says the book is the most advanced book yet.

This last Saturday I was excited to meet with Steve at the shop. I had lots of questions for him (and of course, I made him sign my copy of WineTrails of Walla Walla first).

W5: Why Walla Walla - of all of the tourist locations, why did you choose this little place that is so tough to get to?

SR: Whenever I visited I would hear accents – American accents, foreign accents – and I realized that Walla Walla had become a destination of sorts. The fact that I needed to book a hotel room well in advance on event weekends also informed me that wine lovers enjoyed going to Walla Walla. Then when Sunset Magazine named Walla Walla as one of America’s top wine destination, that crystallized it for me. Couple that with the fact that the Valley offers so much in terms of places to stay, places to eat and things to do, I realized that a guidebook was screaming to be written.

W5: How many times have you visited Walla Walla?

SR: For my first book, WineTrails of Washington, I made a dozen trips to capture the wine scene. However, that was back in 2007 and the industry has proven to be more than organic – it’s changing all the time. Thus, when it came time to do the research for WineTrails of Walla Walla I knew I had my work cut out. (W5 note: Steve also says that he isn't ready to leave his Seattle home, but he feels that Walla Walla is his "home away from home." To quote him: "She's like a mistress and a not so secret lover.")

During the winter and spring of 2010, I made 17 separate weekend trips to Walla Walla from my home in the Seattle area. Four hours and twenty minutes each way – thank God for Sirius Radio! Incidentally, I know that change is a constant in the wine industry and especially in the Walla Walla Valley. Therefore, the book has a companion website at WineTrails NW that keeps pace with the changes (or at least I try to) and I am committed to updating the book on a regular basis.

W5: Do you feel that places close by, like Walla Walla, are becoming more important to the traveler, especially with the economy and how air travel has become uncomfortable and not as desirable?

SR: Yes and not just for the so-called culinary traveler. Most folks that I meet in the tasting rooms are not connoisseurs of wine – they might go wine tasting a few times a year and typically buy wine for their evening meal. From Spokane, Boise, Portland and Seattle it is less than a five hour drive to get to Walla Walla and it makes for a fun weekend getaway. I understand that for most travelers, Walla Walla is not a day trip. However, the fact that the Valley offers so much in the way of amenities makes it a pure joy to experience. I don’t have statistics on it but I suspect that most visitors to Walla Walla are not first time visitors – they are repeat offenders because they know that they can experience amazing wines and great cuisine in small city splendor.

W5: Small city splendor. I could not have said it any better. Thank you Steve.

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