Heading into Walla Walla was really exciting, because it was the section of the trip to which I was most looking forward. The beautiful Blue Mountains framed the drive in. Greeting us was a large billboard from K Vintners and its controversial owner and winemaker Charles Smith.
Before entering Walla Walla proper, there is a small town called Lowden. We stopped here first at L’Ecole No. 41. The winery is housed in an adorable French schoolhouse, with the tasting room in a former classroom. The wines being tasted each day are cleverly displayed on an old-fashioned chalkboard. Brandon walked us through a selection of some nice wines. I especially enjoyed their Left Bank Bordeaux blends, the 2007 Estate Perigee – Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) and the 2007 Apogee – Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc).
These wines are adorned with their new label, a switch from their very recognizable “whimsical” drawing of the schoolhouse. They’ve found a need to make their fine wines look like fine wines on the outside, so they’ve classed up the label with a photo of the schoolhouse taken in 1915, shortly after it was built.
Brandon also told us to be sure to stop next door at Woodward Canyon Winery, and I’m glad that he did. Taylor poured us a very nice 2009 Chardonnay, along with a great Walla Walla 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chard was golden apples and peach in a glass, with just a kiss of oak. I had to get a bottle. I also bought the Cab, which was a Left Bank Bordeaux blend, but with a splash of Syrah added to the mix. It was 77% Cab, with 10 % Cab Franc, 7 % Syrah, and 3 % each of Merlot and Petit Verdot. It had a nice spiciness on the palate, along with some mocha and dark berries. The finish was nice and long.
Not only does Woodward Canyon have some very good wines, but a cute tasting room with nice people too!
Heading further toward Walla Walla we stopped at Reininger Winery, where Brooke helped us out. She was awesome! We tried some nice wines, including an ‘07 Syrah from their second label called Helix, which was really yummy for the price point of $28. We also tried a fun Southern Rhone blend they call the Helix SoRho priced at $31. My favorite of theirs is the 2006 Reininger Ash Hollow Syrah, with vanilla on the nose and chocolate covered cherries and some coffee on the palate. The finish on this went on for a nice long time. Brooke was born and raised in Walla Walla, and filled us in on a lot of the town’s history. She told us some fascinating tid bits, for example that years ago the residents of the city voted in favor of getting the Washington State Penitentiary to boost the economy and help create jobs. Today it is the 2nd largest prison in the state and is surrounded by wheat fields. Brooke also spent a lot of time giving us all kinds of pointers about places to eat and other info.
Downtown was our next destination to grab a bite to eat. We went to Olives, where we each ordered a small pizza. The food was GREAT and so was the atmosphere. The guy who helped us was obviously being trained, but he was awesome. The gal training him wasn’t as nice, but she wasn’t horrible either. It seemed to me that she was more interested in flirting with the new guy than helping hungry customers.
After getting some nourishment, we headed to our lodging. We stayed in a LOVELY Bed & Breakfast set smack dab in the middle of some vineyards. This lovely location is exactly what we were looking for. Three glorious nights would be spent here, and we couldn’t think of a better spot. The Walla Walla Inns at the Vineyard is owned by Debbie and Rick Johnson, who also own Walla Walla Faces winery. They left us a bottle of their ’06 Syrah, which was very good. We were sad that we didn’t make it to their downtown Walla Walla tasting room, but will be sure to hit them the next time we’re in town.
The only negative about our Inn at the Vineyard was that we couldn’t get Internet access. Rick tried to help us and got his provider on the phone. My husband spent at least thirty minutes on the phone with technical support, to no avail. Rick told us this happens only with Mac users. So, if you use a Mac and need to get some work done, you’ll need to head downtown to their tasting room, Starbucks or Olive to get online. They are working on this problem, so hopefully it’ll be solved in the near future.
Next Up: Walla Walla Day 2