The Wow Factor of Walla Walla

If I had to sum up two words that describe the Walla Walla wine country it's GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY. The second two words that come to mind are DAMN GOOD. Visiting this arid dry region for the first time was a real eye opener. It was also ”hella” fun as my teenager would say.

My first reaction was that it reminded me of Sonoma County 25 years ago. There's a spirit of "pioneerism" that you can just feel. The people are big thinking and adventurous, planting varietals that range from Syrah and Tempranillo to Viognier, Sangiovese, Riesling, Grenache, and Mouvedre to the more traditional Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, etc. It's a shot gun approach, and one that is allowing them to experiment with multiple wines and multiple styles. While I expected to enjoy the Rieslings and Merlots that we've all come to associate with Washington, what excited me most were some of the more obscure wines and blends I got to try throughout the weekend.

Here is a snapshot of a few of my favorites.

I first encountered the fine reds of Spring Valley Vineyard on Saturday night of the conference.  A very Frenchy Frenchman (I'm talking about the kind whose accent is so thick you can cut it with a knife) was enthusiastically pouring his wines for narrow minded snobby types like me. Boy was I surprised. While the label is a bit funky, the wines have an elegance and finesse that are impressive. Happily, our group had the good fortune of visiting Spring Valley Vineyard the very next day. Located in a bucolic valley, this family farming operation is in its 7th generation! Makes us seem like a bunch of pikers… They have 1000 acres of farmland and only 38 planted to vineyards, so there's plenty of room for growth. But for now, they're limited to 6000 cases of assorted red blends. Check out the Frederick and the Derby, named after the owner's grandmother. I have no idea where their wines are distributed, but they're worth looking for. Or you can contact them at

Later that day, we visited the very tiny Reynvaan Family Vineyards, nestled against the rolling hills outside the town of Walla Walla. While completely new to winemaking, they are definitely on to something. Their 2007 Syrah-“The Contender “ is stunning as was their 2007-“In The Rocks” bottling. If you're into discovering wines that nobody knows about, this would be a good bet. Visiting this family winery brought out a bit of nostalgia in me too, as it reminded me of the way my mom and dad started out nearly 40 years ago.

A special thank you goes to Ron Williams of Waterbrook Winery. I met him for the first time at the conference, but already feel like I've known him for far longer. Ron is a relative newcomer to the wine scene, and a perfect example of the kind of gracious hospitality that all wineries should strive for in their hospitality staff. He is classy, fun, and down to earth, just like the wines. They make a mean Meritage and a yummy dry Rosé, that along with the rest of their very reasonably priced varietals are a testament to their fast growth and national success. I highly recommend the relaxing patio setting which made our little group feel like we were on a special vacation. If I know Ron at all, you will have the same experience too if you pay a visit.

The fact that all these people rolled out the red carpet for a bunch of ragtag bloggers with little to no credentials like me, was extremely generous. But it was their stellar wines and warm spirit that made a convert out of many of us.

There were so many wines that impressed me over the course of my visit, it's hard to recall. From the Unoaked Chardonnay at Airfield Estates Winery (a steal at $12) to the butilicious blend from Buty (yes, that's really their name!) I came away an enlightened Washington wine enthusiast. And, I realized something very important that I must remember to tell The Husband. No matter how focused we are at trying to keep our nose to the grindstone running our own winery, we must never stop visiting, tasting, and learning about other regions and our peers in the field. It's what got us inspired in the first place, for heaven's sake. But mostly, it's just damn good fun!   

| | Comments (3)


S Lloyd said:
July 1, 2010 6:48 PM

Great post. Liked the reference to Sonoma (eventhough it's a 25 yrs flashback) since Sonoma is sacred to me. Can't wait to try some of their wines, and also pay a visit to their winery one day

Kelly Conrad Author Profile Page said:
July 1, 2010 10:53 PM

It was so nice meeting you in person, Kim! They were a super friendly bunch...reminiscent almost of Waiting for Guffman, where the whole town seemed super excited! Even my taxi driver inquired, "Are you a wine boggler?" I responded that I was not, but that wine can often boggle me. :-)

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
July 7, 2010 10:35 PM

I'd definitely recommend a trip to Walla Walla. While it's not as pretty as Sonoma County (I'm partial!) there are some great wines and great people, making it well worth a visit. Let me know if you make any new discoveries.

It's crazy that two neighbors had to travel so far to meet each other! Do you work out of the Dry Creek Valley facility for Gallo? If so, stop on by and say hi sometime.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on July 1, 2010 1:48 PM.

Wilma Does Walla Walla - Part 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Final Blow: A Culinary Adventure with Jeffrey Saad is the next entry in this blog.

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