Great Walla Walla Wines
With over 100 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, there is certainly no shortage of great wines to drink. If you are planning on visiting for a little wine tasting adventure, or looking for some great wines that are sure to impress, then you've come to the right place. I've listed some of my personal Walla Walla wine favorites below in three categories; as "Must See", "Must Drink" and " Must See and Drink"
Must See AND Drink!
Seven Hills Winery Located downtown in the historic Whitehouse-Crawford building, the Seven Hills Winery has been making great wines since the late 80's. Winemaker and owner, Casey McClellan has made numerous award-winning Cabs, Merlots, Malbecs and Bordeaux blends, and, in my humble opinion, consistently makes some of the best wine in world. Come in on and you might even see Julie, working in the tasting room.
Basel Cellars Winery Estate-Without question, the most spectacular winery in the area is Basel Cellars. Built originally as a private residence for at a price that is reportedly north of $7 million, the estate boasts eight guest rooms for up to 8 couples; a guest cabana; swimming pool, rock garden and entertainment hall that will accomodate up to 100 of your closest friends. Best of all, the estate can be yours for the day (or half) day for weddings or special events starting at $1200 for for a half day. The main house is available for sleepovers as well for up to 8 couples for a mere $2400/night. But trust me, you won't be disappointed. Wine tasting is available for $5 per person which is applied to any purchase. For more information, visit the website at http://www.baselcellars.com/.
Leonetti Cellar - Arguably the most famous wine in the valley, Leonetti Cellars was the area's first winery. Established in 1977 by Gary Figgins, the winery has consistently produced some of the best wines in Washington. The wines are also some of the areas most expensive ranging from about $55 to over $100. And, even at that, with Leonetti's loyal following the wines sell out without even having to open the tasting room. This is a wine whose reputation will certainly impress anyone who knows anything about Walla Walla wines.
Cayuse Vineyard - OK, I admit, I've only had this wine twice but that's primarily because its very hard to get. With names like Bionic Frog Syrah and Flying Pig, winemaker Cristophe Baron is no doubt a bit eccentric. His wines are big and complex and are favorites of tasters at the Wine Spectator. In fact,his 2001 & 2003 Bionic Frog Syrahs both scored 96. Like Leonetti, this wine sells out before its even bottled. You might be able to find some at Vintage Cellars downtown but don't expect to get it in the tasting room. I've never seen it open in the two and a half years I've been back.
Must See AND Drink Too!
Five Star Cellars & Russell Creek - Located at the Walla Walla Airport with a dozen or so other wineries, without question, these are my two favorite wines and wineries in the area and no trip to Walla Walla would be complete without tasting these wines. Russell Creek owner/winemaker Larry Krivoshein makes wines that are so rich and distinctive that I have picked them out of a line-up of area wines just by the nose. One of the area's great characters, Larry is as cantankerous as he is charming and, for better or worse, you will certainly not forget any encounter with him. Try the 2005 Tributary or the 2004 Sangiovese. You won't be disappointed....Not surprising once you taste their wine, Dave Huse, owner of Five Star Cellars, learned the art of making wine from Larry and he and his son, Matt, are making some absolutely sumptuous Cabs, Merlots & Syrahs which have consistently received 90+ ratings from the Wine Spectator. Matt is a graduate of the Walla Walla College of Enology and Vinticulture and his education and training are evident in depth, complexity & richness of his wines. Dave, Sandy, Matt & Tracy great people and host a complimentary dinner at the winery during Spring Release weekend for their wine club members that is a Don't Miss event. Don't come without a designated driver, however. Dave breaks out a bunch of library wines for this event and its just impossible to say no.
L'Ecole #41 - On the way into (or out of) Walla Walla on highway 12 you can can do some great wine tasting at four of the areas most notable wineries. (L'Ecole plus Woodward Canyon, Three Rivers & Reininger (Also on my must see and drink list)). Marty Club established L'Ecole in 1983 in the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden. Since then they've been making consistently terrific wines in one of the coolest settings in the Valley. Don't miss this one on your way in or out of town. (P.S. They also have some very cool logo wear!) http://www.lecole.com/
Reininger - Chuck and Tracy Reininger released their first wines in 1997 and they've been a hit ever since. They're notoriety for exceptional wines has grown every year and their operation has grown as well from their humble beginnings at the Walla Walla Airport to their new winery and tasting room on Highway 12 across from Three Rivers. You can't go wrong with any of these wines and you won't meet any nicer people on your visit.
Waterbrook - My wife, Julie, worked at Waterbrook in the downtown tasting room so these are wines both my palate and liver are VERY familiar with. Eric Rindal started this winery back in 1984 and has slowly ramped up production to over 30,000 cases a year making it one of the biggest wineries in the area. They've got distribution all over the west so this is one you are likely to find in a wine shop near you. Their beautiful gallery/tasting room is in the heart of downtown and you can typically taste from seven to nine terrific wines making it a "Must See & Drink" while you are strolling down Main Street. http://www.waterbrook.com/
Forgeron Cellars - This is another great winery to visit while you are cruising around downtown. Located just a few blocks off Main this winery was established in an old building that housed the local blacksmith back when horses were more plentiful than cars in Walla Walla. Forgeron (the French word for blacksmith) was established by the same group that founded Canoe Ridge, another of the areas original and most notable wineries. The label, which was designed by my nephew, Mike Hood, is one of my favorite wine labels in the valley. French winemaker Marie-Eve favors a European approach to making her wines giving them very distinct character and depth. My personal favorite, Vinfinity, is a lucious blend with hints of cherry, dark chocolate and a spicy little finish that lingers until the next sip. Mmmmm. For more check them out at http://www.forgeroncellars.com/index.html
A votre sante!