Finally got the time to trek on down to Walla Walla for a day trip. Had not been to WW since the new highway opened up. Bad news for the wineries that are after the new turn off to Highway 12. Woodward Canyon, Le Ecole 41, and Waterbrook are on the "right" side of the new part. Bunchgrass, Cougar Crest, Glencorrie, Long Shadows Vintners, Skylite Cellars, Reininger, and Three Rivers aren't. Renamed "Vintage Loop", the portion of the old highway has seen a huge amount of traffic dropoff. There isn't any signage to re-direct the wine drinker to them. Those who know them will get there, but to the traveler, not likely. We ad planned on going the old way anyway, so we knew what to look for. We stopped at Waterbrook first. Their new building is a beautiful wine facility. Tall windows and tall ceilings. An open feeling that makes the place seem larger than it is. The wines are divided into 4 areas-Value, Reserve, Melange, and Meritage. The Value list had Pinot Gris, Melot-Cab, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Chardonnay, and their 2009 Sangiovese Rose that after getting in a magazines "Top 100" list was gone. The Merlot-Cab was sold out also. The Chardonnay was light and citrus forward. Not overly buttery and crisp. The Pinot Gris was excellent. A tropical fruit with light aromas of cut grass is what the tasting notes said. Cut grass? I usually get gasoline and carburetor exhaust when I get cut grass. Some of their other tasting notes are for the 100% Cab- "Layered aromatics of cedar, cola, pencil lead and black cherry develop in the glass. Rich flavors of black currant, strawberry, nutmeg and vanilla marry on the palate. Wonderful lingering fruit is balanced by structured tannins and a smooth finish." I liked it. The 2007 Reserve Syrah was a favorite among the 7 of us. It was a depp purple with legs that just coated the Reidels. Great spice with the fruit that came through in the taste. It was 87% Syrah, 8% Cab and 5% Viognier . The Viogner gave it a wonderful finish. It was not too crowded in there. 15 people beside us. Suzanne was our hostess and she was a delightful pourer and conversationalist. A native New Yorker, she kept everyones glasses filled and informed. Our next stop was Skylite Cellars. Another interesting building. Built to resemble a wine barrel with beams as staves, the rather small tasting room has a custom made wine bar with a huge mirror behind it. We tried their '05 Cabernet and their '05 Syrah. Highly recommend them. Big and bold. The Cab was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Walla Valley. It was inky dark and had a nose of berry and spice.
The syrah was not the typical WW syrah. Earth was the donimant feature. a Deep garnet look and a nice taste of caneberries and Kona coffee. We bought the '07 Malbec without trying it. They actually weren't selling it, but we convinced them to. Previous Malbec's from Skylite have been outstanding.
"100% Malbec barrel aged in 100% French Oak. Lush and ripe dark berry flavors, pomegranate perfume with a hint of spice. Rich and velvety smooth, it showcases the fruit. Refined elegance and core of lively acidity. Bright, focused, and very expressive from start to finish. Retired to library". The notes for it say.
Our next stop was a quick search for what happened to Canoe Ridge. Charlie and Sue in our party were members of Sagelands in Yakima. It had gone out of business.( Another story there). They had 3 shipments due and they were told to go to Canoe Ridge in Walla Walla to pick them up. When we got to Canoe Ridge it was shut down tighter than than a bad wine. Sign on the door said they were closed. Although you could see them in Woodinville. Guess Sue and Charlie are headed west if they want those wines. Next door was Amavi, so we stopped there. No we didn't. They had moved out to Pepper Bridge Road. The inside of the old building was a 19th century remodel from a cabin in Montana, with original wood from the cabin. I hope they can move it somewhere. We headed out to Pepper Bridge Road and found the new Amavi. A great building that overlooks the Blue Mountains and wheat fields. The building reminds of Windy Point in Yakima.
The windows extend to the ceiling and overhead beams slant outward. Wood floors brighten the wine room. We had our sights set on the '07 Les Collines Syrah. After reading about it in "Seattle Met" Magazine done by Sean P. Sullivan, we were fortunate enough to have an Amavi wine club member, (thanks Jonathan!), that we all got to try the Les Collines Syrah. It was a huge earthy wine with light floral accents. Must say, the '07 regular Syrah was the consensus choice. Not as bold, but smoother. Amavi produces some outstanding wines and their prices are on the lower scale of WW wines. We were in the area of Va Piano and stop in.
The two-story Tuscan style building is set among the vineyards of Va Piano. Picnic tables are set on a grassy area where people can enjoy wine and their own food. Their wines are made by Justin Wylie-(Gonzaga grad-Go Zags!) and he has produced a few wonderful wines to try. The '07 Syrah says "This is a monster of a syrah! Vine age and vintage have created this big, dark, ripe and rich wine. On the nose; blueberry, plum, black cherry, and dark fruits dominate with a hint minerality on the finish." A great wine from the start. Va Piano also makes a Bruno's Blend. A wine made from different cab vineyards, it is made in honor of Father Bruno Segatta who has practiced and studied the mastery of art, language and travel since earning his degree from Northridge University in 1982. Father "Bruno" began his tenure at Gonzaga University in Florence, Italy as Assistant to the Dean of Student Affairs. There he instructed painting, drawing, design and the delicate techniques of fresco. Justin met Father Bruno during his time at Gonzaga University and was inspired to give back the way the Father Bruno has. Va Piano creates Bruno's Blend, a multi-vintage, red blend whos label bares one of Father Bruno's paintings each year. When the wine is sold out, Va Piano Vineyards donates a portion of the proceeds to a charity of Father Bruno's choice. A decent bottle of wine and it has a great story behind it. Our last stop of the day was Reininger Wines. The new edition to their previous building has made what was a small dark wine room into a spacious airy one. They added probably twice the area to their place. The recycled pine planks on the floor add a great touch to the tasting room. A 20 foot basalt bar with grapevine accents sets a nice mood. Their wines are either Reininger or Helix labels. The Helix are cheaper and are more available to the cost conscious purchaser. The one wine we had hoped to get was sold out-Carmenere. Tough day for Charlie. No Carmenere, no Mouvedre, no Canoe Ridge. We tried several wines and found the Syrahs to be pretty much the boldest wines of the day. Maybe being at the end of the day, they did not come across the best. I would recommend the Helix Sangiovese for $16.
It was a long day that went fast. We thought we could try four or five wineries and we did. Next time it will be the Airport or downtown Walla Walla. Cheers!