Category Archives: Walla Walla
Golden Ridge Cellars
The final winery that I visited during my brief time in Walla Walla was Golden Ridge Cellars. This estate winery owned by Michael and Cindy Rasch, is located right outside of town on eight acres of grapes. There is a magnificent view in every direction from the property, and is a just moment away from downtown Walla Walla. The Rasch’s relocated to Walla Walla from Seattle a few years back, and Michael decided to retire from his law practice and focus on his other favorite pastime, a passion for wine. The two varietals grown on their property are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but they are considering planting some Cabernet Franc in the near future. Michael is the head winemaker and viticulturist, and spends most of his day caring for his vines and working in the winery, or skiing at one of the nearby ski resorts. I was very lucky to spend the day with both of them tasting wines downtown, and was given a tour of their winery as well. Currently Golden Ridge sells most of their grapes, but they do produce a wine of their own, an estate red blend, and just recently bottled their second vintage.
I tasted both the 2008 and 2009 while I was there, and thought they were both very well made wines. Both vintages are a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and spent 26 months in French and American oak. Production is limited, as both vintages yielded just over 100 cases. Mike gave me a bottle of the 2008 to take home, so I decided to give it a try the other night. This wine was a deep garnet red in color, with toasty oak on the nose along with dark black fruit. The first sip gave way to spicy black cherry with some nice earthy, leathery tones and a hint of smokiness. It had a nice lingering finish, with more of the black cherry and oak. The alcohol at 14.7% sounds a bit hot, but seemed to balance out just fine. And although a touch on the oaky side, I thought this wine was quite good, and it seemed to go well with the flank steak that was paired with it. If you ever get a chance to Meet Michael and Cindy, they are very hospitable and are great to spend time with and enjoy a few glasses of wine. And if you are lucky enough, Mike may even give you a tour of his magnificant wine cellar. Not only is it full of great wines, it also contains a disaster survival kit, which of course most importantly includes wine glasses and a bottle opener:)
Spring Valley Vineyard 2008 Frederick Red Blend
Spring Valley Vineyard is an estate winery located within the Walla Walla Valley AVA on 111 acres of vines about 12 miles outside of town. Among the varietals grown here are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. There is a rich family history behind this land, dating back to the mid 1800’s, but the first Merlot vines were planted in 1993 and the winery’s first vintage debuted in 1999. The Spring Valley tasting room is located in downtown Walla Walla, and is nicely put together along with a very friendly staff. Three of their wines, the Mule Skinner Merlot, Derby Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nina Lee Syrah are all 100% varietals. The winery also has two red blends known as Frederick and Uriah. Each one of these wines has received a score of 90 or above from Wine Spectator, with the Frederick and Uriah each receiving a 93. I was in the mood for a red blend so I decided to take home a bottle of the 2008 Frederick. This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9 % Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec and was aged 21 months in French oak. For a price of $50, this wine had a garnet red appearance with a bit of sediment, and on the nose I definitely got a lot of oak along with spicy black cherry. There was definitely a big tannic structure to the wine along with mellow acids, and that cherry went along with some earthy, leathery tones and smokiness on the palate. The alcohol came in at 15.3%, and it seemed to be just a bit too hot on the finish. I would say that decanting this wine ahead of time might have been a good idea; it seemed the wine may have needed some time to breathe and unlock some of the aromas. In spite of that, the wine seemed to be fairly balanced and complimented the flank steak I had along with it nicely. Overall, aside from the high heat and heavy oak I thought it was a pretty good wine, and I look forward to what the next vintage of the Frederick red blend has to offer.
Seven Hills Winery
Seven Hills Winery has been around since 1988, and is one of the oldest wineries in the Walla WallaValley. It is located right downtown basically next door the Marcus Whitman Hotel. This winery has a reputation for producing some excellent wines over the years, so I was pretty excited to give them a try. Most of the grapes used to make their wines come from vineyards such as Seven Hills, Klipsun, Melrose and Ciel du Cheval. These vineyards consistently produce excellent fruit and are considered some of the finest vineyards in the state. The tasting room at Seven Hills is quite nice and relaxing, and the staff was very friendly which made the visit that much more enjoyable. I decided to give just the reds a try for this trip. The first I tried was the 2009 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot. This was a very good wine. It had a great structure and a nice finish of ripe fruit, and and was balanced nicely with the right amount of oak. Next up was the 2009 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a full bodied that was nicely strutured, and left off with a nice fruity finish. I also thought it had a good touch of oak to it, not overpowering and just enough to balance the wine out. Finally, I tried the 2009 Walla Walla Valley Malbec. Now I really like Malbec to begin with, and this one was quite impressive. With a medium purple color to it, I got aromas of spicy ripe plum and blackberry, and it had a great balance of tannins and acids. Again I thought it had the right touch of oak, and left off with a hint of blueberry and a nice lingering finish. This one I liked so well I took a bottle home with me. I thought that these wines were all very good and definitely lived up to their reputation. If you have not yet tried any of Seven Hills’ wines, I would absolutely recommend them. And if you find yourself in Walla Walla, it is definitely a winery I would consider a must visit.
While I was walking around downtown Walla Walla in search of wine, I stopped in at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. This is a very classy establishment that just happens to have a few tasting rooms in it, one of them being Lodmell Cellars. This winery has been growing grapes since 1995, and owns vineyards overlooking the Snake River in Walla Walla County. At the tasting room there was a nice lineup of wines, which included their 2007 Estate Merlot, a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2009 Rose´ known as Saignee, as well as their 2008 Sublime, a red blend. The Merlot was a nice full bodied wine that was well balanced, and blended with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon which added a nice touch. I found the Sauvignon Blanc to be a very refreshing wine; it was nice and crisp with aromas of fresh citrus. Along with the Sauvignon Blanc, I thought that the Rose´ was also quite refreshing. This wine was extracted a little more than a typical rose so it had bit of a darker color to it, and I sensed a nice pleasant aroma of strawberry. The Sublime red blend is a combination of 50% Merlot, 30% Carmenere, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the fruit is sourced from the Columbia Valley. This wine spent 30 months in French oak barrels and has a nice structure to it, with dark fruit aromas and hints of vanilla. It is a bit hot at 15.4% alcohol, but not enough to throw the wine out of balance. Overall I found Lodmell Cellars to be a very pleasant way to start the day wine tasting. So if you are in Walla Walla and happen to find yourself strolling about inside the Marcus Whitman Hotel, take the time to visit Lodmell and treat yourself to some great wines.
A Trip to Walla Walla
This past Thursday, I took a day trip to Walla Walla, WA. Walla Walla has quickly gained a reputation for churning out some excellent, world class wines, so I decided to take the 2 hour journey from Pullman, WA to try them out myself. Now the Walla Walla AVA is located in southeastern Washington State within the large Columbia Valley AVA, and also encompasses a small part of northeast Oregon. This area was granted AVA status in 1984 and at that time in the mid 1980’s, there was only about 60 acres of planted grapes and 6 wineries. Well, these numbers have exploded in recent years to over 100 wineries and 1,600 acres of grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah are the most planted varietals, with an abundance of others planted in smaller quantities. There is a very distinctive, unique terroir in the wines made here, and they definitely stand out when compared to wines from other regions. The town itself is a vibrant community, with a great downtown dotted with tasting rooms. While I was there, I only had time to visit a handful of wineries, but I was impressed none the less. Most all of the wines were outstanding and among the wineries visited, I decided to write reviews on Seven Hills, Lodmell Cellars, Spring Valley Vineyard, and Golden Ridge Vineyards. Instead of writing one long endless post, I thought I would break it up into separate entries, so each winery gets its own review. Walla Walla is definitely a must visit when it comes to wine country, and I plan on making the journey again soon.
Stay tuned for more…