Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Jennifer Dowd

Walla Walla Wine Trip

Posted by Jennifer Dowd, Jul 25, 2009.

I'm headed to Walla Walla in early September. Does anyone have any suggestions as far as wineries in the area?


Reply by dmcker, Jul 25, 2009.

Woodward Canyon and Leonetti are my favorites in that area (and probably for the whole state of Washington). Woodward Canyon has chardonnays and cabs that I've enjoyed very much over the past couple of decades, that are always good and often great. Leonetti makes great cabs, merlots, sangiovese and an often stunning meritage cab-based blend they call 'Reserve'.

Also making excellent wine in that area are Dunham , K Vintners , Cayuse , and Walla Walla Vintners These are the ones I know to be good, and there are many other wineries in the area, as well.

Some of these places allow walk ins, some are by appointment only, and some won't see you unless you pull some strings (e.g. Leonetti and Cayuse). So a little planning ahead will pay off.

Way back in college I spent a year in Walla Walla. Back in those days the area was famous only for its wheat and onions ('Walla Walla Sweets'). The town itself was a sleepy small-college town out in the middle of nowhere, without any restaurants, etc. to speak of. The area had abundant natural beauty, though, with the Blue Mountains nearby and the Wallowas further south across the Oregon border. Spent a plenty of time trekking and camping in those hills..... Anyway, a lot has changed since then, and in my personal opinion their wineries have done at least as much to put Washington State on the world wine map as any other area in the state.

Look for excellent chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, merlots, syrahs, sangioveses and even cabernet francs, malbecs, grenaches, viogniers, tempranillos and late-harvest rieslings from the wineries there.

Reply by GregT, Jul 26, 2009.

Look at this link:

I thought I was familiar with a lot of the wineries but looking at that list, apparently I'm not because off the top I can only remember the wines from about half of them. Anyhow, here are a few impressions.

Woodward Canyon is one of the older ones - but "old" in Washington doesn't mean a whole lot. They are solid and have a proven track record, at least for about 15 years or so and their wine is something that you can hold on to for a few years too. Good stuff. Cayuse gets the most press and is considered one of Washington's top handful of wines. Also making some of the most expensive wines in Washington these days. It's got a French winemaker and if there is a scale between CA and France, their wines tend towards the French side.

Even more so IMO is Tamarack - they seem to like cab franc and do a good job with it and they have a number of bottlings that aren't really expensive for the quality - e.g. Firehouse Red that you can pick up for somewhere around $20.

A few of these places are doing really interesting work with grapes other than cab sauv and merlot, thank God. For example, the aforementioned cabernet franc. Also Walla Walla Vinters and Leonetti both make sangiovese and Seven Hills makes a nice tempranillo. Seven Hills incidentally does a pretty good job up and down the line. Saviah gets raves from some people but I've never been a big fan of anything I've tried. L'Ecole 41 does some whites that really merit attention.

Pepper Bridge is an interesting place - I did a retrospective ten year tasting of 1998 Washington wines last year and also threw in a right bank Bordeaux just to keep it interesting. Pepper Bridge was fantastic. And they get very little press.

K Vinters seems to be focusing on value wines and they do a decent job. I haven't had much from their top end though. Canoe Ridge is another one - decent wines around $20 and also Cougar Crest.

More ambitious would be Dunham, Buty, and definitely Leonetti.

Don't know if you'll get into Long Shadows. That's a project by the retired head of Stimson Lane, which is now Chat. St. Michelle. He got great winemakers from around the world to work with the grape that they know best. So his syrah is made by the former winemaker of Grange, the merlot is made by Michel Roland who seemingly makes half the wine in Bordeaux, and the cab is made by Randy Dunn from California. The only disappointment to me was the riesling - I think the basic bottling from Columbia Crest or Chat St Michelle is much better.

Anyhow, you should be able to try some really wonderful wines. I'm a huge fan of Washington.

Reply by dmcker, Jul 27, 2009.

GregT, K Vintners makes a good syrah that I've had called, I believe, "The Beautiful". Around $50 retail a couple of years ago, though I haven't checked recently (nor on Snooth--feeling lazy today...). I guess I first gravitated towards Columbia Valley and Walla Walla, particularly, because they were so successful with cabs and chardonnays starting at the very end of the '80s. I hadn't been happy with the rieslings and other whites that I'd tried, even from St. Michelle and its relatives in the Stimson Lane grouping (Columbia Crest, et al.), earlier in that decade, nor even many pinot noirs that were starting to appear then. Thus I let out a satisfied 'ahah!' when I ran across Woodward Canyon, and then started looking for others. Not too surprisingly they're few and far between in this part of the world (I even contacted WC in the early '90s about importing them over here, but that was beyond their capacity at the time). Forget about running across a Long Shadows version in Japan, though they are officially represented here, on paper at least. Nor many other of the more 'exotic' (to Japanese consumers, anyway), varietals. Long story short, I can only try to catch up on visits back to Seattle and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, which unfortunately are too few and far between these days. Thus I thank you for your impressions above.

Would be nice to see Snooth do tastings specifically on Washington State, and Oregon State, wines.... Calling GregDP!

Reply by John Andrews, Jul 27, 2009.

Wine Spectator recently had an article about touring the Walla Walla area. Here is an overview:

I have never been out that way but do want to go. Make sure to post a review after your visit.

Reply by wildwallawalla, Oct 9, 2009.

If anybody is interested in the Long Shadows Wines from the Walla Walla Valley and find it hard to get on their list or find they are often sold out, go to my website: as I have a special allotment of their wines.

Reply by dmcker, May 16, 2012.

Updating an old thread here, but Greg you might be interested to know that Diageo deep-sixed Canoe Ridge back in 2010...

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