07 Dec Holiday Barrel Tasting in Walla Walla!
Hello Long Shadows Vintners!
This past weekend (Dec. 6-8) we celebrated the 2019 Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting event! This time, Aaron’s Wine Chronicles was joined by two of our favorite friends, Andrea Starr and John-Paul LeCompte. At 10:30 am on Saturday morning, we headed to Walla Walla to enjoy some of the best Washington wines and some of next year’s gems….still in the barrel! Our 1st stop was Long Shadows Vintners, just off highway 12, a few miles before you hit the downtown exit. As in previous years, most all of the tasting rooms we visited had a unique spread of hors d’oeuvres, finger foods and desserts to complement the barrel tastings. Long Shadows was recently voted USA Today’s 2019 (Reader’s Choice) #4 tasting room in the country! This tasting room never ceases to provide a fantastic tasting experience in a classy and beautiful setting. Winemaker Gilles Nicault mingled with the customers as we sampled the Rosé of Pinot Gris. It was crisp, delicious and offered solid nuances of sweet fruit. But I come here for the reds. The reds are always fantastic. I enjoyed the Pirouette (Bordeaux style blend) and the Saggi (a Super Tuscan). Next we sampled the Sequel (Syrah) and the Chester-Kidder bottle offerings. The only wine that was missing was the Feather (Cabernet Sauvignon), and this wine is a real gem. The Barrel taste was of the 2017 Chester-Kidder (red blend). This wine is comprised of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah and 6% Petit Verdot. It was simply outstanding! Once bottled, this wine is going to make a lot of people very happy!
Seven Hills Winery here we come!
Our next stop was just down the road at the edge of the “downtown” area. No holiday barrel tasting would be complete without a stop at Seven Hills Winery. This tasting room really epitomizes what Walla Walla wines are all about. I typically bring my friends and family to this tasting room, as I’m always impressed with their wines. The staff is outstanding, knowledgeable, and very congenial with guests. With so many reds yet to taste throughout the day, we decided to be strategic and focus mostly on the reds. Bottle tastes included their 2015 Cabernet Franc and a 2016 Ciel du Cheval red blend. This blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Next, we ventured down to the barrel room. Once there, we were provided a sequential tasting of the 2017 Pentad (already bottled) followed by the barrel taste of the 2018 Pentad. The Pentad is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Carménère, Malbec and Merlot. After chatting with Bobby Richards (Associate Winemaker), we went back upstairs to taste the 2016 Malbec. Additionally, we were treated to a tasting of the 2015 Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon as well. This Red Mountain Cab is big and delicious. After a few more light “bites”, I ended up walking away with a 2017 Pentad. It is so well-worth the price!
Holiday Barrel Tasting at Canvasback!
From the downtown area, we headed for our 1:30 pm appointment at Canvasback on the Southside of Walla Walla. This recent addition to the Southside has introduced a knock-out punch when it comes to “California-style Cabernet Sauvignon” using Washington State fruit! The best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned! While the tasting room was crowded, the hors d’oeuvres included chili beans from Andrae’s Kitchen, and everybody loved them. As we walked through the door we were provided a taste of the 2018 Riesling which was crisp and off-dry with some nice sweetness. From there we had the opportunity to taste three successive 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon barrel tastes. One Cab was sourced from the Walla Walla Valley, the second Cab was sourced from Red Mountain, and the third Cab was the Grand Passage Cab also sourced from Red Mountain. From the bottle, we were offered the 2016 versions of the Red Mountain Cab and the Grand Passage. There is much to be excited about for the upcoming Cab Sauv vintages! The latter is my favorite wine from winemaker Brian Rudin. I couldn’t leave without buying a bottle of this to supplement my growing stash of this fabulous wine.
Testify at TruthTeller Winery!
As we made our way back into the downtown Walla Walla area, there was one last tasting room I wanted to ensure we visited. But as we started our walk down Main Street, we were immediately drawn into TruthTeller’s tasting room. As we entered, we were met by the owner and winemaker Chris Loeliger. Then it hit, the aroma of warm bread and a potato-Italian sausage soup in a white cream broth that was simply exquisite! Our tasting included “The Confidante” – a 2015 vintage 100% Red Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2017 “Retort” – 100% Petit Verdot, and a 2017 Cabernet Franc known as “The Clever Fool”. This Cab Franc was very nice, and I ended up leaving with a bottle of this nicely crafted wine. For Barrel tastes, we were offered a 2018 Malbec from Sugarloaf Vineyards, and a 2017 Syrah from Les Collines Vineyard. Both were delicious and quite unique. With about 50 minutes left before our reservations at the Walla Walla Steak Company, we were able to hit one final tasting before dinner.
A Great Finish for Holiday Barrel Tasting!
The final stop of our holiday barrel tasting was DAMA Wines. This was the tasting room I needed to visit. Just a few weeks prior to this event, my wife and I cracked open a bottle of their 2015 Cowgirl Cabernet Sauvignon from our cellar. This was a delicious Cab with an amazing price point. On this visit, we had a chance to briefly chat with founder and winemaker Mary Derby as we navigated our way through the final tastings of the afternoon. The tastings included 2015 vintages of their Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and their Collage – a Bordeaux style blend of 53% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc. Finally, we were provided the 2016 DAMAnation GSM – a Rhône style blend of 48% Grenache, 36% Syrah, and 16% Mourvedre. This was a really nice tasting that allowed us to stock up on the 2015 Cowgirl Cab before heading out to dinner!
Time to Eat like Kings!
The dinner at Walla Walla Steak Company was excellent. For dinner we ordered a bottle of the Canvasback 2016 Grand Passage. Before we started our wine however, we decided to enjoy a shot of Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey – A deliciously smooth whiskey with hints of caramel. The 2016 Grand Passage paired nicely with the appetizers that included steak bites and maple bacon crispy fried brussel sprouts. My wife ordered the wood stone roasted half chicken with roasted fingerlings, bacon braised kale and pan jus. I ordered “The Hatchet”. A 34+ oz. bone-in prime ribeye steak that was carved tableside as we watched in awe! It was succulent. A perfect ending to a perfect day. Thank you Andrea and John-Paul for joining us in Walla Walla, and thank you Walla Walla Wineries for another outstanding Holiday Barrel Tasting event to remember! Cheers and happy holidays to all from Aaron’s Wine Chronicles!