What do you say when you get introduced to a brand new geographical wine experience, incredibly gracious and friendly winemakers and winery owners...and wonderful wines? WOW!
If you LOVE PASO.....and the Pasopersonality....you'll love the wines and people of Washington State too. Having the opportuity and priviledge to meet and greet some of the states top winemakers, it's hard to do justice to all the wineries and people I met, and wines I tasted....so here is a brief recap of a few of the incredible wineries and people Lynn and I had the pleasure and opportunity of meeting and sipping with.
But before you read on, pour a glass of your favorite wine....kick back, relax and take a short journey to the beautiful Pacific Northwest with me.....
The Washington wines we tasted all had one common theme: They portrayed a distinctive earthiness and minerality in addition to the specific characteristics of the individual grape. Food friendly and subtle with well balanced acidity and lingering finishes. An obvious difference in texture and taste from their California (specifically Paso) cousins.
The terroir of Washington State (specifically Walla Walla) is SOOO different from Paso...and California in general. Not primarily clay, calcium and limestone, the terroir of Walla Walla is predominently river rock and gravel....and as the winemakers describe the dirt "talcum." Giving the wines a unique earthy, minerality....a Washington State wine is as different from a California wine as an apple is from a fig. Extremely intriguing as you prepare to taste a Syrah or a Cabernet, your mind preparing you for one reaction, your olfactory senses and sense of taste giving you quite a different reaction. As I said above: WOW!
THE UNIQUE WALLA WALLA TERROIR
A few hours spent with Eric Dunham.....of Dunham Cellars...one of the pioneers of Washington State Wines. First, giving us a history of Washington State wines, and then pouring us tastes of his beautiful lineup...graciously touring us through his history and his liquid pleasures.
Gilles Nicault, consulting winemaker for Longshadows, and Jesse Gordon (manager) spent several hours touring us and barrel tasting and then finally....sharing their lineup of wines. A very unique project bringing together several of the greatest winemakers from around the world, each producing an ultra premium wine under one roof. Gillles supervises the process and passion in helping to create wines by Armin Diel (Reisling - Germany), Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus (Bordeaux style-Napa), Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari (Super Tuscan-Italy), Randy Dunn (Cabernet Sauvignon-Napa), John Duval (Syrah--Australia <Penfold's>), Michel Rolland (Merlot-France) and finally, Gilles Nicault and Allen Shoup with their Chester-Kidder New World Blend. All of these acclaimed winemakers coming to Washington several times a year to work with Gilles in supervising and creating a unique wine experience.
THE LONGSHADOWS LINE-UP
Having left Walla Walla, I then had the opportunity to visit two wineries in Woodinville.
Greg and Stacy Lill of Delille Cellars. Meeting Greg in Los Angeles a few weeks earlier, I was treated to a tour of his Chateau and then tasted his lineup of Washington State creations at his tasting room. Greg is a man who obvioulsy believes in paying it forward---being gracious to start up winemakers by giving them space in his winery to begin their craft....the only cost being that once THEY become successful....they pay it forward by doing the same for other new winemakers. And Greg's wines...in a word: Yummy.
Betz Family Cellars. Carmen Betz (daughter of the founder) and Steve Grissini, graciously opening their door to me (as they are not open to the public), spending their time sharing their story and passion...and pouring their two ultra premium wines. Talk about wine heaven! I would love a side by side of Betz with the best comparable that Napa has to offer....but maybe it's Betz to keep these two wines a secret.
STEVE GRISSINI AND CARMEN BETZ
What makes Washington unique...loveable and incredible, is what makes Paso unique, loveable and incredible. A true community of winemakers who love anyone else who loves wine, and loves to talk, sip, and share the passion. Going into the wine rooms in Washington is like going into the wine rooms in Paso: You are more than likely to be talking to the winemaker/winery owner---for hours on end. A community that looks out for each other---it's about the wine and the people who love wine. A sure fire formula for success.
A special thank you to ALL the winemakers, winery owners, and tasting room personnel who made this quick trip to Washington so special.
And an extra special thank you to my cousin Jacqueline who made this possible by inviting me to "An Evening with the Washington State Winemakers" last month, and to Dominique Calle who took the time to introduce me to each and every winemaker and helped open the doors for me.
Robert Frost once said: "Good fences make good neighbors." But good wine, makes good friends.