Boutique wineries at the base of the Marcus Whitman Hotel

We spent a lovely afternoon in Walla Walla Saturday; my excitement about beginning the wine program in September is back in high gear!

If you have been to Walla Walla, you have seen the outside, if not the inside, of the Marcus Whitman Hotel.  My pictures wouldn’t have done justice to the building, so referencing the website you can see both original and current images.  It is one of a few multi-story buildings in town, built in the 1920’s.  During the pioneering 1800’s the Whitman family came west and settled in the Walla Walla Valley as missionaries only to be slain during the Whitman Massacre in 1847.  (The town has streets, a college and the hotel named for this family.)  It has been restored to its original charm during the last dozen or so years as the local wine industry has grown.  Along both streets, snuggled into the base of the brick structure, are boutique wineries; we took in three of them on Saturday.

We began at the corner of Second and Rose in TERO Estates wine tasting room, also Flying Trout Wines tasting room.  We were greeted by Jan Roskelley, wife to Doug Roskelley, TERO’s wine maker.  Thanks Jan for the informative, fun tasting!  Begun in 2007 with the purchase of the Windrow Vineyard outside of Milton Freewater, one of the original vineyards, the eastern part of the original Seven Hills Vineyard, in the Walla Walla AVA.  The Flying Trout wines are sourced from Mendoza, Argentina, including a lovely, fruit forward Torrontes, the lone white, and a few reds from Malbec, Syrah & Cabernet Franc grapes.  Ashley Trout is the current winemaker for the Flying Trout label.  We enjoyed wines from both labels as they are quietly complex with smooth tannins and lots of fruit.

Going next door, on the Second Avenue side, to Locati Cellars, where Mike Locati, a third generation wine maker has taken his family’s love of wine commercial for the last eight years.  From the estate vineyard, Mission Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA, and a variety of other Columbia Valley vineyards, come a floral Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese (both rose’ and red) and Barbera wines.  A 2008 blend called Innovation, with the Sangiovese and Barbera grapes and Goose Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, was my favorite.  Spring release will see two Sangioveses, an estate and a reserve, as well as a blend called Ambrose, referencing Mike’s father.

Trio Vintners rounded out our tasting experience that day.  Karen Ba Bonte’, owner and winemaker, didn’t just pour wines and talk about them, she linked the luscious, dark red fluid in the glass with the vines they grew on, the work and care that went into every aspect of growing and fermenting, and she shared her journey.  Her shared passions brought a Spring renewal of last Autumn’s hopes and dreams. Choosing to source her grapes instead of purchasing an established vineyard, leaving her to focus more directly on the wine making, works well for her.  Barbera, Mourvedre, Grenache and Sangiovese are stand alone wines.  The 2010 Sangiovese is called Flashpoint, in honor of her son, a firefighter in San Francisco and firefighters in general.  The 2009 Plaisir, French for pleasure, red blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, & Grenache is aptly named.  Our finale, 2009 Zinfandel from the Yakima Valley.  As we have been on a zin-kick this last few weeks we had to try it.  Sadly, the bottle we brought home is already gone.  Thinking about it now, despite the early hour of the day, I would love to have a little.  Fond memories of it though as we were able to share it with friends over dinner Sunday night.

Needing lunch by then, yes a late one, we decided we had to stop wine tasting and find food.  There are more tasting rooms on Rose Street that we missed.  The hotel restaurant, The Marc, wasn’t open for a couple more hours, so we needed to move on.  We will eat there another evening; something else to look forward to!

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