Last weekend, during our quest for a local Nebbiolo, we spent time with the Morrison’s, owners of Cottonwood Creek Vineyard and Morrison Lane Winery (http://morrisonlane.com). With roots in the Walla Walla Valley since 1904 and family wine making in the old country it is not surprising that they chose to grow wine grapes in this valley. The winery came several years later; after Dean retired from railroad work.
Verde took the WWCC EV certification classes that I am taking now; naturally we had lots to discuss. As we talked and sipped I was trying to decipher what plants were inside the frames on the wall beside the bar. Low and behold, Verde’s pressed wild plants (weeds to some) from her class are framed. She, her sister, Barbara (whom we met), and her daughter put the book together to sell in the tasting room. I am the proud owner of a signed copy.
One of the early vineyards in the Walla Walla AVA, Dean and Verde Morrsion planted the first four acres of Syrah in 1994 on ground that has been in the family since 1918: Cottonwood Creek Vineyard to supply local wine makers with fruit. Each subsequent planting through the years diversifying the grape varieties to see what would grow well, best, or not well. Currently there are Counoise (1.5 acres – the first of this varietal in Walla Walla), Cinsault (0.7 acres) , Carmenere (1.9 acres), Dolcetto (0.6 acres), Nebbiolo (0.6 acres) and Barbera (0.4 acres) besides 13.8 acres of Syrah, 2.1 acres of Viognier, and 1 acre of Sangiovese. This willingness to plant what is/was not a top-selling varietal, to continue with the pioneering spirit that brought Walla Walla to World Class Wine Destination status, is at the root of the profusion of wines available through the tasting room and the winery.
Dean and Verde made the first wines, opening the downtown tasting room in 2004 in a charming old building on Main Street. The space has a collection of Spanish Cordoba guitars hung on the walls and on various surfaces; I will have to revisit to pay closer attention to them. Currently their son Sean is the wine maker for Morrison Lane as well as Something Big Cellars (http://somethingbigcellars.com) for which you can have custom labels made and two none-vintage reds in an Artist’s Series. (Click on the link above to see what they might have for your event!)
The wines, primarily Rhone style, are delightful, complex, and true to varietal. Cinsault was a wine grape planted in the Walla Walla Valley before prohibition; the vines planted in the Cottonwood Creek Vineyard are cuttings taken from these original family plants. The 2012 is rose and lavender, berries and red-licorice finish. Delightful!
The 2003 Syrah is earthy, mushroom and dried fruit on the nose with blackberry on the palate and a smooth finish. I apparently love aged Syrah.
A 2005 Counoise is a tart fruit, rhubarb and red currant on the nose and palate, acidic, crisp and perfume with a rich fresh leather finish.
The blend 331/3 is equal parts Syrah, Viognier and Counsoise co-fermented: cherry pie, butterscotch… delicious.
We came home with a bottle of 2006 Nebbiolo, 2004 Nebbiolo, a 2012 Viognier and a case of non-vintage, Syrah-based, Charming Red for our ‘everyday’ drinking… should we ever stop looking for something different or new we will have a lovely wine to open.
As we continue to compare Washington wines with Old World and other New World wines we will revisit Morrison Lane, so I will write more about these wines in time.