“Let the Vineyard Speak” – Musings on the Walla Walla Experience at the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference

“Let the vineyard speak.” – I heard this phrase a couple of times during the whirlwind of experiences at the WBC 2010 in Walla Walla. To summarize what I learned about Walla Walla and the wine, I honestly believe that the artisans making wine in this region use this phrase as a guiding mantra.

In general, all the producers, growers and owners we met expressed a commitment to minimal intervention in the growth and path towards finished product. The results are an increasing number of organic wines that are really excellent examples of the region’s terrior.

I had some experience with Washington wines prior to visiting, and learned a great deal about the hallmarks and breadth of wine experiences available in the valley. Some but not all of the things that stuck with me are:

  • A commitment to elegant meritage style blends. Of the many we sampled, there was a distinct elegance characterized by beautiful floral hints, followed by in some cases the lovely graphite and rustic mineral finish often associated with Bordeaux.
  • “Letting the vineyard speak” was evidenced by the rocky, mineral soils we observed in the River Rock Vineyards, and tasting it in the fantastic Buty Wines grown there.
  • Balance was a hallmark through out the lineups of many of the wineries. There were very few “monster” wines; even the Syrahs and GSMs had nice balance and finesse. (The exception being the wines of Charles Smith, whom I sense wouldn’t have it any other way. – we wouldn’t want him to either, as they are such fun wines).
  • The whites were full of Old World-esque minerality (DeLille’s Chaleur White – wow!), and wonderful acidity. I loved the number of seafood beckoning Chenin Blancs, and gorgeously subtle Rieslings.
  • Another highlight was the handful of Rosés we sampled. Spicy, with light red berries, they are fantastic summer wines at even more striking prices. Barnard and Griffin, Mannina (made from Sangiovese) and L’Ecole 41 (whose is a Grenache rosé) all had delicious sips under $20.

Walla Walla is a fantastic place that is so welcoming for the wine enthusiast. The vineyards are beautiful and the vintners are warm and genuinely interested in sharing the work that they do. The town center of Walla Walla is also a great stepping off point to explore the wine, with dozens of tasting rooms, cool restaurants (tasty pizza at The Olive, by the way) and a fantastic mix of generations of architecture.