fifty sips of walla walla


07.20.2012 by Andrea

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock this 50 Shades of Grey movement has been the hottest thing all summer long. I’ve not personally acquiesced to reading the novellas but felt that a recent trip was deserving of the title involving 50 of something, and it certainly felt like I sampled 50 wines in 2 days.

my kind of eating and reading.

Have you ever experienced post-trip elation? Usually the buildup of a getaway with friends makes for pre-travel euphoria. I’m on the opposite end, still high as a kite on the fun, shenanigans, and memories created that occurred on a recent ladies trip to Walla Walla. That’s probably where the similarities to 50 Shades starts and ends.

Hands down, I knew very little about this charming town. We had done some research, and knew that we wanted to indulge in their king crop, wine. Other than that, we threw the fate of our trip to the wind, and it blew back gusty and strong.

I’m on the Walla Walla train, ladies and gentlemen. Should you have run into me in the past few weeks you’ve probably needed to tell me to quit blabbering about this trip, and if you tracked us on facebook, that weekend we got a little wild with all the check-ins. Sorry folks.

A huge shout-out to all my friends who were integral in making this casual outing into a full-blown red carpeting experience. Five of us gals hopped on a plane to Walla Walla and immediately befriended the local taxi cab company, A PLUS. Request Carmen if you’re planning needing some shuttling around. She was fabulous, came armed with a minivan and promptly picked us up anytime we rang. Superb customer service. While initially the plan was to stay at the Marcus Whitman with 5 gals it vetted out easier to go the VRBO route. Having used this method before we were pleased with the selection and price points offered for a two night stay.

After dropping our bags off at the condo we immediately went back towards the airport and started our wine tour at Dunham Cellars.

let the touring commence

You might recall that a few months ago we had a wine from there that JW swears was out of this world. Flash forward to us inquiring about procuring a few bottles and we learned that it was part of Eric Dunham’s private label.

the wine JW covets.

We didn’t get that exact bottle but we walked away with a fistful of knowledge, a wine club membership, and a couple of bottles that are similar to the famed one. We also had got to see the inner workings of Dunham Cellars and it was fascinating to get the lowdown on how the process from vine to bottling occurs.

behind the scenes at Dunham

A quick stop at the market and then off to one of the most heavily lauded, well deserved to be applauded restaurants in Walla Walla. There had been a few restaurants that we had scouted as must-eat-at-joints but by the time we called to inquire reservations weren’t swinging in our favor. My pal RR to the rescue. He somehow finagled us a spot for noshing at Saffron. Owners and husband/wife team, Island and Chris, are doing work! The ambiance is cozy and the food is amazing. Plates were swabbed clean.

lamb kabobs

The mushroom and fontina flatbread with a poached egg, was certainly a highlight of the entire weekend as far as entree’s go. A must order at Saffron.

Through Island we learned of an establishment that became our favorite watering hole, Public House 124. If you are looking for individually crafted beverages and the best truffle fries in Walla Walla this is your spot.

largest order of truffle fries to date!

Matt, the proprietor, inquires and intently listens to what your favorite spirit is and mixes up beverages to order that are to die for. It feels as if you just skied in and are having après ski time. A few rounds there, an M’s game update, one more pitstop [because no trip is complete without hitting the dance floor] and then we hit the sack.

dancing the night away, get it girls!

Up bright and early we had Black Tie Limo Company to take us on our tour. I had polled 6 friends about the best wineries in the area, and then compiled a spreadsheet grouping together regions around town. After looking at the most heavily recommend wineries we opted to travel south and west of the city.

Our first stop was at Basel Cellars and what a gorgeous initiation to the wine valley. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe the sweeping views and gorgeous drive.

check out this backdrop. this door was amazingly intricate.

After a brief interlude, we then piled into our chariot and arrived at Va Piano.

va piano

Fabulous doesn’t cover the bases at this winery. Not only is the essence of Tuscany present upon arrival, the core of owner/winemaker, Justin Wylie, his values, and the story he wishes to tell is intricately carved out of every facet of your wine tasting experience. From the rocking chairs, fire pit, picnic tables, and the subtle encouragement from the staff to really soak in your experience and not rush the wine tasting, this is definitely high on my recommendation list, and on my must return-to destination list. Every wine collector needs a bottle from Va Piano in their cellar.

A food truck at a vineyard! Great move Dusted Valley. Any food truck with a burger of the month plan, has my full attention. Andrae’s Kitchen is definitely a first rate experience in Washington wine country.

The sassy labels on the wine, the heavy recommendation to read 50 Shades from the chief wine pourer, and the bacon gravy on the poutine from the food truck outside make this stop a 5-star hit! I don’t know if I even stopped to breathe while sucking down this carb-a-licious snack.

poutine! smelled divine, tasted even better

We squeezed in our next stop and I am glad that we did. Loved the architecture, and the vintage truck at Amavi.

Cool property for picture taking as well. It reminded me a lot of Januik/Novelty Hill in Woodinville.

A forewarning. Should they offer to take a picture of you in front of this spectacular wine wall, don’t dart behind the counter. Just sayin’ … lesson learned.

We munched on some grub in the car and then it was onto the southside where we enjoyed sitting through an amazing painted across the sky thunderstorm at Longshadows. The umbrella/partnership concept is bold and fascinating. We certainly absorbed a ton of knowledge at this site, and walked away with a broader understanding of how integrated the wine world truly is.

waiting out the stormy weather at Longshadows

some of the Chihuly glass at Longshadows.

Make sure to swing through Woodward Canyon. While the tasting room experience was slightly underwhelming, the wine was competitively priced, and quite tasty.

Ring my bell? Of course, must make that school bell sound as you head up the stairs to L’Ecole No 41.

Loved chatting with the wine stewards [they were all male, what can I say?]. We truly enjoyed getting to cherry pick what we wanted to sample here. To demonstrate what a novice I truly am, I had no idea until last week that they had recently updated their wine label. Thanks to the sommelier at bin on the lake, a wine bar in Kirkland, for putting me in the know. I loved the chardonnay and chenin blanc, they have quickly become my favorite hostess gifts and contribution to a summery meal.

staying classy at le’cole

One last stop, serene Waterbrook. Our driver Tim, was a wine club member there and we had a fun final tasting there. Reportedly there was also a taco truck nearby. I didn’t sniff it out, but heard lots of good reviews! Sidenote, major kudos to our chauffeur. Not only did he transport us safely and securely to each of our stops, he also was personable, informative, and remarkably flexible when what had started as a 3 hour tour turned into 6.5! Thanks T, you were great.

One thing that resonated deeply throughout the whole weekend was the charitable nature of all the residents. Regardless of where we were, folks inquired as to where we were staying, places that we were eating, offered up entree-specific recommendations for different eateries, and always invited us to come back for another visit.

We hadn’t really toured much of the town so it was fun to swing through Olive post wine tasting, pose in front of Cayuse, and then have a classically French dinner at Brasserie 4.

relaxing at Olive

the famed Cayuse storefront. often photographed, rarely open.

the chardonnay gals making executive decisions.

steak frites

croque madam

crock of french onion soup

The must eat mussels that everyone around town insisted that we order.

the spicy broth was exquisite

We also had a surprise bottle of wine delivered to the table from the gentleman across the mountains. Thanks guys, what a treat!

Late night munchies? You know that after a full day of tasting, girls gotta do what girls gotta do. We did work on this box of cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. The ladies loved the lavender and the rainbow ones most of all!

what remained of the cupcakes

We couldn’t leave this town without making a stop at a breakfast watering hole. Bacon and Eggs, what a tummy filling delight you were. I might have ordered a starter [biscuits and gravy] because I couldn’t decide between all the goodies that were presented on the menu. Who says you can’t have breakfast appetizers? So many mouthwatering choices! In the end I went with my gut, which always leads me to anything with hollandaise. Crab cakes egg benedict, you made my heart sing!

All in all a fabulous trip. Two days was perfect, and I feel like we covered the main layer of Walla Walla and now am intrigued about the underground wine world, and garage wineries that are gaining in popularity. It definitely affirmed that Washington is a major player on the wine map, and I have never felt more confident in my blooming wine knowledge. Much obliged to all the wine pourers, makers, and aficionados that made this weekend such a success. I can’t wait to head back.

heading home

Lot’s of fun exciting foodie event’s to come. Just came home from the Brave Horse BBQ, headed to my first wedding involving a live mariachi band [congrats CL & BG, can’t wait to tear up the dance floor with y’all], and am going to be pouring beverages at Kirkland Uncorked this Sunday.

Until the next bite, cheers.


One thought on “fifty sips of walla walla

  1. […] Walla, this will have to be a post in and of itself (again) but this sweet little spot in the country keeps getting better and better. Or maybe my palate […]

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