Walla,Walla or Bust! The Washington Wine Scene Revisited!

Hey folks sitting here at the airport and with a few hours in between flights I thought I would blab a little about the WBC 10 [Wine Blogger Conference] as it's being referred to in the twittershpere and on FB. The  Cuvée Corner Wine Blog is but one of over 300 wine bloggers who descended upon the wonderful little town of Walla, Walla Washington, which sits in the warmer south east part of the state.

Many folks associate a trip to Washington state as rainy and over cast adventure, but the part of the state I will be visiting is forecast to clear blue skies and sunny warm temps in the eighties. [Um, it went up to the high nineties] As I obviously wrote this paragraph pre-conference and has as happens I needed to board the plane before I could finish what I wanted to say, but that's how it goes when you're traveling. Then when I got to the conference, I just couldn't find time to put any substantive content together with the time I had, but now that I'm back in good old San Diego, time to string together what will appear to be a few cogent thoughts.

The Why: Okay so maybe you are wondering okay, you have a wine blog and that's a great hobby, but flying off to a conference about wine blogging, what's that all about anyway? Good question, it's something I gave some thought about the first time I went last year to the event in Napa/Sonoma, which was fantastic. We get together talk about how the our genre is unfolding, how to improve, be responsible, make it profitable and have more fun doing it. We get together and learn from each other, experience new wines and wineries, network and make new friends with other like minded professionals and amateurs alike.

The contest: I had won a contest which extended my trip by a day. So myself and twelve other wine-bloggers were treated to some first class experiences ahead of the crush of the other bloggers who were heading to Walla, Walla. The contest was based upon writing a post about Washington wine before the conference started and based on the blogs we wrote, we were chosen as the winners, but the specific category of how we won and why was never really disclosed, a little disappointing. But no sour grapes here, just reporting the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

On our first day the contest winners of the WBC or Bust, Road Trip to Walla Walla were treated to a wonderful brunch at Chateau Ste. Michele where we had a wondrous Food and Wine Pairing, a Woodinville Grand Tasting at the Willows Lodge, then a had an amazing lunch at the Barking Frog and again with paired wines [provided by DeLille Cellars], which were all marvelous. Then after lunch we ran off to Pikes Brewery for a tour and tasting of all their beers and then on to this fantastic dinner to which we were very late to at the ohh-la-la, Waterfront SeaFood Grill.
A very full but fantastic first day!

The second day we started heading inland from Seattle to Walla, Walla and had a Grand Tasting at Cave B, but unfortunately if you didn't act quickly you missed the brunch. Yes, sad face cause I was on the receiving end of missing the brunch, ahh poor me. Then we were whisked off to the Yakima Grand Tasting at Prosser Village, where we were treated to another Grand Tasting of the Best of the Yakima Wine Scene. Then we left Prosser heading east to Walla, Walla once more [a terribly long journey] to arrive at Walla Walla Vintners for a Pizza and Wine Social. I was so wiped out by riding on a overheated [94 degree weather] bus [no AC] bus, so I skipped the wine and went straight for the ICE cold beer by Big Sky Brewing Company, the Trout Slayer [which was very good]. The pizza was fantastico, my compliments to the chef! We did have some ice cold Reisling from Hogue, while on the bus, but it was a little dicey as some fared better than others. Then later that evening we were all taken to our respective B&B's [with the option to go to another winery to party on] for the evening and I stayed at Stone Creek Manor, which was fantastic [I opted to head to my B&B, as I was just wiped out].

What's taking so long: I know many of the wineries are anxious to see mine and many of my fellow bloggers reviews on our respective sites right away. But for many of us, this is not a full time job, more like a hobby for which we would love to have as a full time job. So when folks come back from nearly a week long journey it does take time get back into the swing of the day-to-day goings on of life. So forgive us please, if some of us bloggers seem a bit tardy in getting our Washington Wine Posts up, but in their and mine own defense I've seen many [substantive] tweets and the FB posts are endless. The point is, we collectively as the wine bloggers and wine writers are very excited by what we saw, heard and most of all tasted during our stay in your wonderful state, that said the reviews are coming and the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog will produce many reviews based on my experiences during the Walla Walla,Wine Blogger Conference. This is really the first day since I've been back that I've had the opportunity to write up some of my experiences.

Okay now that I've got that out of the way, after we left Ch. Ste. Michelle, which was my second opportunity to taste some of the great wines from Washington State. It was during our Woodinville Grand tasting where I encountered some fantastic wines and I wanted to tell you about some of the great finds [see plural], that I've come across. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, we all have a different takes on what's great or good and what's not so great. So sorry I have take a slight detour below and address an issue I over heard some of my fellow bloggers discussing on more than one occasion, but of course I don't name, names they know who they are and they don't read this blog. So there you have it below, my diatribe on being a wine-snob!

An Aside: I'm not one of those wine bloggers who believes a wine has to be 12.5% or under to be considered balanced and approachable. Some folks have that opinion buried deep within their palates and dismiss anyone and any wine that disagrees with that premise. Its not because of something they taste, it's because they believe and or are taught, it's chic to hate on wine over a certain percentage or they call it an homogenized wine, made to please certain critics who hold a sway over whether a few cases of wines are sold or whether truckloads of wine are sold.

These are fun notions [aka, straw-man] to set up and knock over, makes for great chatter around the wine bar. Frankly, this premise does not hold much sway over whether or not I like a wine and I say bah-humbug. But I'm sure those who subscribe to the notion, they find it a great comfort in dismissing wines out of hand for its ABV alone. I judge each wine on its own merit and don't draw a conclusion until after I tasted it and put it through its paces. So that's why I say to you my readers, please don't listen to these folks or give them any credence, they are nothing more than clattering gongs and noisy cymbals, making noise for noise sake.

Okay that said, now onto the matter at hand, the fantastic wines of Washington State. This is my second time into this wine region to experience what I like to call the Washington Wine Scene. This Woodinville Grand Tasting featured many fantastic wineries and including Betz [ Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate: “Betz Family Winery remains one of Washington's benchmarks for top quality wines from Rhone and Bordeaux grape varieties] of whom I'm sure you are very familiar with already, but my absolute favorite of the day was Baer Winery.  Both wines made in a Bordeaux style one being in the feminine style Ursa and Arctos in the Masculine style, both were powerful and lush, but showed enough restraint to pair nicely with food or to drink alone as a cocktail wine. This is not an easy task but these wines did both flawlessly in my estimation. Baer was the one of winery which I ran around to bothering everyone to try this wine, as I thought it was just stunning, and no one disagreed with me either. Since this post is getting long in tooth, okay I know I'm repeating myself but it needs to be said again, to once more highlight this one winery in particular, they are called BaerWinery please give them a swirl you won't be disappointed. Two of wines I sampled the Ursa and Arctos and found them both complex and compelling and I highly recommend you find a way on getting your hands on these fantastic wines.
Prices and where to find: Selling for $35 and $41 respectively. A steal of a deal in my mind, if these labels said Napa on the bottle it could easily sell for way more than they are asking, both drank like wines approaching the Benjamin mark. Sorry California residents your favorite wine store won't have these, so you'll have to click your way through their e-commerce site to get them ordered, but you better hurry before the next heat wave spike hits southern cal.

Other Voices:  David Leclaire the Seattle Wine Squire, had this to say about the 06 Ursa: "I tasted this wine 9 months ago blind as a judge at the Seattle Wine Awards, and was blown away by this wine. It is still available for a bit longer – and I had the pleasure of trying it again recently and will personally look for some on the shelves immediately before you beat me to it. Why? It is balanced, intense in all ways, even in it’s elegance. Isn’t that what we always want – something not over the top that has just enough fruit, tannin, acidity, and a touch of earth. Bordeaux style blend with all the 5 varietals with Merlot and Cab Franc dominant."

My Recommendation: So see it's not just me, other folks who really know whats going on agree with me that fruit and winemaking coming from Baer is off the hook fantastic, so with that you have my run don't walk recommendation. Hurry before they are all gone!


Joe said…
I don't know if we got to meet on bus. Or if we did, I met so many people that weekend, and I apologize.

I was only on the way back to Seattle (mooched a ride). In any case, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to get back to Washington again!

Joe @suburbanwino

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