Monday, June 24, 2013

Walla Walla Wine Country

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We’ve been home 2 1/2 months, getting the house and yard back in order, some wedding planning and lots of projects, including Bob building a new shore-side deck, so it was time to take a break and have some fun.

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Wednesday morning we loaded the car with Bob’s sister Lynn and her husband David, luggage and a cooler full of food and drinks, and headed east. Normally this time of year it’s still cool and cloudy in western Washington where we live, but hot and sunny on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in eastern Washington. Not so this year. Six hours after departing, we arrived in Walla Walla to 62 degrees and light rain.

Fortunately the rental house Lynn found, “Clara’s Cottage”, a 100-year-old Victorian 3-bedroom and 2-bath at a reasonable price and location, was comfortable, well furnished and well-provisioned.

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Thursday we visited 3 wineries: L’Ecole 41, Northstar and Seven Hills Winery.  We enjoyed the tastings at all 3, and bought a couple cases of wine from the first two.

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It was reminiscent of a trip the four of us took together 8 years ago to Napa Valley, and among other things, we were reminded that mostly our wine tastes and willingness to fork out big bucks for better wine are pretty restrained, so unlike a former colleague of Bob’s, we won’t be making 4 trips a year to Walla Walla for wine.

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A staff member at L’Ecole 41 suggested we might enjoy an evening at Charles Smith Winery where dinner would be served that night by students of the Wine Country Culinary Institute and live blues music would be played. So we did! The crowd was small, some of the food was great (other was mediocre) and we enjoyed the music and people-watching for a couple hours.

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Friday found us driving through the Palouse, a beautiful region of tall rolling hills and fields with big sky and layered colors and views.

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A stop in Waitsburg at the General Mercantile Store and then at the Mace Meadery in Dayton filled our morning.

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Not all of us knew that Mead is a type of wine made using honey as the base ingredient instead of grapes. We tried a tasting and were not won over, though it was interesting and educational.

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Next up was a stop at Monteillet Fromagerie, a farm run by a middle-aged married couple who raise goats and sheep, milk them, and make artisanal cheeses of an astounding variety.

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We sat in the tasting room for an hour being served by Joan and discovering lots of things we didn’t know about cheese-making. The farm was pretty and the goats were interested in the visitors, though we were kept outside the fence.

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A two-hour drive led us to a non-descript motel in Sunnyside, Washington headed partway home, but it was situated on the edge of a vineyard, so we outside for a couple of hours with a glass of wine and enjoying the sun and views.

All in all, a pleasant trip, wrapped up with a slower, scenic drive through Mount Rainier National Park, crossing White Pass and Chinook Pass with spectacular views of “The Mountain”, much more close-up than we see from home. 

Now that we’ve crafted a write-up suitable for the Chamber of Commerce to post on their website, we’ll add a postscript.  Nowhere during our visit to Walla Walla was there any mention of the only thing Walla Walla was known for during most of Bob’s growing up years. (It was not wine!)

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One thousand nine hundred and sixty eight prisoners call Walla Walla Penitentiary “home”.  There are no directional signs point the way to the prison, and the bus route serving it is called the Pine Street Loop.  You get the clear impression that folks do NOT want to distract you from your wine tour by noting the presence of this facility.

1 comment:

Darrell Grob said...

Been reading your blog. Like you said the weather has been miserable - move one day, stay put for three...the same pattern over and over again. We too have been keeping in touch with folks up in NY. Now THAT is a miserable situation. Rick and Margi of Journey are decided whether to go up Champlain or go home. They are at a marina just south of Albany.
Noticed you fly you gold burgee on your boat at home. Do you get questions from people asking what the heck that is?

We are in Hampton Roads at the public pier. Leaving for Deltaville looks like Thursday, then Solomons on Friday.