Bucko visits Walla Walla



 

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© 2001 by Randy Buckner

Wondrous Walla Walla
Washington State's Walla Walla wine region is on the verge of an explosion; not a cataclysmic event, rather an explosion of growth in the wine industry. Along with this development comes an increase in Bed and Breakfast locations, fine restaurants, and other supporting businesses. If you have not visited the city in the past three years, the changes are dramatic. In another three years, changes will be even more striking.

Walla Walla

A Brief History

Prior to the coming of Europeans to the North American Continent, Indian life in the Northwest was very stable. Change took place very slowly. Surviving the winter season was more of a threat than battles with rival tribes. The Walla Walla Valley was mainly frequented by the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes, although the Deschutes, John Day and Nez Perce tribes were also present. Lewis and Clark traveled through the county in 1805 and 1806. Fur traders carved out early settlements, trading posts and forts in the early1800's. Fort Nez Perce (later named Fort Walla Walla) was established in 1818 and quickly became a center for trade and socialization between the Indians and whites. Intermarriage between white traders and Indian women was common. The Indians were first exposed to Christianity at the fort, which introduced new concepts of right and wrong and punishment for wrong-doings. Christianity altered the Indian world dramatically. Missions were built in the heart of Indian country, with missionaries teaching Christianity to the Indians, changing their way of life forever.

A measles epidemic hit the area around this time and hundreds of Indians died. Dr. Marcus Whitman, founder of the mission at Waiilatpu (near Walla Walla), tended to many of the Indians, but as the number of deaths increased, the Indian people held him responsible and feared that he wished to destroy them all. An increasing flow of settlers into the area only heightened the uneasiness developing among the Indians. The tribal people were expected to become sedentary farmers, a concept completely contradictory to their migratory way of life. In 1847, a small band of Cayuse attacked the Waiilatpu Mission, killing Whitman and his wife, burning the buildings. Even though the raid was performed by an individual band acting on its own, threat of an all out war ensued. A group of tribal people took matters into their own hands, capturing and surrendering five men who were ultimately hanged. In 1855 the treaty establishing the Umatilla Indian Reservation was signed by the U.S. Government and representatives of the various Indian bands of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla.

As with most treaties, it was worth about as much as the paper on which it was written. Sporadic conflicts arose between the Indians, miners, immigrants and townspeople. As dry land farming techniques were developed, it became evident that the rolling hills of the reservation, once thought to be worthless ground, were some of the richest wheat growing lands in the nation. Resentment towards the Indians grew. The editor of Pendleton's East Oregonian stated in 1877 "We favor their removal for it is a burning shame to keep this fine body of land for a few worthless Indians."

Dams were constructed on the Columbia River in the 1900's which further violated the 1855 Treaty, since the rising waters flooded ancient hunting and fishing grounds. Although damage payments were made, the noble and proud Columbia River tribe's economy and culture were changed forever. To learn more on the history of the Confederated Umatilla Tribes, please check their web site at http://www.umatilla.nsn.us/main.html.

The City of Walla Walla was incorporated in 1862. After a short gold rush era ended, farming became the mainstay of the community, with more than half of the county's 47 centennial farms being established before 1875. Farming remains vital to the current economy. This region's rich volcanic soil now grows wheat, alfalfa hay, peas, strawberries, potatoes, apples, world famous Walla Walla Sweet Onions, and of course, wine grapes.

Population growth in Walla Walla County increased by only 1,000 people from 1980 to 1990, but increased by almost 6,000 people from 1990 to 2000, now standing at over 54,000 individuals. Future growth looks favorable as industry continues to expand.

The Wine Industry

The 280 square-mile Walla Walla wine region lies within the larger Columbia Valley Appellation. Annual rainfall varies from 10 and 25 inches, most falling during the winter months. The growing season can be as long as 220 days. The Walla Walla Valley Appellation is defined by the Blue Mountains and the Touchet Slope. This region includes lands in both Washington and Oregon, although the Walla Walla wineries are all currently located in Washington. Vineyards are planted in both states and have proven successful with a variety of grapes ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon to Semillon. Vineyard acreage in 1999 totaled over 800 acres, increased to 1000 acres by 2000 and projections indicate that the valley could have 20,000 acres of vinifera grapes by 2010.

Burt Pesciallo started the first commercial winery in the area. He operated the winery until 1955, when a harsh winter killed all of his plants and vines and forced him to close his business. In 1977, Gary and Nancy Figgins started Leonetti Cellars, which is now known as the oldest winery in Walla Walla. Walla Walla's wine industry grew to five wineries by 1993; eight wineries by 1995; and to thirty wineries by the time of this article. To say that the industry is growing by leaps and bounds may be an understatement.

Other Attractions

While in Walla Walla, take advantage of other valley attractions. Walla Walla was ranked among the best 100 small arts towns in America and is home to the oldest continuous symphony orchestra west of the Mississippi. Outdoor activities include camping, skiing, hiking, fishing, golf and bicycling. Bird watchers can revel in over 300 species of birds documented in the area. 300 days of sunshine a year adds to the attractions.

The Wineries

West of Town

Currently there are four wineries located west of town, two with Lowden addresses, listed in order as you approach Walla Walla:

Woodward Canyon

  • Bonded Winery #0081
  • Founded: 1981
  • Owners: Rick & Darcy Small
  • Winemaker: Rick Small Assistant Winemaker: Gilles Nicault
  • 11920 W. Hwy. 12
  • Lowden, WA 99360
  • 509-525-4129
  • 509-522-0927 Fax
  • E-mail: dfs@hscis.net
  • Web Site: Pending
  • Tours/Tastings: 10 - 5 daily in summer, 10 - 4 daily winter, opening on noon Sundays.
  • Current Production: 15,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: US & Foreign
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Charbonneau
Woodward Canyon specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay with occasional releases of other varietals such as Riesling, Red Charbonneau (a blend of Cabernet and Merlot) and White Charbonneau (a Semillon). In the early years, the Walla Walla wine industry was Rick Small and Gary Figgins (Leonetti). They go back many years, when they were fellow drill sergeants in the Army Reserve. They were avid home winemakers, and Rick even helped Gary at Leonetti until he opened his own commercial winery. Today Rick shares winemaking duties with Gilles Nicault, as well as actively marketing his wines. It is nice to see a man so enthusiastic and tireless after all of the years in the business. The quality of his wines show it. While some have complained in the past that Rick was too heavy-handed with the new oak, the newer vintages do not seem to reflect that.

1999 Woodward Canyon, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $30. Lovely apple and pear fruit with light vanilla notes are appreciated on the nose and the palate, finishing with crisp acidity.

1998 Woodward Canyon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series #7, Washington, $37.50, 3,428 cases. The wine has rich aromas of red and black fruits and asian spice. Very rich and ripe on the palate, there is generous yet judicious sweet French oak, and substantial but smooth tannins. Friendly now.

L'Ecole

L'Ecole No 41

  • Bonded Winery #100
  • Founded: 1983
  • Owners: Martin & Megan Clubb
  • Winemaker: Martin Clubb
  • 41 Lowden School Road
  • Lowden, WA 99360
  • 509-525-0940
  • 509-525-2775 Fax
  • E-mail: winery@lecole.com
  • Web Site: www.lecole.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Daily 11 - 4, tours by appointment
  • Current Production: 20,000 cases, with a maximum goal of 22,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: US & Canada
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon, Chenin Blanc
L'Ecole is a family-owned business, founded by Jean and Baker Ferguson in 1983. By 1988 they were thinking of retirement. Their daughter and son-in-law, Megan and Marty Clubb, were involved in the San Francisco business world at the time. Desiring more time with their children, they researched the wine business. Marty took wine courses at UC Davis, and they took over the winery operations in 1989, and the energy that they put into the winery shows today. Marty has served as a Commissioner and Treasurer for the Washington Wine Commission. Located in the historic Frenchtown School that was built in 1915, the backdrop is quite scenic. Extensive renovations are currently underway on the tasting room and entertainment facilities. The label was designed in 1984 by a third grade cousin of the family, Ryan Campbell, who ironically is an architect today. Best known for their Merlot and Semillon, don't overlook their Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet. They have plans for a limited production Syrah in the works.

1999 L'Ecole, Semillon, Barrel Fermented, Columbia Valley, $15, 2,054 cases. Peach, fig and citrus fruit abounds, with supple oak flavors, a viscous mouthfeel, and a crisp finish. A nice food wine.

1998 L'Ecole, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28, 4,630 cases. Mixed red and black fruits on the nose are mirrored on the palate, with hints of tea and modest oak spice, finishing long and very fruity.

1997 L'Ecole, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $34, 726 cases. A luscious mixed fruit nose, with earthy, dusty red fruit and very nice acidity.

1999 L'Ecole, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $20, 1,806 cases. A spicy oak and pear nose enhances the apple and pear fruit, with plenty of spice and creme brulee flavors.

Three Rivers Winery

  • Bonded Winery #175
  • Founded: 1999
  • Owners: Steve Ahler, Bud Stocking, Duane Wollmuth
  • Winemaker: Charlie Hoppes (formerly of Chateau St. Michelle's River Ridge Facility)
  • 5641 W. Hwy. 12
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-526-9463
  • 509-529-3436 Fax
  • E-mail: info@threeriverswinery.com
  • Web Site: www.threeriverswinery.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Daily 10 - 5
  • Current Production: 6,000 cases, with a goal of 15,000 cases (80% red)
  • Current Distribution: Pacific Northwest and Montana
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gewurztraminer
Three Rivers is a new venture of three families, the Ahlers, Stockings and Wollmuths. Their lovely, functional new winery has a 14,000 square foot cellar and barrel room, and a 4,000 square foot tasting room, retail space and hospitality suite to accommodate 75 people, replete with a full-service catering kitchen. The emphasis of the winery is red wine (80%), with the remainder in Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and four acres of Cabernet Franc were just planted on site. Duane owns Bisquit Ridge Vineyard, with five acres of Gewurztraminer grapes, and three acres just replanted.. Steve owns 10 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vineyards. They have future plans for a Meritage blend and Syrah.

1999 Three Rivers, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest, Walla Walla Valley, $19. Their inaugural wine release, coming from Biscuit Ridge Vineyards. This lovely wine has 8.8% residual sugar, with very dense fruit, grapefruit predominating. Very nice acidity.

1999 Three Rivers, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28. Only available at the winery. Loads of jammy, complex black fruit, soft tannins, and a long, lovely aftertaste.

Bunchgrass Winery

  • Bonded Winery #238
  • Founded: 1997
  • Owner: Roger Cockerline
  • Winemaker: Roger Cockerline
  • 151 Bunchgrass Lane
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-525-1492
  • 509-525-1492 Fax
  • E-mail: rocher@bmi.net
  • Web Site: None
  • Tours/Tastings: None (Open once yearly, the first weekend in May)
  • Current Production: 300+ cases, with a maximum goal of 500 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-distribution and via mailing list
  • Wines Produced: Founder's Blend (Cabernet Franc and Merlot), Cabernet Sauvignon
A retired educator and lifelong resident of Walla Walla, Roger Cockerline has had a grape-growing interest since the early 1980s, when he planted a Merlot vineyard on the family farm. After retiring in 1997, he opened a commercial winery on the farm, located in a former dairy barn. Roger is vineyardist, winemaker and chief bottle washer, although he admits that his wife, Cheryl, and family chip in their help. He is dedicated to making red wines only at this time. Wines produced include a Founder's Blend (Cabernet Franc and Merlot), and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are sold primarily through his mailing list and during spring open house. The 99 barrel samples show good potential.

1998 Bunchgrass, Founder's Blend, Walla Walla, $20, 242 cases. This is a blend of 53% Cabernet Franc, 42% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. A dusty/mineral and earthy red cherry nose leads to rich cherry and raspberry fruit, nicely balanced American oak, and a long finish.

1998 Bunchgrass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $30, 68 cases. Rich, ripe red fruit and blackberry notes are echoed on the nose and palate, with silky tannins and moderate American oak notes. Elegant.

Walla Walla Proper

Driving to the town of Walla Walla proper, seven more wineries await you. Some have their winemaking facilities located elsewhere, with only a tasting room in town.

Canoe Ridge

  • Bonded Winery #195
  • Founded: 1989
  • Owner: Chalone Wine Group and stockholders
  • Winemaker: John Abbott
  • P.O. Box 684, 1102 W. Cherry Street
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-527-0885
  • 509-527-0886 Fax
  • E-mail: info@canoeridgevineyard.com
  • Web Site: Under construction
  • Tours/Tastings: Daily 11 - 5, 11 - 4 winter
  • Current Production: 32,000 cases, with a goal of 50,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Worldwide
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer
In 1990, Canoe Ridge was formed in a partnership between the Chalone Wine Group and 52 Washington investors. The Canoe Ridge Vineyard site was selected for its Merlot growing potential and warmer winter temperatures, often 10 degrees warmer than surrounding areas due to moderating effects of the Columbia River. The virgin land was the former home of sagebrush and badgers before planting began in 1989. Winemaker John Abbott was studying to become a veterinarian at Oregon State University, when he succumbed to the lure of the vine. He ended up studying viticulture and enology at Cal State, Fresno, earning his B.S. degree. He worked at Acacia Winery for three years before coming to Canoe Ridge. The winery is currently housed in the historic Walla Walla Engine House, converted and restored in 1989. A new 20,000 square foot facility is under construction. The old facility will be used for a bottling line, storage facilities and a tasting room.

1999 Canoe Ridge, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $15, 5,161 cases. Yellow delicious apples and white peaches define the nose and palate, with a touch of oak spice and a refreshing finish.

1999 Canoe Ridge, Gewurztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard, WA State, $12.50, 532 cases. A citrus/grapefruit nose. Crisp and refreshing, with light lychee and rose petal flavors.

1998 Canoe Ridge, Merlot, Reserve, Lot No. 16, Columbia Valley, $45, 1,238 cases. Very deep, very luscious blackberry and blueberry fruit intertwined with well-balanced French oak, a touch of chocolate and satiny tannins. Their first reserve earns its reserve status.

Seven Hills Seven Hills Winery

  • Bonded Winery #553
  • Founded: 1988
  • Owners: Six local families
  • Winemaker: Casey McClellan
  • 212 North Third Ave.
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-529-7198
  • 509-529-7733 Fax
  • E-mail: info@sevenhillswinery.com
  • Web Site: www.sevenhillswinery.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Tu-Sa 11 - 4:30, Call for winter hours
  • Current Production: 7,000 cases, with around 12,000 cases predicted
  • Current Distribution: US - 22 states
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling, Pinot Gris
Casey and Vicky McClellan joined the founders of Seven Hills Vineyard in 1988 to form Seven Hills winery. Casey received a Master's degree from UC Davis, with an emphasis on wine yeast performance. He then spent time with the Port industry in Oporto before returning to Walla Walla as winemaker at Seven Hills. This year the winery moved to the historic Whitehouse-Crawford building, a former wood working mill, which has been transformed into a very functional winery and tasting room. Future plans may include adding Tempranillo to their portfolio.

1999 Seven Hills, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $12. Vanilla, citrus and tropical fruit aromas prevail, with intense fruitiness, hints of new French oak and nice acidity. Good value.

1997 Seven Hills, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $25, 1,200 cases. Blackberry, vanilla spice aromas are mirrored on the palate, with jammy fruit flavors, cassis, minerals, modest tannins and a long finish.

1998 Seven Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, $28. Dusty, earthy, elegant, with loads of red cherry fruit and silky tannins on the long, fruity aftertaste.

Waterbrook Winery

  • Bonded Winery #103
  • Founded: 1984
  • Owners: Eric & Janet Rindal
  • Winemaker: Eric Rindal
  • 31 E. Main Street
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-522-1262
  • 509-529-4770 Fax
  • E-mail: info@waterbrook.com
  • Web Site: www.waterbrook.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Daily 10:30 - 4:30 (Tasting room only)
  • Current Production: 20-25,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Nationally
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, Merlot, Melange, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier
Eric and Janet Rindal choose their winery name for the Nez Perce Indian translation of Walla Walla, meaning "running water." Eric got the bug for winemaking when he helped L'Ecole with their first crush. He loves flying and owns his own airplane. A Walla Walla native, Janet assumes duties as sales and marketing manager, but is equally at home on the seat of a tractor. Their production manager is Brian Carlson, a UC Davis graduate, who has an obsession for details and hard work. Waterbrook plans to place more emphasis on red wine production, with possible Rhone varieties in the future. Waterbrook has become known for their well made, fairly priced wines.

1999 Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10. Apple and oak spice tempt the nose. Honeydew melons and fresh sliced apples flavors predominate, with a modest toasty oak finish. Good value.

1998 Waterbrook, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $8, 4,595 cases. The bouquet has light melon and buttery notes, with a hint of mown grass. Grapefruit flavors prevail, with refreshing acidity and light oak notes on the finish.

1997 Waterbrook, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $19, 4,200 cases. Cassis and blackberry notes are followed by blackberry, currant and moderate toasty oak flavors, with silky tannins on the finish.

Cayuse Vineyards

  • Bonded Winery # - Under Pepper Bridge's number currently
  • Founded: 1997
  • Owner: Christophe Baron
  • Winemaker: Christophe Baron
  • 17 E. Main Street, P.O. Box 1602
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-526-0686
  • 509-526-4686 Fax
  • E-mail: info@cayusevineyards.com
  • Web Site: www.cayusevineyards.com (under construction)
  • Tours/Tastings: 11 - 4 Fr - Su and by appointment (tasting room only)
  • Current Production: 850 cases, with a goal of 3,000 to 4,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-distribution in WA
  • Wines Produced: Syrah, Viognier, Camaspelo (a Bordeaux blend)
A native of the Marne Valley in France, and not always agreeing with French rules and traditions, Christophe traveled to the new world to seek fresh opportunities. Having worked with Adelsheim and Waterbrook wineries, he also worked in Australia and New Zealand. Returning to Walla Walla in 1996, he discovered a parcel of land south of Walla Walla with similar terroir as Chateauneuf du Pape. This cobblestone covered 10 acre parcel became the birthplace of Cayuse Vineyards. Cobblestone Vineyard Syrah is their flagship wine. Currently their crushing facilities are located at Pepper Bridge Winery.

1999 Cayuse, Camaspelo, Estate, Walla Walla, $35, 225 cases. A Bordeaux blend made in a very elegant style, with mixed red and black fruit, soft, silky tannins and good acidity. Named after an Indian Chief of the Cayuse tribe.

Yellow Hawk Cellar

  • Bonded Winery #273
  • Founded: 1998
  • Owners: Tim Sampson, Barbara Hetrick
  • Winemaker: Tim Sampson
  • 395 Yellow Hawk Street
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-529-1714
  • 509-526-4201 Fax
  • E-mail: None
  • Web Site: Under construction
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current production: 350 cases, with a goal of 1000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-distribution currently, phone orders
  • Wines Produced: Sangiovese, Muscat Canelli, with a Pinot Gris planned in the future
With a background in theatre technical design and construction, and as a general contractor, Tim moved to the Walla Walla area in 1995. A man of many talents, Tim worked as harvest crew, cellarman and production supervisor at Canoe Ridge Vineyards and currently serves as Cellarmaster at Seven Hills Winery. He is a very hands-on winemaker. The winery is located in an old converted horse barn located on their property. The winery is named for a nearby creek that flows from the Blue Mountains.

1998 Yellow Hawk, Sangiovese, Walla Walla, 60 cases. Typical nose of dried cherry and cigars notes. Rich fruit, food-friendly acidity and modest mixed oak flavors on the finish.

1999 Yellow Hawk, Muscat Canelli, Columbia Valley, 40 cases. Very aromatic, clean and crisp, with a doughy character on the delicately sweet finish. Perfect for the picnic.

Patrick M. Paul Vineyards

  • Sells predominantly by mailing list only.
  • Declined a visit request.
Leonetti Cellars

  • Not open to the public.
  • They have a long waiting list just to be placed on the mailing list.
  • No response.
Walla Walla Airport

Located just NE of town, Walla Walla Airport dates back to 1930. Two years later daily passenger service was inaugurated. In 1942, the U.S. Army Air Corps took over the airport as a training facility for B-17 and B-24 aircraft crews. During the war, the U.S. government expanded the airport's size and constructed most of the airport's present buildings. The Walla Walla Port Authority, founded in 1952, now oversees the site. These buildings have been converted for use by various commercial businesses. Four wineries are conveniently located at this site.

Dunham Cellars

  • Bonded Winery #268
  • Founded: 1995
  • Owners: Dunham Family
  • Winemaker: Eric Dunham
  • 150 E. Boeing
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-529-4685
  • 509-529-0201 Fax
  • E-mail: liz@dunhamcellars.com
  • Web Site: www.dunhamcellars.com
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current Production: 2,200 cases, with a goal of 5,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Nationwide
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Semillon
A family owned winery, they are located in a temporary facility, an old WWII airport hanger, until the permanent winery in Lowden is completed, sometime in 2002. Eric did a seven-month internship with Hogue Cellars, then was employed by L'Ecole No. 41 winery in Lowden, WA as the assistant winemaker for four years. He continues his education with courses at the University of California-Davis.

No wines were available for tasting. They were in the middle of crush and having mechanical difficulties at the time of the visit. Eric's time under these trying circumstances was appreciated.

Reininger Winery

  • Bonded Winery #234
  • Founded: 1997
  • Owners: Chuck & Tracy Reininger
  • Winemaker: Chuck Reininger
  • 720 C Street
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-522-1994
  • 509-522-3530 Fax
  • E-mail: email@reiningerwinery.com
  • Web Site: www.reiningerwinery.com
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current Production: 2,000 cases, with a goal of 4,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Predominantly WA
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Spring 2001)
Chuck originally had plans to open a microbrewery. He got the bug for winemaking by assisting long time friends, Eric and Janet Rindal, with operations at their winery, Waterbrook. This progressed to home winemaking, then founding the present winery. He went to UC Davis for formal classes in winemaking. Chuck has quite an unusual background and is very modest about it. He was a mountain climbing guide on Mount Rainier. He likes to say that his thirst for adventure changed to a thirst for wine, and his enthusiasm shows. Already outgrowing the winery that is housed in a renovated movie theater, expansion plans are on the horizon.

1998 Reininger, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $26, 850 cases. Rich black fruit and American oak aromas are followed by lush blackberry, black cherry, balanced spicy oak, silky tannins and a long finish. Approachable now.

1998 Reininger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $29, 520 cases. Earthy, dusty aromas, with mixed red and black fruit, moderate but workable tannins, sweet French oak and a long, fruity aftertaste with a hint of spice.

Russell Creek

  • Bonded Winery #081209
  • Founded: 1998
  • Owner: Larry Krivoshein
  • Winemaker: Larry Krivoshein
  • C Street & Aeronica Ave.
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-386-4401
  • 509-522-6515 Fax
  • E-mail: krivoslg@wwics.com
  • Web Site: None
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current Production: 600 cases, with a goal of 1,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-distribution
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Larry is a retired funeral home director, affectionately known to his friends as "Digger." He has been a home winemaker since 1988, going commercial ten years later. He like to makes his wines the old-fashioned way, including hand punching of the grape cap. He wants to remain a small operation, making a maximum of 1000 cases a year.

1999 Russell Creek, Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Barrel Sample - Blueberry fruit and light American oak notes tempt the nose, followed by lush blueberry fruit, oak spice, and a long, fruity aftertaste.

1999 Russell Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Barrel Sample -The fruit for this wine came from the Washington State Extension Center near Prosser. Bright red fruit flavors, subtle American oak flavors, smooth tannins on a long finish.

Tamarack Tamarack Cellars

  • Bonded Winery #?
  • Founded: 1998
  • Owner: Ron Coleman
  • Winemaker: Ron Coleman
  • 700 C Street
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-526-3533
  • 509-526-4662 Fax
  • E-mail: ron@tamarackcellars.com
  • Web Site: www.tamarackcellars.com
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current Production: 2,950 cases, with a goal of 5-6,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Selling direct in WA
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot
Ron, like many others, had a long career in the industry before becoming a winemaker. He served in wholesale and retail sales, as a sommelier, and did cellar work for Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge wineries. Tamarack is located in a former WWII fire station and barracks. Ron remains dedicated to producing small lot, premium wines.

1998 Tamarack, Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28. Blueberries showcase this wine, both on the nose and the palate. Very drinkable now, the wine has silky tannins and a subtle oak finish.

1999 Tamarack, Merlot, Columbia Valley, Barrel Sample - This wine was consumed along with a bowl of homemade chili, which it stood up to well. Rich and luscious, the wine has huge blueberry and black fruit, and modest American oak flavors.

1999 Tamarack, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Barrel Sample - This wine contains a lot of Sagemoor Vineyard fruit. Well-balanced, with lovely mixed berry flavors, supple tannins and American oak flavors.

East of Town

Driving East of town on Mill Creek road, you will find five more wineries, although several share facilities. Four of these are currently located on the property of the Mill Creek Inn, a B&B, although one uses other facilities to crush.

Glen Fiona

  • Bonded Winery #214
  • Founded: 1994
  • Owners: Tony Weeks, Rusty Figgins, Ron White
  • Winemaker: Berle "Rusty" Figgins
  • 2016 Mill Creek Road, P.O. Box 2024
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-522-2566
  • 509-526-5299
  • E-mail: syrah@glenfiona.com
  • Web Site: www.glenfiona.com
  • Tours/Tastings: None currently
  • Current Production: 1,400 cases, with a goal of 5,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Worldwide
  • Wines Produced: Syrah exclusively, with plans for a Late Harvest Viognier.
From Gleann na Fionan, Gaelic for Glen Fiona, the name pays homage to winemaker Rusty Figgin's Scottish-Irish heritage. Their focus is on Rhone style wines, and currently make four separate Syrahs, with plans for a late harvest Viognier. They leased an old carriage house on the Mill Creek Inn property as a temporary home for the winery and crushed their first fruit at facilities leased from Waterbrook Winery. As production increased, they needed more space. They leased a recently closed winery near Burbank, Washington, with a 40 ton crushing capacity. Still maintaining the carriage house for storage and office space, the Basket Press Reserve continued to be produced at this site. Now outgrowing the Burbank site, and losing the lease at the Mill Creek site, Glen Fiona has plans to commence a new 4,984 sq. ft. winery to be located on an improved 11.3 acre plot of land located at the south end of Braden Road just north of the Washington and Oregon state line. The site will have a 100 ton crush capacity. They intend for it to reflect an old world charm and a Gallic theme.

1998 Glen Fiona, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $35, 995 cases. Red and black fruit, with dusty notes on the nose and palate, with youthful oak flavors, a hint of pepper, and a very long, very fruity aftertaste.

Isenhower Cellars

  • Bonded Winery #?
  • Founded: 1999
  • Owners: Brett & Denise Isenhower
  • Winemaker: Brett Isenhower
  • 2014 Mill Creek Road
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-386-6504
  • 603-375-4669 Fax
  • E-mail: isenhowe@bmi.net
  • Web Site: www.isenhowercellars.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Starting in May, 2001 by appointment
  • Current Production: They have a goal of 8,000 cases per year. First release will be April, 2001.
  • Current Distribution: N/A
  • Wines Produced: Merlot, Syrah
Originally known as Wildflower Winery, they had a patent conflict with J. Lohr Winery, thus the name change. Brett is a Pharmacist with a chemistry and business background, home brewer and home winemaker, and progressed into commercial winemaking. He has worked with Canoe Ridge and Glen Fiona wineries. He has taken classes at UC Davis, Purdue and WSU, as well as hitting the books hard on his own. The first releases, a Merlot and Syrah, are scheduled for April, 2001.

No wines were available for tasting notes.

Titus Creek Winery

  • 2014 Mill Creek Road
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • (509) 522-1234
  • Not yet open

Colvin Cellars

  • 2014 Mill Creek
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-525-7802
  • Not yet open
Walla Walla Vintners

  • Bonded Winery #212
  • Founded: 1995
  • Owners: Myles Anderson, Gordon Venneri
  • Winemakers: Myles Anderson, Gordon Venneri
  • 224 Vineyard Lane, P.O. Box 1551
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 509-525-4724
  • 509-525-4134 Fax
  • E-mail: mjanders@bmi.net
  • Web Site: www.wallawallavintners.com
  • Tours/Tastings: Sa 10:30 - 4:30
  • Current Production: 2,400 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-distribution in WA only, 80% via web site, winery and mailing list
  • Wines Produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Cuvee Blend
Walla Walla Gordon and Myles are admittedly good for each other. Their point, counterpoint approach to winemaking is definitely a successful formula. Myles admits that he likes more oak in wines than Gordon prefers, so this and other friendly disagreements benefit the finished product. They made homecrafted wines together for ten years before deciding to go commercial, learning from their mistakes along the way and building a good knowledge base. Determination and a passion for food and wine eventually paid off, wines improved, and friends and neighbors urged them to open a winery. A former partner, Alan Jones, found a 17 acre parcel east of town near the Blue Mountains, which they purchased. He designed the winery as well. They made 675 cases their first year out. They want to remain small enough to maintain control of quality in their handcrafted wines.

1998 Walla Walla Vintners, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $34. Blueberry and bing cherry notes are pleasing to the nose. Smooth on the palate, this wine is simply packed with jammy mixed red and black fruit that makes you want look for the bread to spread it on. Silky tannins and enhancing American oak flavors lurk in the background.

1999 Walla Walla Vintners, Sangiovese, Barrel Sample - Very bright, jammy berry fruit, healthy tannins and lots of sweet oak and cedar notes at this point. It will need time in bottle to strut its stuff.

North of Town

About eleven miles NE of town, lies one winery all by its lonesome, which is well worth the drive to take in the beautiful rolling hills setting.

Spring Valley Vineyard

  • Bonded Winery #276
  • Founded: 1999
  • Owner: Shari Corkrum Derby
  • Winemakers: Myles Anderson, Gordon Venneri Assistant Winemaker: Devin Derby
  • 1682 Corkrum Road
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • 800-210-4194
  • 509-337-6685 Fax
  • E-mail: corkrumwww@aol.com or info@springvalleyvineyard.com
  • Web Site: www.springvalleyvineyard.com
  • Tours/Tastings: By appointment only
  • Current Production: 1,000 cases, with a goal of 5,000 cases
  • Current Distribution: Self-marketing
  • Wines Produced: Uriah (Bordeaux Blend), Syrah
Spring Valley is truly a family affair and you will have to travel a far piece to find a nicer family. The Corkrum family has farmed the area since the late 1800s, and their present land since 1915, when Uriah Corkrum acquired the property. Shari Corkrum Derby and her husband, Dean Derby, oversee the farm and vineyard operations. Dean's brother, Gaynor, manages and cares for the vines. He first proposed converting a few acres of wheat to vines in 1991. Devin heads up winery management and construction and his wife, Mary, is in charge of quality control and marketing. A working farm, they started planting grapes in 1993 to add to the diversity of their agricultural products. They have 34 acres planted in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah grapes. A large farm building has been converted to a winery, and Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri are consulting with the winemaking. Their first release will be 1000 cases of the Uriah blend (named after Shari's grandfather) and is scheduled out in May, 2001. It consists of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Syrah is now in barrel, and a Petit Verdot bottling is under consideration.

Walla Walla

1999 Spring Valley, Uriah, Barrel Sample - 59% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. Violet and raspberry aromas lead to mixed red fruit flavors and terrific, food-friendly acidity.

2000 Spring Valley, Syrah, Barrel Sample - The wine just went into barrel two weeks prior to tasting. Inky colored, the wine is already showing great smoky, roasted meat flavors, a hint of pepper, and has great acidity. This has a spring, 2002 projected release date.

Other Wineries

Keep an eye on the territory south of town, unofficially called the Stateline area. This is going to be the major area of new growth, with several proposed wineries for this locality, including Glen Fiona, and Pepper Bridge (construction nearing completion). Many other wineries have proposals in, to include Cottonwood Glen, Pheasant Run, and Vanessa Vineyards/Whitman Winery, but no data is currently available

Below are listed five additional wineries that have been recently started, with contact points. This brings the total number of wineries in the area to 30-plus.

Tres Marie Cellars

  • 509-529-4685
  • A joint effort of the Dunham and Syre families. Their first release is due shortly and plans for a winery are underway.
Januik Winery

  • 425-825-5710
  • www.januikwinery.com
  • Head Winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery for many years, Mike has now started his own operation and his first release will be the 1999 vintage wines.
Morrison Lane Winery

  • 509-525-8385
  • No data.
Patit Creek Cellars

  • 509-382-4860
  • No data.
Pepper Bridge Winery

  • 1704 JB George Rd.
  • Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • Tel: (509) 525-6502
  • Fax: (509) 525-9227
  • info@pepperbridge.com
  • www.pepperbridge.com
  • No response to visit request. Pepper Bridge will be releasing its first wine in early 2001.

In Summary

Walla Walla and the Columbia Valley are known for producing Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots that are rich with blackberry, black cherry, plum, and bittersweet-chocolate flavors. Syrah is coming on strong and will become a dominant player. The quality of the wines continue to improve as the winemakers enhance their skills, especially with the use of American oak. The use of these barrels has come a long way from the early days of the oak-laden monsters that hid the fruit behind all of the vanilla and spice. Air-drying instead of kiln-drying, splitting the barrel staves instead of sawing them, and the use of tighter grained wood have all combined to create barrels that compliment the wine rather than dominate it. The dry, arid conditions, combined with long daylight hours and cool nights, allow for high quality grapes. Look for truly world class, ageworthy wines to be originating from this splendid wine region.

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