So many wine things to blog about, so little time available to do the writing! I can’t reasonably write at the office because there are too many other demands on my time and I don’t want to do it when I get home because, by golly, I’d like to have some time to myself now and then. But clearly, my dearth of discipline has resulted in a lamentable lack of bloggage.
One solution is for me to write less, more often. But I’m a long-form kind of guy. I like to think that it is better to write about a subject more thoroughly than to simply blurt out a lot of ill-formed thoughts for the sake of meeting an artificial deadline. But that, I suppose is against the blog ethinc.
So be it. Long-form is dead, long live long-form writing (if only in memory).
So let me try more of less—more frequent blogging, less weighty wordage.
I’m late in writing about Vintage Walla Walla.
It was held in June and I was happy to be a media guest (one result of my visit is an upcoming cover feature on Walla Walla wine in Northwest Palate). I stayed at the Girasol Vineyard and Inn which, I must say, was quite wonderful. I arrived in the midst of a genuinely scary lightning storm that had bolts striking all around, bringing up bad memories of killer storms in Illinois when I was a boy.
The owners, Michele and Edward, are genuinely delightful hosts. The location, essentially behind Northstar Winery, is a perfect combination of rural quietude with easy access to town or wineries. Edward is the quintessential B&B chef, with perfectly tuned breakfasts using local and seasonal ingredients. Michele is a fount of knowledge about the local area—including her own impressive wine background. The room was cozy-modern in style, and I was greeted with a cheese and nut plate that I happily munched through in two days. I would go back in a snap.
The Vintage Walla Walla itself was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd of obviously knowledgeable, though perhaps a little too local, wine lovers. For me, the tasting highlight of the event was a prestige sampling of older Walla Walla wines at the Vintage Pour. When the doors opened I made a beeline to the obvious wineries: Cayuse, for sure, was high on the list, as was Pepper Bridge, Spring Valley, Northstar, and others. I pretty much made it through the entire set of tables (regretfully, but tenaciously, spitting).
Though I may be a minority in this (and considered a traitor by some of my Oregon friends) I am more enamored of Walla Walla Merlots than any other Washington wine style. They are just - so - damned - good! Sure the Syrahs were super, but Merlot (Sideways be damned) took my heart.
The intellectual highlight of he weekend was a terroir tour conducted by Dr. Kevin R. Pogue of Whitman College. We had the opportunity to see the different soil structures that underlie the appellation’s vineyards, and gained a sense of how wines from different parts of the Walla Walla Valley might be influenced by the region’s varied topography. While I might quibble with his use of the word “terroir” (it is not synonymous with “soil”), the tour we took was invaluable in understanding the vinous characters of Walla Walla.
[About the photos: at the top is an overview of the AVA from the southern hills near Seven Hills Vineyard. Next is Kevin Pogue pointing out the loess soils that underlie many Walla Walla vines. Below that is a closer image of a cut through the loess; the white line is a layer of ash from a Mt. St. Helens eruption about 13,000 years ago. Next is a close-up of the fine sandy texture of these windblown soils. The following photo is of a different soil, the much coveted cobblestones found in the southern part of the AVA; these are from Christophe Baron's Cailloux Vineyard. The dramatic cut in the ground, dwarfing the people, is fractured basalt that underlies some new vineyards (yes, there are vines on top of this stuff! The final shot is a close-up of the convoluted basalt bedrock.]
Of course, the classic Grand Pavillion tasting was wonderful. The value for me was in finding new wines, rather than the expected standbys. Sure, Woodward Canyon had great wines—don’t they always?—but special wines from smaller producers are what turned my head: like the ’06 Couvillion Merlot, or the completely unique Mendoza Torrontes from Flying Trout, or the Malbec from Gifford-Hirlinger (yes, not a name easy to remember or spell).
The Vintage, put on by the inimitable Walla Walla Wine Alliance, was an excellent event. Held, as it was, in economic tough times, it was great to see a healthy attendance (though poking around the tasting rooms that weekend was not overly encouraging as to the visiting population of wine tourers). If you’ve been wanting to visit Walla Walla, you could do a lot worse than to plan a trip to next year’s Vintage event.
OK,that was about as fast and brief an overview as I know how to do. And it felt like I was writing a 6th grade essay on “what I did with my June 5-6 weekend.”
I did not go into the different terroirs I toured, I did not discuss the various vintages of older Walla Walla wines I tasted, and I did not explore my ambivalent sense of how the economy is influencing today’s Walla Walla appellation.
I also did not go into the huge new vineyard developments, the enticing prospect of new wines from fractured basalt bedrock, or the difficult issues of water resources in the Valley. I did not talk about Cadaretta, or the new Seven Hills development, or why I am so stuck on Spring Valley, or why the best Merlot wine I ever had was from Northstar, or why I think Pepper Bridge Cabernet ay be better than Quilceda Creek.
Blogs are not long form, they are short form. Like the time spent by the average American in today’s home kitchen, blogs are brief and easy to digest. So for the deeper stuff, I guess you don’t have time to read it, and I don’t have time to write it.
Short-form is better. Long live the short-form.