A Week in Walla Walla (an Instagram photo collection)

A Week in Walla Walla (an Instagram photo collection)

Walla Walla Retrospective

Norm McKibben

Standing at the top of Les Collines Vineyard, one of the valued fruit sources in Walla Walla, with Norm McKibben, one of the important founders and developing forces of Walla Walla wine

As I’ve mentioned here before, some readers asked if I would compile some of the Instagram photos collections from intensive wine trips made on my @Hawk_Wakawaka account there, and share them here on my site to make the information more readily accessible. With that in mind, this week I’m sharing images from my trip this last summer to Walla Walla. (In the next few weeks reviews from the trip will also be appearing over at JancisRobinson.com.)

The first few days I spent with a group of journalists in preparation for the annual Celebrate Walla Walla event, last year focusing on Merlot. After the festivities were complete, I turned to four days of intensive wine visits digging into the particularities and history of the region. The following photos are a compilation of a few pics from the group travels and then more from the final four days. Together they show some of my activities from the trip and give a glimpse of the region.

Walla Walla Wine

Let’s do this…

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Myles Anderson

Myles Anderson helped found the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology + Viticulture in 2000 after serving as part of the local wine industry since the 1970s + making home wine since 1978. “The first release of Merlot from Walla Walla was in 1981 by Leonetti Cellars. The first significant planting of Merlot was made in 1980. That was Seven Hills Vineyard. They call it the Old Block now. Leonetti + Seven Hills still make wine from it. […] In 2001, the Wine & Spirits Guide identified 12 Merlots from the United States that were the best of the best. Four came from Walla Walla. Each of them the fruit came from Seven Hills. […] Merlot from Walla Walla has had astonishing recognition and it’s been one you can count on.”

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Tero Estates

Seven Hills Winery

“We are standing here in the original Cabernet block in the area [Walla Walla]. The old Cab block was planted in 1980. The old Merlot block in 1982. 4 acres of each. This was the first commercial sized grower, the first intentional commercial size vineyard in the area. It was two farming families that had been out here for generations, mostly farming wheat. That took a lot of guts + vision because it wasn’t obvious back then putting in Bordeaux reds. It was quirky. Now here we are 20 years later + it works. There is a lot of knowledge now but back then there were only a few wineries but we have continued by relying on that same original cooperative nature.” – Casey McCellan owner-winemaker of Seven Hills Winery on the Oregon side of Walla Walla

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L’Ecole Ferguson Vineyard

Marty Clubb of L’Ecole stands in front of a wall of fractured basalt on the western edge of his 1500 ft elevation Ferguson Vineyard in the Oregon portion of Walla Walla. At the top right of this photo you can see a peek of where the vineyard starts + how shallow the wind blown Loess soils are on top of the basalt bedrock – a few inches to 2 ft in depth. “I was really nervous about planting here because these are very thin soils on top of fractured basalt. It is a rough growing environment but also extremely windy here. We planted those first rows to Syrah to help. Syrah can take the wind. Many of the wine regions of Washington are built on this series of ridges. They are the lifted buckles of compressed basalt from 15 million years ago. The younger soils are mostly worn off. If magma cools quickly the rock fractures. That is why we always say this is fractured basalt. If you look at this wall it is like a wall of tightly fit puzzle pieces. But what does basalt become when it breaks down? Oxidized red iron dirt. The vine roots can push inside because the basalt is fractured but also the movement from plate tectonics over millennia has created red dirt between the seams of the fractures. So the roots are digging between the fractures + accessing the soils from between the seams.” – Marty Clubb

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Woodward Canyon

Rick Small established Woodward Canyon, the 2nd winery in Walla Walla, in 1981. In the last 6 yrs he has planted the North Ridge blocks relying entirely on organic farming. He will make the 1st wines from the site this year. Thanks to the wind blown Loess + silty soils plus cold winters phylloxera has not come to the region. Less than 1% of vineyards are planted to rootstock. “If someone would have said 10 yrs ago that I could grow grapes organically out here I maybe would have argued with them a little bit. But now having done it for 10 yrs I think it’s possible. […] All of this Wente Chardonnay is own root but all of my Bordeaux reds are on rootstock. I think I need at least 10 yrs before I know anything [about how the rootstock is working]. I think climate change is going to be a bigger problem for any of us farmers than phylloxera or leaf role virus or anything like that.” – Rick Small

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Leonetti Cellars

Loess Soils

Walla Walla: the Loess is real (and all over my feet).

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Walla Walla Community College Culinary Program

Walla Walla Merlot

Walla Walla Merlot? Here’s a tip: find the best in a cool year, wait 15 to 22 years + enjoy.

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Heading Out on my Own

I found my Walla Walla rental car wrapped inside a Cracker Jack box.

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Serra Padacci Vineyard

Cayuse Vineyard

Gramercy Cellars

Norm McKibben

Norm McKibben of Amavi + Pepperbridge wineries started working w + establishing vineyards in Walla Walla at the start of the 1990s. He quickly became one of the largest suppliers of grapes in the region also serving on the board of the region’s Wine Commission + as a founding member of the Oregon Wine Board. “I planted the first grapes at Pepperbridge in 1991. There were 40 acres [of grapevines] in the [Walla Walla] Valley at that time, including Pepperbridge. I was growing apples + decided to plant grapes. I planted on Whiskey Ridge [up in the hills outside of Walla Walla]. It didn’t work. Then I started planting grapes in the Valley at Pepperbridge. I sold grapes to a few wineries – Leonetti, Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole + Andrew Will on Vashon Island. There weren’t that many wineries here at the time. When their wines came out + said, Pepperbridge Vineyard, more people started calling asking for grapes + it grew from there. I didn’t plan it. It probably sounds silly but I learned the most from the vineyard [on Whiskey Ridge] I tore out because I called every expert I could. Everyone said, tear it out, but I got a lot of advice.”

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Seven Hills Wines

aMaurice 

Model A Gathering

Somehow I happened into the middle a Walla Walla Model A show. Cool!

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Waters 

Geeking out on site specificity vs blending w Waters Syrahs, Rhone white + red blends.

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The Famous Camel

The Walla Walla Notebook

The Walla Walla Notebook: it’s every page full, folks. I’m pooped. Thank you to everyone for such an informative week!

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3 COMMENTS

    • Isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever seen? I spent the trip trying to learn how to fishtail on dirt roads. The thing was so light I figured that was the best chance I’d ever have to pull it off.

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