Washington wine in general is starting to gain more and more notoriety amongst wine professionals as well as the general public. There are a few established names like Chateau St. Michelle that have built a reputation over the years, but Washington is still fairly undiscovered in Comparison to California and even Oregon to a certain extent. One of the appellations in Washington that seems to be gaining more and more popularity is an area in the Southeastern corner called Walla Walla.
Walla Walla has been home to many different populations over the years. Fur traders, settlers along the Oregon Trail and most recently, wheat farmers have all occupied the area. The area officially became and AVA in 1984. The wine appellation itself is actually 2/3’s in Washington State and 1/3 in Oregon. The elevation ranges from 400 ft. above sea level in the western portion to over 2000 ft. above sea level in the eastern portion located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. There are 4 major soil types throughout the appellation that contribute to some very unique qualities in the different wines. It starts with Basalt river stones at the lower elevations which impart great minerality; then various combinations of loess and silt with sand and gravel in the middle and higher elevations and this strange thin/windblown silt over basalt on some southwest facing hillsides. This area was once a huge glacial flood plain and this deposited all these soils and minerals which essentially made ideal agricultural conditions. Walla Walla does see 4 seasons; the growing season does have very warm days accompanied by cool evenings, which is ideal for ripening. It seems pretty far north to us here in the United States but its latitude is actually somewhere right between Bordeaux and Burgundy in France.
Walla Walla is traditionally dominated by Bordeaux varietals, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Although almost everything imaginable is planted here these two seem to be the most highly regarded with the ever growing presence of Syrah. Leonetti Vineyards were on the first wineries established in Walla Walla in the 1970’s followed by Woodward Canyon and L’ecole in the early 1980’s. These wineries helped establish Walla Walla as a legitimate region with great wine being produced.
A few wineries we carry here at West Vail Liquor Mart from Walla Walla are Woodward Canyon, L’ecole, Seven Hills Winery and K vintners/Charles Smith wines. These are all great representations of the region; from pioneers to up and coming wineries. I believe some of the wines being produced here are definitely worth a try!