Walla Walla Valley Wines offer new tastes, textures, colors, and excitement. It’s a bit like discovering new styles to add to your wardrobe.
Wines in Washington are continuing to gain significant notoriety as world-class wines. Each year winemakers improve their techniques, hone their craft, and pour more of themselves into each bottle. I recently attended Celebrate Syrah—Walla Walla Valley Wine, where I sipped on numerous varietals, dined on delicious food, discovered perfect pairings, and fell in love with syrah for the first time. I found new tastes, textures, colors, and excitement in Walla Walla’s food and wine—like discovering new styles to add to my wardrobe.
Wine is Like Fashion
Leslie Sbrocco, author, speaker, consultant, television host, and wine expert, says in her book “Women for Wine” that “Wine is like fashion.”
She reveals how we describe wine: stylish, elegant, opulent, fresh, clean, and pretty. We buy a brand/type of wine because we prefer its style and how it smells, tastes, and feels. We look for specific brands/designers because we like their styles and how their clothes fit, feel, and look. The same is true of wine.
The Perfect Outfit at Celebrate Syrah—Walla Walla Valley Wine
Food and wine go together like a fantastic dress and beautiful shoes. Separately they are pretty, but when you put the right two together, voilà, you have an exquisite outfit. Celebrate Syrah brought this scenario home to me. Walla Walla winemakers created excellent wines and partnered with talented chefs to present some incredible dinners. I uncovered several new favorite wines in Walla Walla and unearthed an entirely new world of syrah.
Pét-nat—the Free-Flowing White Blouse
I spent most of my time at Celebrate Syrah with a media group. The first morning we met with Manager Brad Sorenson at Les Collines Vineyard, one of Walla Walla’s top vineyards that sits at the base of the Blue Mountains. Brad grows 13 varietals at Les Collines and sells fruit to more than 40 top wineries in Washington and Oregon. Gramercy Cellars is one of those wineries, and Winemaker Brandon Moss joined us in the vineyard on our first day.
Brandon poured each of us a glass of Gramercy Cellar’s picpoul blanc pét-nat (abbreviation for “pétillant naturel”). This French term translates to naturally sparkling. We sipped on this while walking through the vineyards at Les Collines. The picpoul blanc grapes were harvested from Les Collines Vineyard and Los Oidos Vineyards and bottled during active fermentation. The fermentation finished in the bottle creating residual CO2, resulting in a dry carbonated wine like Champagne.
This wine was one of my favorites. Brandon calls this pét-nat a “porch pounder,” a tasty wine that is far too easy to drink. I see myself extracting an ice-cold bottle of pét-nat from the refrigerator on a hot summer day. The condensation drips off the bottle as I pour the liquid into a Champagne flute. This wine is the quintessential easy breezy white blouse. I’d pair it with light-colored pants and comfortable sandals, then take it out to the garden and sip it in the sunshine.
Rhône-Style White Wine—the Floral Sundress
Rhône-style white blends are typically composed of two or more traditional Rhône varieties, including but not limited to Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. Viognier is one of my beloved varietals. It is aromatic and full-bodied with tons of life. Viogniers burst with intense florals, a whiff of honey, and a hint of spice or minerality. Viogniers are the floral sundresses and should be worn with sparkly sandals.
Mouthwatering Pairings at Celebrate Syrah—Walla Walla Valley Wines
The staff at TMACS (named for co-owner Tom Maccarone) presented three appetizing, perfectly paired dishes with several Rhône-style white wines. The English pea bruschetta with mint and feta cheese contrasted beautifully with the lemon notes in the 2021 Gigawatts White Rhône Blend.
The second course, a grilled peach and watermelon salad with burrata cheese, was light and refreshing. The 2020 Jordyn Viognier & Roussanne Rhône blend had very low acidity and was a delightful complement to the mellow salad.
A 2021 Prospice Viognier was served with pan-seared blackened sea bass. The wine’s pear, nectarine, and lemon flavors, combined with the aroma of jasmine, cut through the rich buttery sea bass. It was the ideal ending to a delectable mid-day meal.
Rôtie Rocks Estate Vineyard’s Big G—the Little Red Dress
Rôtie Rocks Estate Vineyard is in The Rocks District. Owner/winemaker Sean Boyd has been making traditional Rhône blends in Washington since 2007. He specializes in spectacular complex syrah-viognier combinations, yet I found myself enamored with Big G. You see, I don’t typically enjoy Grenache. I preferred this one to other Grenaches as it was not too light or lacking in flavor.
Big G is medium-bodied, brick red, and seductive with a light scent of crushed rose petals, cranberry, and red currant. This wine fills your mouth and leaves notes of toasted nuts, orange peel, and cassis liqueur. It boasts a long-lasting finish. Big G calls for a little red dress with high heels, something eye-catching and sexy with a touch of mystery.
Collaborative Winemaker Dinner—Cabernet Sauvignon—the Classic Black Dress
Chef Michael Corvino was flown in from Kansas. He created a delightful six-course dinner with some of the finest wines from Echoland Winery and Woodward Canyon Winery. It was an evening in the garden celebrating fine wine and delectable food. The Echolands Blue Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc served with the corn agnolotti topped with morel mushrooms, miso butter, and pine nuts was a magnificent pairing of tastes and textures.
The ribeye steak, beef fat tamale, and sweet onion paired famously with the Woodward Canyon 2019 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. As Leslie Sbrocco would say, “There is at least one black dress in every woman’s closet. Cabernet sauvignon is that classic black dress.”
Celebrate Syrah—Walla Walla Valley Wine—the Velvet Evening Gown
I have saved the best for last—syrah from Walla Walla. Before visiting this AVA (American Viticultural Area), I found syrah/shiraz to be a bit bitey for my taste. Almost every event I attended served one or more syrahs. Leslie says, “Syrahs are exotic but approachable. They are the wildly fun part of your wardrobe; the garnet handbag, crimson scarf, or the scarlet lipstick that makes an outfit sizzle.”
I describe Walla Walla syrahs a little differently. These syrahs were approachable, yet I found them lush and elegant, more like a gala affair than a wild party. They felt formal, like that long velvet evening gown where a glass of Champagne is as appropriate as a glass filled with this rich crimson liquid called syrah.
The Rocks District—Walla Walla Valley Wine
After tasting numerous syrahs, I concluded that the ones from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA took my fancy. The Rocks District is in Oregon, yet it is still part of Walla Walla Valley Wines. This district is the only AVA in the United States where the boundaries are designated based on a single soil series and a single landform.
As of 2022, there are 472 acres planted with wine grapes and 133 acres in development in The Rocks District. Syrahs from this AVA have a particular uniqueness to them. Due to their high pH levels, they have lower acidity, and that may be one reason I like them best. Richard Funk at Saviah Cellars makes an enticing syrah, and Valdemar Estates, The Walls, and Rôtie Cellars make noteworthy bottles.
The Washington wine industry is growing and, until recently, boasted only 19 AVAs. Rocky Reach was recently added to the list making a total of 20 AVAs in the state. The new AVA is near Lake Chelan. Washington’s wine success is sure to grow, and the people working in the Walla Walla AVA are a magnificent example of how teamwork and collaboration can help everyone in the area create excellent wines.
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Visit Walla Walla Valley Wine and Celebrate Syrah
I fell in love with syrah at Celebrate Syrah—Walla Walla Valley Wine. There are so many spectacular wines and an abundance of wineries to visit. Go and sample the spectacular wines. Consider the style of each wine, and then imagine how you would describe each varietal with your wardrobe. Check out what Wander experts recommend you see and do when you visit Washington state.