The first weekend of this month I was able to take a “Girl’s weekend” for the first time in almost eight years!
I had been to Walla Walla for the first time last year for Memorial day weekend but the rest of my group this was their first time. I must say, it is a very different experience going wine tasting with people who are in the wine industry versus people who are just getting the feet wet. Now, there is no wrong way to start drinking wine. Heck, I used to be the girl who thought that there was like eight different kinds of wine and bought all my wines based on how pretty the wine label was on the bottle down the grocery store aisle.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but it is a different experience when you are going with people who understand about the layers of the wine, the nose, appreciate how long the wine was aged in barrel, the different kinds of barrels and what those do to the tastes of the wine.
We started our weekend tasting at Armstrong Family Winery, here Carl (tasting room manager) and Jen (one of the owners) gave us a personalized tasting as we walked through the front door just before closing. I expected them to give us the “rush” treatment, pour us some wine and send us on our way. Not even close! Carl, even though he was staying late to cook for the event happening that weekend, took the time to tell us the story of every wine, explain every vintage and relate it back to his knowledge about the Idaho wine industry as well. Better service couldn’t be found and the best way to start our “girls weekend”.
Being on the main street of Walla Walla, where there are dozens of wineries within minutes of one another, but only a few open past seven, we started walking. A few wineries were already closed but we found Henry Earl Estate Wines, here there was a very different experience. Though the wine was good it was interesting the difference in attentiveness and service from one winery to another, less than a block apart from one another. Unimpressed but we continued…
Next stop, as the hour approached 9pm, we expected the wineries to all be shut down by now. Our ears perked up at the sound of music, live music coming from inside Sinclair Estate Vineyards Tasting Room.
Live music, flatbreads from the next door bar and wine?! What better way to spend the evening? This is what life is about, especially when you are surrounded by the wine industry. Enjoying life and having fun! And not just for dates, girls night/weekend out, but for the everyday enjoyment – with your kids, or loved ones. I sat there listening to a father and daughter rocking out, just letting the music soak into my dry soul and thought how lucky I was that I fell in love with an industry that is so welcoming of families. As the night hours continued fed by wine, food, and music, I found myself incredibly thankful.
We stayed till the music finished.
Our last stop of the night was at Bontzu Cellars, I can’t think of a better winery to end our first evening at for a girl’s weekend. Not only does the owner make fantastic wines but Sorin, the owner, has a motto for making his wines – “All natural, Minimal intervention”. I think that this is why his GSM (a red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) stands out among the GSM blends I’ve ever tried. The wine is only part of the reason why this winery stuck out to me, the other reason why was Val.
Val is a 96-year-old who has quite the reputation in Walla Walla. Every Friday night he visits Bontzu Cellars to dance with all the ladies who are in the tasting room. We met Val and immediately fell in love with this sweet old man. He invited us out to brunch the following morning and offered to be our tour guide to some of the wineries around Walla Walla.
The sun rose on Saturday morning and I couldn’t wait to get out the door. This was the day I had been waiting for, a few months prior to this trip we had met a woman at the Idaho Wine Commission meeting, Kristine Bono. She is the tasting room manager for Tertulia Cellars and is an avid traveler like myself. We got to talking about wines and travel and I told her I had a bottle of Vietnamese wine I brought back from my trip in 2017 that I’d be willing to share with her when we came to visit. And today was that day!
Before heading over to Tertulia we stopped at Bergevin Lane Winery. This was a winery I had been hearing about for some time now and was very excited to finally try the wines. When we got there it almost seemed like we started the lady who was working there, she recovered quickly and started our tasting out by saying “are you here for a tasting?”. Ever since I took a class about tasting room engagement and management the instructor mentioned about how the most annoying thing you can ever say to someone walking in your tasting room is “are you here for a tasting”. ‘No, we are here to ask you where the bank is’ – course we are here for a tasting! They had a rosé there that was based with a Cabernet Franc that was delicious!
It was finally time to head to Tertulia! Kristine was getting some items together for their event that night so we had time to taste through their wines. Oh my goodness! I had done a tasting with them when I visited their Woodinville tasting room but this was a totally different experience.
Then the winemaker, Ryan arrived (who I had met in Woodinville as well) and he pulled out some special wines for us to taste. And then Kristine arrived and we popped the corks on my Vietnamese and Greek wines I brought with me.
I LOVED this experience – because this is what the wine industry is about, sharing wine with those who also love wine. And when you are able to share wine from around the world that you’ve picked up, you now have a story to tell not just about the wine but your trip AND the wine. As a photojournalist, I love sharing the story. We poured wines not only for my group and Kristine but the winemaker Ryan joined us and slowly the employees of Tertulia filtered down to taste from around the world. Here we didn’t just make memories but we made forever friends – this is why I LOVE THIS INDUSTRY! I fell hook, line, and sinker for the wine industry, it is about passion, the connections and relationships and of course the wine! What isn’t to love?
From there we hit downtown again. This time we were doing a little more tasting and a little less meandering down the main street. We visited Goose Ridge Winery, Forgeron Cellars, Canoe Ridge Winery, and TruthTeller Winery – of course purchasing bottles at each. Needless to say, we came home from this weekend (between the four of us) with more than 40 bottles of wine…most of which were between my friend Angel and myself.
More wine stories to be shared later!
Alaskan Wino Signing Out…