Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walla Walla Wines

Commander K., Vinnie and Pepe, L'Ecole No 41, Walla Walla, WA

Drive about 4 and a half hours southeast from Seattle and you will reach Walla Walla, Washington on route 12.  On the way, you will pass the desolate area of Hanford Washington where plutonium was generated to build the atomic bomb used on Nagasaki, Japan (see earlier post Truman's Decision to Use Atomic bombs on Japan, 9/23/12).  You will also pass through a current US Military Training Center near the Yakima ridge and the "Rattlesnake hills".  Do not let any of this trouble you for an instant!  The Military-Industrial-Complex and the serpents now co-exist harmoniously with first-class wine country.

Steve Roberts' excellent book, Wine Trails of Washington, 2007, South Slope Productions ( was our guidebook for the region.  Here is his link with updated information on Washington

Bergevin Lane, Walla Walla
Walla Walla is famous for its Walla Walla sweet onions.  It has also become well-known as the heart of some of the best American wines.  Leonetti is a renowned and pricey Walla Walla wine created by Gary Figgins and adored by Robert Parker among others.

Woodward Canyon is known for their artist series, Walla Walla, WA
"Walla Walla" is a word in the Nez perce Indian dialect meaning "running water."  The nearby wide flowing Columbia river makes the name entirely appropriate.

Last week I went on a a quick road trip to Walla Walla wine country with my brother-in-law, Vincent Driano.  We toured six different wineries: Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole No. 41, Dunham Cellars, Mansion Creek, Russell Creek and Bergevin Lane vineyards.  Our limited time only allowed us to skim the surface of Walla Walla's dozens of wineries.

Dunham Cellars' dog "Port" (deceased)
Dunham Cellars was my personal favorite winery in Walla Walla.  They had a wine called "three legged red" with a dog on the label (see above).  Their Syrah is velvety smooth and pleasurable.

Julia Russell and Vinne, Walla Walla, WA
At Mansion Creek in downtown Walla Walla, we met Julia Russell, the friendliest winemaker in Walla Walla.  Her Sangiovese pairs up beautifully with pizza.  Mansion Creek's Lewis vineyard Syrah at $20 a bottle is an outstanding value proposition.  Here is their

Russell Creek's winemaker and owner is Larry Krivoshein -- a former funeral director known affectionately as "Digger"!  He produces a nice Syrah as well.

We stayed at the historic Marcus Whitman hotel ( in Walla Walla...

Ike slept here.  Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, WA
It was only a very short walk to dinner at the Whitehouse Crawford restaurant for, perhaps, the best dinner in Walla Walla. We both had the duck which was well paired with a demi of the Woodward Canyon artist series red.

The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at Clarette's fueling us up for the return trip to Seattle...

Clarette's near Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA
Commander Kelly says, "If you are in the Northwest, go check out Walla Walla wine country, and, if not, order one at dinner tonight"!

Special thanks to my brother-in-law Vincent Driano!


"Great post and good choices on wine country. If you can only visit a few, Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole 41, Dunham and Russell Creek are nice selections. There's always a bottle of Dunham Syrah in my 'cellar' and you cannot go wrong with Russell Creek's 'Tributary' blend - around twenty bucks but tastes like much more.

The most salient point IMHO is this; at a certain price range, Washington wines clobber California. A Sparkman Cellars 'Ruckus' Syrah, which sells for forty bucks would cost $70 if it came out of Napa. I find this is true of most WA wines in the $35-$45 range. They'd easily be $50 - $75 if they came from down south.

If you haven't visited the Woodinville wineries lately, check out Sparkman, Mark Ryan, Trust Cellars (there's a guy with a great story!) and Ross Andrews. If you drop by Sparkman Cellars, tell Chris I said, "hi!".

Next time you're in Walla Walla, check out Sinclair Estates' 'Pentatonic' or 'Vixen' reds. So big you may need a fork. Also, the winery owner has a lovely bed and breakfast near the park called "Vine & Roses".  Highly recommended for a romantic retreat with the missus!"


I could not agree more about Washington and Walla Walla wines clobbering California wines and particularly Napa wines when it comes to value.  Thanks Jan for your insight!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

No comments: