A few weeks ago, I attended “Taste Walla Walla” at City Winery, because I was hoping to find some left coast reds with less residual sugar than a Snickers. And though I came with some prejudice in my pocket, I also had hope…They can’t all be light-my-fire jam-bombs, I thought. And round the room I went. First the whites, and then the reds. The space filled, and as I dodged bullets of noxious perfume fumes (and this was a TRADE tasting!!! HELLO!!!), I found myself fighting for spots at tables with little worth tasting…until I found one, where I was the only one standing.
A sample of tasting notes from around the room: Vegetal and skunky, tastes like antibiotics….I like skunk but this is like eating the animal, or getting in the way of its spray…Big fruit…Big bouquet…Smells like a glue factory…
At one point I choked on so much perfume that I had to step away from a producer’s table.
Over 100 wineries in Walla Walla, Washington, 16 of which were represented here. Cabernet, merlot, syrah, and carmenere. There were whites like chardonnay and blends kissed with cab franc. But what struck me, was the homogeneity. So many of these wines–like rows and rows of sugar-coated, palate-killing cereals–all tasted alike.
Until I reached the table of Spring Valley Vineyard, where the bottles are labeled with old family photographs. It’s a winery that was recently a farm. According to the woman with whom I spoke, a son fell in love with wine and in 1993, replaced the wheat and corn with vines. After years of selling grapes to winemakers, the family produced their first vintage in 1999; in a cottage where indigenous yeasts ferment and wines are punched down by hand.
2007 Uriah—It won a bunch of points from some big publication, for 4 of the past vintages out of 8. A blend of 54% merlot and 33% cab franc–it’s got some serious alcohol that’s surprisingly undetectable on the palate. With floral notes and Indian incense spice–the fruit is structured with some mild new French oak.
2007 Frederick—54% cabernet and 27% cab franc. Dark fruit and sandalwood paste. Big fruit on the palate that’s wrestled to the ground with oak.
And while I’m not claiming that I’m ready to rush out and buy a case of these said wines, I am writing that on that particular afternoon, they brought me a smile and great relief.