Washington Wine Country, Walla Walla Valley AVA and Tri-Cities | Highlights from the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference #wbc18

Growers and Makers Blending Talent and Passion. 

International group of wine writers visit future vineyard site of Force Majeur Winery.

Wine touring in my backyard.

There’s a corner of the wine world which is already beginning to enter the next phase of its maturation. Its the place where I live, a place where my grandfather lived and the place where some of my favorite makers and growers live. All this within minutes of my front door.

Sometimes proximity leads to myopia. This past week, my vision was adjusted for the better.

See this events many social media posts from myself and other wine writers by searching: #wbc18  #wallawalla  @wwvalleywine  @tricitieswa

International group of wine bloggers and media in attendance at Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, Washington.

2018 Wine Bloggers Conference

Eight years ago I attended my first Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. Last week, I was again in Walla Walla, this time attending the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference. So much has changed in only eight years.

Many thanks to Zephyr Conferences, sponsors, wineries, and Visit Walla Walla for a world class wine media experience. Well done!

Fabulous tasting of Force Majeur wines.

What stood out.

Today, I am going to mention a few highlights of my visit, as well as point out what was news to me. Even though I work in the Washington wine industry, at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, in Prosser and even though Walla Walla is only 55 miles away from my home, there were many things I learned over these past four days.

There will be several more posts focusing on specific wine country experiences in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. This is just the initial post.

The regions next important phase.

When I have discussions with guests of Washington wine country, one of the points I make is that, "These are early days." Our wine industry is truly only 4 decades old. And if I'm honest with myself, only entered the world psyche about a decade ago. That's in comparison to European wine country, which is a couple of thousand years old. Thank you Romans.

Geologist Kevin Pogue talks about the future of Northwest wine.

Challenging vineyard site raises the bar.

Part of the discussion I sometimes have with guests is about, "Taste of Place" or what the French refer to as "Teroir." Our best wines from Washington I believe, reflect the taste of the place where the wine grapes are grown. For me, quality is strongly reflected by vineyard site, not just the AVA.

This year I've also become more aware that some from old world wine regions, don't think we have "true" terroir in Washington because we irrigate.

And that's all about to change!

North Forks – this is a new Force Majeur site located east of Milton Freewater, Oregon. Vineyard planting is planned to begin next year. Force Majeur winery and vineyards has a solid team actualizing their plans for the future. I visited what I believe is the next phase for the Northwest wine industry.

Mentally, my thinking towards Washington wine is merging with thinking about Oregon wine. We share two AVA’s, numerous vineyards, the Columbia River and many talented and passionate growers and makers. Next year, Force Majeur will be breaking ground on one of the most exciting sites in the Northwest. I'm eager to share what I learned. And why I'm so excited about this site.

And now a few of the makers shaking things up. And my personal biases confronted.

Winemakers making a difference.

Winemaker Aryn Morell of Morell Wines.

Winemaker Aryn Morell, Morell Family Wines. Intelligence.

Even though I've reviewed wine made by Aryn, he has his own brands and is a consulting winemaker for 10 other brands, I only just met him Saturday. Impressed? Yes, on many levels. Beautiful tasting room space in downtown Walla Walla. One which I will now strongly encourage guests and friends to visit.

Delicious wines? Yes. Yes. Yes. Focused, captivating, interesting, with tremendous, effort, both physical and mental.

Smart, intelligent, with depth? Yes indeed.

Somehow we got on the topic of bottle closures. Zoom! We had an intense discussion about the manufactured Nomarcorc sugarcane cork, the cork industry, and how corks work to define a quality wine. This topic bears more discussion, later. Many thanks to Aryn for visiting with us in the middle of harvest.

FYI: Aryn Morell and his wife are the third largest producer in Walla Walla. News to me.

Winemaker Holly Turner of Three Rivers Winery and yours truly.

Winemaker Holly Turner, Three Rivers Winery. Quality.

Added to my list of wineries to recommend to guests and families is Three River Winery. When I "rediscover" a gem of a winery, and their wines, I make an effort to share that discovery. Winemaker Holly Turner is making wines I want to buy and share with family and friends. My strongest recommendation. These are not the wines I remember drinking 10 years ago. She's rocking it! This is a must visit and taste winery. Go now.

Cadaretta Winery Glass House - best view of the Walla Walla Valley.

Cadaretta WineryFamily, family, family.

The winery is named after a ship the family used for shipping lumber to California. They have a stunning hilltop view of the Walla Walla Valley. Especially from the glass “house” they built at the summit of the property. Their SBS white blend, Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc, is now what I consider a “classic” Walla Walla, Washington wine.

The family is/was in the timber industry, they came from lumber country, Aberdeen, Washington. Aberdeen is where Curt Cobain came from, and where, growing up, I spent many summers at my grandmothers home.

Did I meet Curt Cobain when I was younger? Maybe on a summer afternoon in the mid 1970’s, I recall playing with a blond haired kid we did not know. He never wandered by again. Just that once. It would have been a good hike, but Curt's childhood home was within walking distance of my Grandmothers home.

Goose Ridge Vineyards production facility

Goose Ridge Vineyards and Winery
80,000 case production for own brands.

Goose Ridge Vineyards is the largest privately owned vineyard in Washington with 2,200 acres planted to vine. They only use about 15% of the wine grapes they harvest. Remainder is sold to industry. They do custom crush, only for biggest Washington brands. I've wanted to visit this production facility for several years, finally made it inside. Impressed.

Enjoyed this stunning Terra Blanca 2014 Red Mountain Cabernet Franc.

Terra Blanca Winery, Tasting and Tour

The 2014 Terra Blanca Winery Estate Cabernet Franc was fascinating. Anyone who is into this variety, should check out what Keith Pilgrim is crafting on Red Mountain. Impressed.

We also enjoyed a focused Cabernet Sauvignon blind tasting of Red Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon. This tasting was hosted by April Reddout of Col Solare Winery.

J. Bookwalter winemaker Caleb Foster educates on lees.

J.Bookwalter Wines, Cellar Tour and Tasting. Appealing.

J.Bookwalter Wines is among a handful of wineries I began visiting in 1986. Today, this winery has an intimacy in production and sales experienced by me first hand. Some of that intimacy is reflected by the quality in the wines they make, only minutes from my front door.

I never had the opportunity of sampling the lees from barrel before, (see photo above). This winery visit felt cozy and appealing. Go visit.

Several of my fellow #wbc18 Wine Bloggers and I agreed that the J. Bookwalter Chapter 5 was stunning. Fruit for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from one of my favorite vineyard sites, Sagemoor Farms Dionysus vineyard.

Huge thank you to winemaker Caleb Foster for taking time out from harvest to spend, way too much time, educating and touring with us. I'll have more later.

We are more than Washington and Oregon, we are Northwest Wine Country.

You are invited to visit us.

Big shout out to @tricities Visit Tri-Cities Tourism Team for creating a focused, deluxe tour of wineries in my own backyard. Truly, I think of and view my community with new eyes.

Also, glad I was not the one knocking over a glass of $60 Red Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon. Not that I’ve ever done that before.

More soon. My vision of Northwest wine is coming in focus.


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