Va Piano winemaker and owner Justin Wylie is friendly, laid back, knowledgeable and super talented. We always visit Justin, his dog Murphy and his winery whenever we travel to Walla Walla. Our April visit continued this tradition. His latest 2018 releases are some of his best that we’ve tasted over the years. And his scenic, newly landscaped outdoor area provides a relaxing place to kick back with a glass of outstanding wine and a scrumptious charcuterie board.
The Va Piano Story
Va Piano comes from an Italian proverb that means “when you go slowly, you go safely and you go far.” Likewise, the winery’s motto is “Slow down. Enjoy the journey.”
Justin’s journey began during his senior year at Gonzaga University, when he studied in Florence, Italy. Most importantly, he met Bruno Segatta, who helped Justin follow his dream of a vineyard back in his hometown of Walla Walla. Va Piano was born in 2003 and flourished. It also now features Bruno’s by Va Piano Tasting Room in downtown Walla Walla, in honor of Justin’s old friend. As well, the winery offers a longstanding lineup of Bruno’s Wines.
Meanwhile, Va Piano owns three vineyards: Va Piano Estate and Eritage, in addition to Octave, a joint venture between Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, Gramercy, Caprio and Hanatoro.
Likewise, Justin also founded the luxurious Eritage Resort, located on 300 acres in the rolling fields of wheat and vineyards about six miles north of Walla Walla.
We first visited Va Piano during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla in 2010, seven years after Justin’s first commercial crush. And then we returned numerous times. Subsequently, our Top 50 List of Washington Wineries names Va Piano every year since we started it in 2014. So of course we stopped by Justin’s beautiful estate winery on our recent trip. Murphy the winery dog welcomed us to the new, inviting outdoor tasting area, which has lots of seating, fire pits, a fountain, piazza, pergola and hammocks.
Va Piano WInes
Justin crafts elegant, concentrated, balanced wines with depth. He focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, red blends, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc. During our April visit, we tasted nine of his 2018 releases. And we ordered a yummy charcuterie board that was large enough to make four of us happy. (You can’t tell from this photo, but there was also chocolate!) Here is a sampling of the wines that we tasted.
2019 Sauvignon Blanc is exceptional and features grassy notes, grapefruit and other citrus aromas and flavors. Year after year, we adore this Sauvignon Blanc, and the 2019 vintage is no different.
2019 Rosé of Cabernet Franc is dry, crisp and smooth, and sings of summer.
2017 Walla Walla Syrah is 100% Syrah that is full of flavors of black fruit, smoked meat, herbs, spices and black pepper.
Moreover, we also tasted a trio of stellar 2018 Cabernet Sauvignons, all with seamless textures and an incredible explosion of flavors. First, we tasted the delicious Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by the standout DuBrul Cabernet Sauvignon. Our third pour was an old friend, Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label Rosebud Vineyard.
Known simply as Rosebud, this is a classic Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Justin first poured this sexy Cab for us at the Wine Blogger’s conference in 2018.
After that, we visited the winery a few days later and purchased the 2015 vintage, which remains in our cellar. It is stunning, rich, complex, textured and simply divine.
The 2018 is even better. A core of dark fruit flavors are laced with minerality. Simply put, Rosebud has the wow factor. Be sure to put it away for a few years to truly experience its aging potential.
Wine We Took Home
We adored all the wines we tasted, however we took home these three, pictured. First, Justin crafted the smooth and tasty 2018 Gonzaga University Aloysius 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in honor of his alma mater “and the foundation for excellence it provided.” Next, 2015 Estate Cabernet Franc is savory, complex, elegant and balanced, with red and dark fruit flavors. Finally, 2018 Estate Uniti blends 30% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, as well as 28% Merlot and 12% Malbec. What a gorgeous, lush Bordeaux-style red.
In conclusion, Va Piano is always a must-stop winery during our visits to Walla Walla. We’ve been fans of Justin and his outstanding wine since we met him in 2010. His wines get even better each year. His production is expanding, and he continues to improve the tasting experience. For example, you can taste these wines in three locations — the Estate Tasting Room and Winery in Walla Walla’s southside, Bruno’s by Va Piano Tasting Room in downtown Walla Walla, and in Bend, Oregon. If you haven’t tried Va Piano wines yet, what are you waiting for?
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Margot and Dave