We just got back from a whirlwind tour of WA wine country – 15 wineries in three days. The highlights included Caprio Cellars, Saviah Cellars, Devison Vintners, L’Ecole 41, Upchurch Vineyard, Fidelitas and Va Piano Vineyards. We also spent time at Reynvaan, Prospice, Rasa Vineyards, The Walls, Gramercy Cellars, Mercer, Valdemar and Maison Bleue. Moreover, the food was excellent and the sunsets divine. Read on for an overview of our tour of WA wine country. And come back throughout the weeks ahead for more details.
Prosser and Red Mountain in Our WA Wine Country Tour
Our whirlwind WA Wine Country tour began on April 1 at Mercer‘s tasting room in Prosser. We first experienced Mercer’s wine about 15 years ago, and we have been fans ever since. Therefore, it was not a surprise that we brought home 2017 Ode to Brothers, a pretty blend of 56% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 14% Mourvèdre.
Subsequently, we drove to nearby Red Mountain. Of course, we stopped there – as we’ve said many times, we’ve never met a grape from Red Mountain that we didn’t like. Firstly, Fidelitas, where Charlie Hoppes’ wines shine. This winery is so popular that a photo of the deck is recognizable by wine enthusiasts. Charlie, whom we’ve known for years, told us about his latest endeavors. Similarly, we tasted through a number of his excellent releases and stellar library wines.
Secondly, winemaker Hannah Coulson at Upchurch Vineyard opened these outstanding wines at The Barn tasting room. We have cellared bottles of Upchurch Cabernet Sauvignon since the first vintage. But we had never tasted other Upchurch wines. And wow, what a treat! For example, Upchurch produces probably the best Sauvignon Blanc we have ever tasted. You’ll find more details about both Red Mountain experiences in a future blog post.
Walla Walla Highlights of Our WA Wine Country Tour
April is Walla Walla Valley Wine Month, so our visit during the first weekend of the month was very timely. Above all, wineries are open for tasting, and some are offering specials in celebration. We had so many places we wanted to see, so we packed in a lot in a short period of time.
Our first stop in Walla Walla is always L’Ecole 41. Not only did we arrive in time for their amazing Ferguson release weekend, but also we had a pre-tour with winemaker Marcus Rafanelli. Firstly, he showed us the science behind winemaking in the production facilities. Subsequently, we tasted his superb Rosé and barrel-tasted some of his new creations. We also were wowed by a Ferguson vertical, in addition to L’Ecole’s spring lineup. You’ll find more details in blog posts in the near future.
Our biggest surprise, Caprio Cellars, is a hidden gem on the southside of Walla Walla. Caprio has a winning combination: elegant wines, tasty food, incredible hospitality and a 360° view of the Walla Walla Valley. Their estate Rosé, plus the complex, rich Eleanor and Sanitella red wines pair beautifully with their delicious appetizers like Asian Pear Salad and Italian meatballs. We will definitely go back to Caprio Cellars. And certainly, we recommend that you add it to your Walla Walla itinerary too.
These are only some of the gorgeous Saviah Cellars wines crafted by talented winemaker Richard Funk. To us, Saviah has it all – magnificent wine, a great location and fun people who know how to take care of you. And layers and layers of funk – the wine, the vineyard and the winemaker. We brought home a few bottles. And we were not surprised to discover that our cellar contains more Saviah wines than any other brand. More details coming soon.
We were very impressed with Devison Vintners wines from creative winemaker Peter Devison. We’ve known Peter for 10 years and are so happy to see he has landed where he should be – making his own standout wines. From a refreshing, flavorful Sauvignon Blanc to a Rocks Syrah and more, we love his Old-World winemaking style, and plan to write more about it. In every bottle, the vineyards shine and each wine has a unique voice.
Va Piano Vineyards
The changes at Va Piano Vineyards are remarkable. What a marvellous spot for wine tasting. And we were so happy to see Justin Wylie and his dog Murphy again! Justin’s wines remain as stellar today as when we first met him 11 years ago. As always, his Rosebud Cabernet Sauvignon is awesome. We also favored his 2015 Cabernet Franc and 2018 Uniti. Be sure to stop at his scenic location, and order a delicious charcuterie plate to pair with his amazing wines.
More Wineries in WA Wine Country
We enjoyed our first time at Rasa Vineyards, where Billo poured their premium wines, ranging from a noteworthy Chardonnay to an aptly named Creative Impulse. Billo says he and his brother Pinto are living the dream, and it shows in every glass. A special Rasa Syrah came home with us. We also had fun with Jay and Matt at Prospice and left with a 2018 Cab Franc. But we wanted to bring home more! Their wines are balanced and elegant. And we know we will visit them again.
The Walls provided an elegant patio tasting to us, where eight new releases were poured. Specifically, we preferred (and left with) the Mahana Syrah from the Rocks District. In addition, we had dinner at their Passatempo Taverna, which specializes in handmade pasta, rustic Italian cuisine and an extensive cocktail and wine list.
In addition, Gramercy Cellars poured its Lagniappe Syrah, produced with grapes from David Lake’s clone program with Mike Sauer at Red Willow Vineyard. We adore this wine as much as we adore Mike, who is Washington wine royalty.
Finally, Reynvaaan, Valdemar and Maison Bleue rounded out our itinerary. Reynvaan The Classic 2018 Bordeaux blend is young but its potential is obvious. Put this one in the cellar to really appreciate its full beauty down the road. Meanwhile, we also went to the grand new tasting room for Valdemar, where you can order flights and tapas to pair. Back in downtown Walla Walla, Maison Bleue focuses primarily on Rhône varietals such as Syrah, Grenache and Viognier from The Rocks District.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the best pastrami sandwich ever at Mercado.
Summary of Our WA Wine Country Trip
In conclusion, “epic” is the word we use to describe our first trip to Walla Walla since the pandemic began. Fifteen wineries in three days and incredible experiences that will be remembered with every glass we pour. Once you’re comfortable traveling again, we highly recommend a visit to WA Wine Country. And as mentioned, come back to Write for Wine throughout the weeks ahead for more articles about some of these wineries.
A selection of previous stories:
Margot and Dave