Go Wine Tasting in Walla Walla!
The geologic past of the Walla Walla Valley is riddled with cataclysmic events -- events that contributed to today''s fine grape-growing soils. Enormous basaltic lava flows (dating back 15 million years) established the foundation of the Columbia Plateau (which also includes the Walla Walla Plateau), the earth''s youngest basalt plateau
Beginning about 15,000 years ago, periodic failures of huge ice dams caused giant "glacier outbursts" every 35 to 55 years. Huge volumes of water behind these dams burst through, scouring out channels and pot holes in the landscape where water velocities were highest. The "Channeled Scablands" of today''s eastern Washington are the result of these phenomenal floods, documented as the largest in geologic history. When flood waters retreated, ponds were left behind, as they were in the Walla Walla wine region, and fine-grained slack-water sediments were deposited. Geologically speaking, ancient geologic catastrophe has set many a stage for some of the best winegrowing regions of the Northwest.
Walla Walla loves her wine tourists, and you don’t need to be a renowned certified bon vivant foofy-foo master of the grape to enjoy the world class wines of the Walla Walla Valley. We welcome wine newbies, too. Here’s a few tips on how to make your wine tasting a relaxing and a memorable event.
First of all, check out the Walla Walla Wine Alliance web site or their brochure for the list of wineries. Keep in mind you’ll only want to visit around four to five wineries a day for the obvious reason: driving while intoxicated. Also, you need to be considerate of your palate. Palates can become very fatigued during a day of wine tasting. Wines may start tasting alike, especially when you reach your third or fourth winery.
Start your day off right by eating a good breakfast. This is not the time to eat a gooey doughnut or even the granola bar you typically gnaw on at the office. Save the granola bar to snack on later between wineries. There are other items you’ll want to pack and - - well - - items not to pack. Keep a few light snacks in the car like crackers, fruit, cheese and you might even include a picnic lunch. Don’t skip lunch, but do skip the spicy snacks and minty gum, as they can make your taste buds scream, while taking away from the character of the wines. Don’t forget the water. Hydrate - hydrate - hydrate. Water will help cleanse your palate and may even assist in feeling clear-headed the next morning. Bring a wine journal or designate a notebook to pen your tasting notes and personal thoughts about your experience. Many wineries offer wine tasting notes. Use them. And it’s okay to bring a camera. Be sure and pack your legal ID with you, even if you are over the magical age of 21. And you might tuck a few five dollar bills in your pocket just in case there are tasting fees. However, there are several wineries in Walla Walla that offer free tastings.
Now that you’re packed, let’s do some unpacking: leave your cell phone off or in the car. Hey - it’s your day off from work and your squabble about the neighbor’s fence line can wait until you get home. You’re not that important, are you? If you are, perhaps your secret service people can take your calls. Loud cell phone chatter and ring tones can break the ambiance between the staff, other visitors and just the overall “grapeful” tranquility of a winery. Unpack the department store perfume counter, too. Cologne, perfume and even fragrance enhanced hair and body products can offend the olfactory system. You may not be able to smell yourself, but everyone in the tasting room will be able to, making their Merlot taste like grandpa’s “Old Spice.”
Ready-set-go-visit a winery! Our hospitable and knowledgeable tasting room attendants are going to make you feel at home. Don’t worry that your palate may not meet the expectation of scores, medals and reviews as taste is subjective. This is the time to discover your own wine palate. Ask questions. A good tasting room attendant loves answering questions. Keep an open mind. Every winery has a different style and you just might discover a delightful surprise.
Stem, swirl and sniff: hold your glass by the stem. By holding the stem you will not only look cool, but it also keeps your paws from warming up the wine. Start swirling. Swirling allows oxygen to mix with the wine, releasing the aromas that are essential for a complete tasting experience. After a few swirls, place your nose deep in the glass and take in a bold sniff. Ponder the smells: coffee, berries, grandma’s fruit cobbler, pineapple, cedar, and wet rocks? Two deep sniffs should do it and if you can’t identify any aromas, no worry. As you add wines to your palate, you’ll become more experienced and eventually will discover a wide array of aromas.
Sip, slurp, and savor: gently place your lips on the glass and slowly sip and slurp the wine into your mouth. Savor it. Allow it to gently slide around and through your palate. Think about the flavors and senses on your tongue and inside of your mouth: Sweet? Tart? Creamy? Astringent?
Swallow or spit: some tasters spit to stay sober, especially seasoned aficionados who taste several wines in the day testing for quality. If you’re not comfortable spitting in public, practice spitting at home with a large sink and spit with water (it’s a forgiving liquid). But hey - come on! You have to try spitting in the dump bucket at least once. Where else can you spit and mom won’t get mad? Also, dumping the wine in a designated vessel is totally appropriate and it doesn’t signify bad manners, either. Remember, the point of wine tasting is to “taste” - - and to learn about new wines and have a new adventure.
Wine tasting in Walla Walla is a wonderful experience. Enjoy our good wines, eat good food, visit with the staff at the wineries and even other visitors. And don’t worry if you didn’t make it to all of the wineries on your list. You can come back and visit us again - - right?