things you must do in walla walla: part one

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The bloggers are coming, the bloggers are coming! OK, and so is everyone else. Walla Walla is Washington's must-see destination if you are interested in wine touring. But the town offers a wealth of non-wine and wine-related activities as well, and summer is when the calendar is fully loaded.

There is a terrific Farmers Market downtown every Saturday. There is live music in many of the tasting rooms most nights of the week. There are parades, rodeos, demolition derbys, vintage car shows, college reunions and more. And there are the nearby towns of Milton-Freewater, Waitsburg and Dayton, each with festivals, fairs and attractions of their own.

As I live in Waitsburg, I'm pretty familiar with a lot of this, and still making many new discoveries every time I visit. So for the next few weeks I'll post up a sort of unofficial insider's guide to the region, with call-outs to especially interesting places to visit and events to attend.

Today, a quick look at one of the town's newest wineries – Sinclair Estate Vineyards.

This new tasting room opened just a few weeks ago, at 109 E. Main Street. Hours are Thursday thru Saturday 11 to 5, and Sunday noon to 4. Owners Tim and Kathy Sinclair are transplanted Seattle-ites with ambitious and well-heeled wine country dreams. Along with the tasting room, they have just opened a stunning Bed and Breakfast called Vine & Roses, purchased and begun renovating a 100+ acre vineyard site north of Mill Creek, and released their first three wines.

The SEV tasting room, which I visited for the first time this weekend, is unique. It's stuffed with French antiques – gorgeous pieces that somehow didn't fit in the B&B. It is hung with original art (some so large that the front windows had to be removed to get the paintings inside) and a collection of original, life-size clown sculptures from a Joseph, Oregon artist whose name, sadly, escapes me. There is also a grand piano with a high-tech attachment that plays it like a player piano, moving keys and pedals with an invisible hand.

The wines are served on a matched pair of 18th century buffets. Made at Dunham Cellars by Amy Alvarez-Wampfler (who is married to Dunham winemaker Dan Wampfler), the first releases include a Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2007 Pentatonic Red Wine ($55) – half cab, 30% merlot, and the rest a split between malbec and syrah. From a selection of vineyards including Lewis, Wallula, Les Collines and Double River, it is pleasingly soft in the mouth, supple with a mellow fruitiness.

The Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2007 Syrah ($40) is roundly fruity, loaded with bright berries, and nicely spiced with herbal (tobacco) highlights. A little Mourvèdre and a little Grenache were included, to give the wine, notes Tim Sinclair, “a little bit of a more glycerine/seamless feel, that cuts the stickiness of the tannins.” Immediately approachable and nicely structured, this open and generous effort glides into a smooth and chocolatey finish.

The Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2007 Vixen Red ($45) is the most unusual and interesting offering, a blend of 42% mourvèdre, 22% cab, 22% syrah, 7% malbec, and 7% grenache. It treads the line between Rhône and Bordeaux, shows depth and persistence, and the mix of grapes works well, displaying brambly red fruits, spice and pepper.

There are many excellent tasting rooms to explore right downtown, which offer the added (and significant) advantage of letting you park the car and amble. You MUST have a designated driver in Walla Walla if you are touring wineries outside of downtown, as the local law enforcement is aggressive. But for a lovely experience sans auto, you can do quite well right downtown, and SEV is mandatory.


Ron Washam, HMW said...


Are those life-size clown statues the "Wine Blogger Hall of Fame?" Nice touch.

PaulG said...

They are modeled after real people; I will say no more. Could one of them resemble the Hosemaster himself?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Probably the one with his pants around his ankles, bent over, blowing balloon poodles is me.

Have fun with the Oodles of Poodles in June, Paul. Stock up on flea bombs.

Brandon Kubrock said...

I'm kind of sad the HoseMaster won't be here for the WBC. I would love to meet him in person!

Anonymous said...

The Walla Walla cops have always been tough. It is a college town afterall (WWCC, Whitman, and WW U.)

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