welcome wallabies!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thousands of dedicated wine writing professionals are heading to NBC – the National Blogger Convention – which is taking place this coming weekend here in the far reaches of the sub-Yukon. They’ll be congregating in the quaint college town of Walla Walla (native American for “I told you we should have taken that left fork six moons ago”). Since I am a “local” I thought I’d offer a few words of advice.

You’ll find that most residents of the town are friendly toward strangers, but certain courtesies should be observed. Newcomers are known as Wallabies, while old timers should be addressed as Wallruses.

Because there is still a significant population of onion-eaters who migrated here from southern Italy, it is advisable to carry breath spray whenever you venture out onto the street. That street life can be exhilarating, but watch out! The Wallatonian sun can be fierce, often pinning the thermometer at 115 or 120 degrees in the late afternoon. You’ll want to hydrate frequently, which means plenty of pit stops. A free visitor’s guide to “The Loos and Latrines of Walla Walla” is available at the downtown “Welcome Wagon.”

The Walla Walla Welcome Wagon is a famous local landmark. Legend has it that an early settler, on his way to the Willamette valley to plant pinot noir, took that same wrong turn and wound up here in onion country. Making the best of it, he abandoned his bad-luck wagon and set out on foot. Though, sadly, he was never heard from again, the wagon prospered, soon becoming the focal point of an active local trade in onion bulbs.

In fact, a mini tulip-bulb frenzy erupted in the town in the 1870s, with the price of rare “sweet” onions over-taking prime vineyard land, and leading to the current prohibition on all onion trading within the county limits. Longtime Wallruses still celebrate by going out to the ballpark, where the Walla Walla Sweets play teams from other agricultural outposts. Onion beer is the brew of choice, offered on tap from the local Laht Bloomer brewery.

As hot as the days can be, Washington’s well-documented bi-polar shift can turn the evenings quite breezy and cold the instant that the sun goes down. Temperature drops of 70 or 80 degrees are not uncommon, and account for the preponderance of Slush Wines for which the valley is especially famous. A hot/cold interpretation of Canada’s Ice Wines, these Slush Wines may be made from any number of grapes that have been alternately burned and frozen into a gooey pulp. You’ll find they go down really well with fresh-caught squirrels and buzzards, grilled simply over grapevines and served piping hot.

Expect to party well into the night, esteemed Wallabies. The town is primped and primed for your all-too-brief visitation. As you go about your rounds blogging and tweeting (or whatever the heck it is you people do), pause occasionally to look a local in the eye and offer him or her a cheery “Hello Wallrus!” Walla Walla is still very much a town rooted in reality, where the word virtual only appears in the Sunday crossword puzzle, and rarely at that. So, “be here now” (or “beer now” in the local dialect) is the watchword.


1WineDude said...


I'll have one of those onion brews, please...

Bean said...

Its been too long since I was in Walla, Walla but I will fix that soon, as in tomorrow!

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