“Compelled by curiosity, inspired by imagination”
It was a wild and wonderful weekend at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. We tasted more wine that we could track, but it seems there’s always room for one more taste. After checking out of the Marcus Whitman Hotel Sunday morning and saying goodbye to so many of our blogger friends, we decided to go into town and have breakfast at one of downtown’s most popular restaurants. Unfortunately it was way too popular so we headed back to the “Whit” for something to eat.
Back at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, we ran into our friend, wine marketing consultant Carl Giavanti, who introduced us to Cynthia Hurlbutt, Tasting Room Manager at The Walls Vineyards in Walla Walla. She invited us to stop over on our way out of town to do some tasting. Twist ours arms, why don’t you! This turned into one of the highlights of the visit to Walla Walla. Cynthia, we can’t thank you enough for the wonderful time we spent with you.
On the outskirts of town, the tasting room was little hard to spot, but well worth the search. We found it after driving by it once. We were quickly greeted by Cynthia. She invited us to begin sampling the Walls’ wines even before the tasting room officially opened for the day. We just couldn’t wait for Carl, we started without him. He caught up pretty quickly. Let me tell you, it was an amazing customer service experience.
The tasting room has a super modern feel. It has a really hip vibe that makes it a great place to hang out, have some wine and enjoy great conversations with old and new friends.
The history of The Walls was explained as a play on words used to describe the State Penitentiary (locals call it the Concrete Mama) that has been part of Walla Walla since 1886. It’s funny that in our daily lives we are still talking about building walls to keep people in or out. Maybe drinking a glass or two of wine will break down some of those walls. Who knows, it could happen. Winery Wanderings will be doing its part for sure.
And then there’s Stanley Groovy. Stanley is a stick figure illustration that graces the walls of the tasting room, the wine bottles and bags, too. The story of Stanley Groovy, AKA The Coolest Nerd, was evident throughout the tasting room. We immediately felt his connection to characters we’d seen long ago in the New Yorker Magazine. Cynthia told us that a cartoonist named Joe Dator had created some label illustrations similar to a cartoon character named Walter Groovy that he had done for the Magazine. Ali Mayfield, the co-owner and head winemaker, mentioned Stanley Groovy looked very similar to her mentor Stan Clark, hence the name “Stanley.” Quite an homage to the late Stan Clark.
I loved their take on wine. They refer to it as Wine for the Passionate and Curious. The names of the wines gave us no clue as to their taste, vintage or varietal. You can decide on your favorites!
- Stanley Groovy
- The Ramparts
- La Lutte
- Martin’s Gold
- Cruel Summer
The AVA is called The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. It’s one of the newest AVA’s in the Country. Red Mountain, Yakima Valley and Columbia Gorge make up this AVA. Each area has its distinct soil and flavor profile.
We tasted five distinctly different wines from the newly created AVA. My favorite was the 2017 Cruel Summer Rose. It was really fresh and fruity and was the perfect summer wine. We also loved two of the blends.
The 2105 Ramparts is a Grenache Red Blend which had elements of Mourvedre and Counoise added to give it more complexity. Three months in a concrete tank gave it additional coolness and a flavor of bright plum. By the way, this wine is a Gold Medal winner in the 2018 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. One of the staff put it bluntly by saying “this wine is tasty as hell.” I’d say that pretty well sums it up.
The 2015 Stanley Groovy Red Blend is best explained as “simple on the outside, complex and groovy on the inside.” The management team of The Walls just has a way with words that translates into GREAT tasting wine. Well said! Now let’s taste!
Next time we visit Walla Walla, we hope to sit down with owner and restaurateur Mike Martin for a chat about his journey to owning a winery and a restaurant. Not an easy transition from being a Microsoft attorney.
Mike, reserve us a table next to Stanley so we can be grooving on a Sunday Morning. On a side note, we also need to know how you can tame Wine Valley Golf Club. Our last round in October beat us up pretty badly.
We are planning our 2019 wine touring schedule and Walla Walla is on it for sure.
1015 W. Pine St.
Walla Walla WA 99362
(Thanks to Kristen Telander and Washington Tasting Room Magazine for their background information about The Walls)