One of the highlights of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is the mystery dinner excursion. Each attendee is asked to pick a color from a bag and then join that group to an unknown destination. Our first year we landed at M2 Wines in Lodi CA. Last year we attended a fund raising event at Thomas George Estates in Santa Rosa shortly after the devastating fires there.
This year, without planning it, we got to revisit a place that held very special memories for us. Three Rivers Winery is located minutes away from downtown Walla Walla Washington. The tasting room resembles a resort style cabin in the woods, with large stonepillars and wood beams that create an inviting space for relaxing and tasting.
Our first visit to Three Rivers was several years ago. We were in the area for a work event and decided to tack on a weekend in Walla Walla. We had heard so much about the wine scene there that we thought we had to find out for ourselves. That weekend visit also included some golf at Wine Valley Golf Club. We revisited the Golf Club too, but that’s for another post.
After 18 holes of golf and a few winery stops, we decided our last stop must be Three Rivers. At the time, they were known for their three hole golf course. We had to try it. With flip flops and a few clubs (and several glasses of wine under our belts), we approached this little (and by little I mean very short) course. It didn’t take long for us to realize we had no business swinging a club. The folks observing our play from the patio surely agreed.
This visit to Three Rivers was different. We boarded the bus from town for the short trip. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and hor’s d’oeuvres on the patio. It was lovely to chat with the winemaker, Holly Turner, and the general manager and assistant wine maker Andy Slusarenko, a dynamic husband and wife team who are totally dedicated to this winery and the wines they produce.
Once we entered the tasting room, we knew we were in for a treat. The table was set for about 25 people with more glassware than the Riedel factory. We took our seats and waited for what was sure to be an incredible experience. We learned that Three Rivers is part of the the Foley Group of wineries. Bill Foley is not only famous for his wines and wineries. He is also the owner of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the newest franchise in the National Hockey League. Their flag hangs proudly in the tasting room. For this event, the chef from the Foley golf resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was brought in to prepare a meal fit for a hard working winery crew, or at least for those of us who wanted to experience that kind of meal. Executive Chef Matt Antioch of The Club at Rock Creek could not have done more in preparing this amazing meal.
Our first course was saffron scallops, served over Alaskan crab risotto. This rich and delicious appetizer was paired with the 2016 reserve chardonnay. The pairing was perfect. The sweetness of the scallops was enhanced by the depth and richness of the chardonnay.
Our second course was a Rocky Mountain Elk Chop. These were not tasting portions. Oh no, these were portions fit for a hungry vineyard hand during harvest. It was served with Asian short rib fried rice and a huckleberry Malbec gastrique and a fresh chanterelle elk demi-glace. Really, I’m not making that up! This amazing course was accompanied by the 2015 Walla Walla Syrah and the 2016 Malbec. Seriously, it’s hard to describe how these wines complimented this meaty, deeply flavorful dish.
For a break in the action, we were served a cocktail “slushy” of lemon, herbs, local honey and gin. This Bee’s Knees was refreshing and palate cleansing. Knowing what was coming next, we certainly needed a break.
Our next course was my favorite (and NOT Neal’s!). The Cabernet braised lamb shank was cooked low and slow, and served with roasted tomato lamb glace over Point Reyes blue cheese corn grits and roasted butternut squash with roasted black truffle squash seeds. I can’t make this stuff up. The lamb shanks were served with both a 2016 estate cabernet sauvignon and a 2015 Walla Walla Cab.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough, the next course was “impossible mole empanadas.” What made them impossible is that the protein was Impossible Burger, a new vegetarian option for ground beef. It was served with a classic red mole, tomatillo verde, fresh cilantro, queso fresco and chipotle lime sour cream. This course was served with two red blends, 2015 Svelte and 2016 Trivulet. Each added a distinctive flavor and brought out the best in the mole.
This feast ended with a refreshing, light dessert of poached pear served with huckleberry mousse and a dollop of vanilla bean Frangelico cream and dusted with huckleberry powder and garnished with apple mint. The 2017 Riesling that accompanied this dessert was the perfect foil for the sweetness of the dish.
This meal was truly unforgettable. In addition to amazing food and exceptional wines, it was a joy to be treated with such grace and attention. The evening assured us that anyone who visits Three Rivers Winery will certainly leave there knowing that they are welcome and appreciated for their interest and patronage. That is the true sign of a great tasting experience. When we left there several years ago, we looked forward to returning. We were not disappointed.