Walla Walla Weekend

June 28, 2006

[wrote this almost a year ago…we just came back from walla walla and thought of reposting it here]

Hellai and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Walla Walla.  Now the first reaction that many have is: “why would you go to Walla Walla?”

Couple of reasons:

– Molly, one of Hellai’s friends, recently moved there.  She leaves with her boyfriend Joe.  We were due for a visit 🙂

– We have wanted to go there to checkout the local wineries for sometime.

Walla Walla is a little more than 4 hours drive from Seattle.   The drive was very nice.  We drove up to Snoqualmie pass and through the East Washington desert before Yakima.   We arrived in Walla Walla around 9pm on Friday and we checked in our hotel, the “Marcus Whitman”

On Saturday we met up with Molly and Joe, went to the Farmers’ Market, got some coffee and got going with the wine tasting!

We started with a visit at Seven Hiils, located in downtown next to our hotel.  We tasted:

  • 2004 Pinot Gris, Oregon
  • 2004 Riesling, Columbia Valley
    • Joe’s quote: “This is the best Riesling in the valley”… you gotta believe him, he knows what he talking about!
  • 2002 Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley

I actually liked the Merlot, but we ended up buying a bottle of the Ciel du Cheval…which of course Hellai liked better!  As a side note, Seven Hills does not charge a tasting fee. 

Right after Seven Hills we headed out of town with destination PepperBridge Vineyards.  During the drive Joe gave us a great tour of the local vineyard and a very good overview of the different charasteristics they have.

Pepperbridge is what you would expect when you think about a winery: rolling fields of vineyars with the big “old looking” house right in the middle.  Very pitoresque overall.  Pepperbridge does charge a 8$ tasting fee to try the house specialties: merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  We tried:

  • 2002 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

I really liked the 2001 Cab…rich and on the spicy side.  The only issue is that it was 50+ dollars…so we passed.

 After all these tasting we needed some food.  We drove by one of the many Taco Tracks in town and got some food (I got the Walla Walla Burrito = there are lots of onions).  With our food bags we drove to Dunham Cellars, the winery where Joe works as winemaker. Along with the food we got going with another round of tasting

  • Dunham Cellars Three Legged Red
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Turtina
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon VII
  • 2002 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • 2004 Dunham Cellars “Shirley Mays Chardonnay

 I really liked their Three Legged Red…

At this point we were ready to go rest for a bit, before moving on to the evening program.

We started off the evening with…surprise…surprise…a wine tasting party!!!  The party was in an appartment in downtown WallaWalla.  The host was great, with good food and a great wine selection.  The highlight was that we were actually able to finally try a Cayuse!  It was pretty good…but honestly speaking I was expecting more given the “mystic” around this label.

After the pre-dinner party we headed for dinner.  The restaurant “Whoopemup” is in the remote “Waitsburg“.  Of course we had never heard of it, but the restaurant was really really good.  They serve Southern comfort food and the portion are definitely on the generous side.  Bottom line…if you go to Walla Walla you gotta try this place.  Make sure that you get a reservation!

With our bellies pretty full we call it the night.

On Sunday we made a visit to a couple of other wineries.  The first stop was at the Waterbrook tasting room in downtown.  We tried couple of wines only:

  • 2004 Viognier
  • 2004 Merlot

I had never had a Viognier before and they sold me on the fact that it was only on sale at the tasting room (would you believe them?).  So, I ended up buying a bottle of it.

After some local fruit&vegetables shopping we hit the road.  But, before leaving WallaWalla we made the final winery stop:  Woodward Canyon.   We went all out and tasted 7 different wines.  The Artist Series was definitely a very good one (we tried 9 and 10 if my memory serves me right)!  Woodward has definitely the best deal…no tasting fee and a great selection!

It was time to head home.  We really had a great time.  Special thanks to our hosts Mollie and Joe, they are so good that I think they should get into the B&B business with optional Tours.  Joe has some great stories about the wineries and especially the people…

Is WallaWalla going to be the next Napa?  I don’t know…it is fairly isolated from the main cities and flying there is still very difficult.  But the potential is there…70 wineries and counting.

A few weeks ago we had couple of friends for dinner (Noushine and Olivier).  It was a nice sunny evening so I was looking forward to cooking a summery dish. After looking at whether I had some “special” pasta around I ended up with a package of “orecchiette” in my hands.  Perfect…I was going to cook it with fresh seafood (in Italian “frutti di mare” usually stands mostly for shellfish).

I headed off to the fish market and got some good fresh ingrendients.  The list is very simple:

  • 1 pound of orecchiette
  • 1 pound of clams
  • half pound of mussells
  • 8-10 prawns
  • half pound of shrimp meat 
  • half pound of the small scallops
  • half pound of fresh calamari (frozen steaks work too)
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • just a bit of fresh chilly pepper
  • half-cup white wine
  • one third of cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 3 cloves of garlic 
  • pepper, salt

Looking at the ingredients couple of things come to mind (1) this is not a tomato-based sauce (2) I use the fresh tomatoes to give it a touch of freshness and texture (3) DO NOT USE CREAM  – PLEASE (unless you buy really bad seafood…bad idea in the first place!)

The cool thing of the recipe is that there is not much preparation required and it really takes 30mins to do the all thing.   You just want to make sure that you have sometime to take care of the mussells and clams (see the previous entry about how to make guazzatto for directions on how to pre this shellfish).

Ok…let’s make the sauce.

  1. In a sauce pot start with the olive oil, the garlic (chopped not too fine), some white wine, pour the mussell and clams (and a bit of the fresh chilly pepper).  Get the fire going at medium heat.
  2. When the clams open and start releasing water let is cooked for a minute (rather less than more).  You will see a nice soupy/watery in the pot…you want to save some of it (about half cup).  This is going to be used later.
  3. At this point add the prawns. After about 1 minute go ahead and add the scallops, the shrimp meat and the calamari.
  4. In about a minute add the chopped tomatoes.  At this point your magic sauce is going to look something like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51009806@N00/149139278/in/set-72057594139056373/
  5. Another minute put the clams\mussell liquid back
  6. Let everything come together for another minute
  7. Add the cooked orecchiette (which you started cooking about 15mins ago on a different pot)
  8. Let everything come together for a minute (add the fresh pepper and italian parsley)
  9. You are done!

The final result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51009806@N00/149139315/in/set-72057594139056373/

Let me know how it goes!