Aboard S. S. Legacy-We are not in the mountains any more. Hills and farmland greet us this morning. Columbia is glassy smooth, compensating for the lack of height on shore with perfect reflections of what is there.
We moor in Richland, WA, in front of a park and board buses through the Tri-Cities – Richland, Kennewick and Pasco – to Walla Walla, home of the namesake sweet onions, the state prison and the Walla Walla Valley AVA where great cabernet, merlot, syrah and chardonnay grapes grow.
Basel Cellars’ Two Rivers Winery is our first stop. The imposing Norman-style building incorporates tasting room, inn and winery offices. Winemaker Dirk Brink from Cape Town, South Africa, leads us to the bottling area where we sample two of their Bordeaux-style wines, a malbec and syrah.
Back in the tasting room we sip, swish, smell, burble and sip our way through more wine. Probably should have bought a bottle of that smooth 2013 syrah with cherry and chocolate notes but didn’t. There probably will be more regrets like that on this trip. The wineries we visit are small, want to stay that way and distribute in the area, selling up to 80 percent from their tasting rooms.
No regrets at Dunham Cellars. Their fun, funky tasting rooms are in a converted World War II airplane maintenance hangar at the Walla Walla airport where all flights are to and from Seattle.
Established by the Dunham family in 1995 – Eric Dunham is the senior wine maker – they produce 2,500 cases a year. Fell in love with the 2013 red Trutina (Latin for balance), a Bordeaux blend, and the 2015 Shirley Mays chardonnay with lunch and was amazed by the depth of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon XIX.
Following closely behind in the “gotta have this” lineup was a 2013 Lewis Vineyard Riesling, the 2013
Rose of cabernet Franc and the endearingly named 2014 Three Legged Red blend, named for the puppy Eric saved from a mauling that had to have a leg amputated. His two good legs were on his left side so Eric, a former Navy man, named him Port and he became a beloved winery dog.
The only regret here is that the mixed case I selected can’t be shipped until the summer heat subsides.
Next destination was a walk through downtown Walla Walla for looking around, retail therapy or more tastings if we want. With 130 wineries in this AVA, there are at least two tasting rooms per block.
I stopped at Teco in the Marcus Whitman Hotel where I spotted our sommelier Chris with Legacy’s pastry maker and several members of its hotel staff, a good sign. It was hard to leave without a bottle of Waters Old Stone, a remarkable Syrah from the new Rocks AVA, a former riverbed between Red Mountain and Walla Walla Valley AVAs, but price was a deterrent.
Back on board, our daily wine tutelage featured our resident wine maker Casey’s Rhone grape creations from Robert Ramsay Cellars in Woodinville, WA. Found them to be as friendly and delightful as their maker, wines that enhance food and pat you on the cheek rather than socking you in the mouth. Will have to go to their web site for some of the wonderful Grenache based red.