Archive for the ‘Walla Walla’ Category

Walla Walla Weekend

August 9, 2009

I had some work to do in Walla Walla last weekend and Carl decided there was no better way to beat the Seattle heatwave than to escape to the even-hotter east side of the Cascades, so off we went over the Pass.

Our first stop: Red Mountain and Col Solare, where the estate vineyard is looking great and winemaker Marcus Notaro is looking at an early September start to harvest.

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Col Solare vineyard and Horse Heaven Hills in the background.

After the winery we headed to scenic Pasco, WA for some minor league baseball fun at Gesa Stadium between the Tri-Cities Dust Devils and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Single A teams for the Rockies and Giants, respectively. We had a thoroughly good time as the temperature dipped to 96 and the Mariners Moose entertained the crowd of kids.

The next morning, well rested after a night in luxurious AC, we set off for Walla Walla. I rarely get a chance to play tourist out that way so we did it up, stopping at pretty much every historical marker on the way to the Whitman Mission outside of town, site of Marcus Whitman’s extremely ill-fated missionary camp. As the mercury climbed past 100, we figured it was a great time for a hike and hoofed it up the hill to the Whitman Shaft, which contrary to its name is not a mining tunnel but an obelisk on top of the hill commemorating the unfortunate Whitman massacre. Hot and sweaty but well worth it for the views:

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View of the Whitman Mission

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Carl exploring his roots.

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Near the end of the Oregon Trail.

The rest of the weekend was filled with winery visits – to L’Ecole No. 41 , the new, impressive  Waterbrook winery, Blue Mountain Cider Company over the border in Milton-Freewater, OR, where we were impressed with the array of hard apple and fruit ciders produced, then back to Walla Walla to Beresan, Trust, Chateau Rollat, and of course Northstar. Highlights included the Cab rose from Trust, Rollat’s Cab Sauvs, and Northstar’s Merlots and Petit Verdot.

We also had a fantastic time at the Spring Valley Vineyard wheat harvest party, despite the 106 degree heat that evening it was beautiful out, the wines were delicious, the company fun. The ranch at Spring Valley is one of my favorite places and it was great to share it with Carl, meet new friends and catch up with old, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the wheat fields.

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View of the vineyard from the garden at Spring Valley.

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Sunset over Spring Valley – this photo doesn’t capture the half of it!

On Sunday, the car stuffed with wine, cider, onions and melons from the Walla Walla farmer’s market, and a crate of peaches from a stand outside of Yakima, we headed home, just in time for the temperature to dip back into the 80s, reminding us that there is nothing better than a Northwest summer.

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Monteillet Fromagerie

November 12, 2008

While out in Walla Walla recently I had a chance to visit the Monteillet Fromagerie in Dayton, WA. This family farm is run by Joan and Pierre-Louis Monteillet, who met in Mexico, moved back to Washington to continue Joan’s family wheat farm, and began making cheese a decade ago. The Monteillets specialize in artisan sheep and goat’s milk cheeses, which they sell at their farm and a few local farmers markets.

We began our visit in the right way, with a cheese and wine tasting in the cozy tasting room of the fromagerie alongside the Monteillets and their cheesemaker, Jackie.

The cheeses, made by hand in very small batches from the milk of about 30 sheep and goats who live happily right outside the kitchen door, taste unlike anything you’d find in a grocery store: fresh, unadulterated, incredibly rich and smooth. You can almost taste the grass these animals eat, and, if you’re feeling poetic, the waters they drink from the Touchet River and the sun and winds that roll through the valley.

My favorite was Le Roi, a soft-ripened chevre dusted with grapeleaf ash and flakes of gold. I brought home a heart-shaped block of this cheese to enjoy with Justin with a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc – incredible!

The Monteillets were incredibly gracious hosts, leading us city slickers on a meandering tour of the farm, where we met goats, sheep, pigs, the farm cat, and truly free range chickens who followed us everywhere.

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The Monteillets also have a guest house on the farm that is available to rent and on my list for a weekend excursion, or possibly a longer one as I left the farm thinking I need to quit my job and become a cheesemaking apprentice in Dayton. As Pierre-Louis might say, “Mon Dieu!”

Petits Noirs

November 12, 2008

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Photo courtesy of Petits Noirs, used without permission.

While I was in Walla Walla this weekend I finally had a chance to visit Lan Wong at Petits Noirs, just over the border in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

I have been a fan of Lan’s chocolates since I first tasted them at a wine and chocolate pairing at the winery during holiday barrel weekend last December. Lan is a classically trained chocolatier who moved to Walla Walla from New York a few years back with her husband, a baker and WW native. They bought an old house on the main street in M-F and opened a chocolate boutique from which Lan creates small batches of beautiful, intricately flavored confections in flavors such as fig, rosemary, lavender, and coconut sesame.

The chocolates are completely delicious and pair amazingly well with red wine (which is rarer than all the Valentine’s Day marketers would have you believe). Last month, I worked with Lan on a pairing for some press guests with some of our winery’s red wines, and we were all bowled over by the flavor combinations she put together, from white truffle parmesan to maple bacon with fig.

Lan is truly an inspiration, a culinary artist who is following her dream and creating delicious, edible works of art with the freshest and best ingredients.

I was eager to see the boutique and feed my chocolate monkey and was not disappointed. The boutique, in what had been the front room of the house, was hopping and when I finally fought my way to the counter there was much to choose from. In addition to stocking up on truffles including a new seasonal Pumpkin White Chocolate marvel, I left with two jars of Lan’s soon-to-be-famous chocolate marmalades: Bing Cherry with Balsamic and Fresh Sage and Strawberry Mint and Black Pepper. I plan to eat these on pretty much everything, including toasted baguettes with goat cheese. YUM!

I highly recommend a visit to Petits Noirs next time you’re in Walla Walla – you may leave with a sugar high due to Lan’s generous sampling policy, but you definitely won’t be unhappy!