The Walla Walla airport may seem like an unlikely setting for a winery, and yet there are a good 15 to 20 tasting rooms nearby. In a city where everything seems to be within easy reach, you'll find the wineries conveniently located just a few minutes' drive east of downtown.
Today I'll wrap up my monthlong series on the Walla Walla area by focusing on three airport wineries I enjoyed during a visit in late June.
In keeping with an aviation theme, former Army pilot Jim Waite named his winery CAVU Cellars, an acronym for the flying phrase "ceiling and visibility unlimited." Waite owns and manages the winery along with his wife, Karen. Their son Joel serves as co-owner and winemaker.
Current releases include the 2011 Barbera Rosé (about $20) with strawberry aromatics and flavors and a crisp, dry finish; the heady 2010 Malbec (about $30) with herby, brambly berry flavors with notes of pepper and spice; and the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $35), from Walla Walla's Les Collines Vineyard. (Interesting side note: Those are the same grapes used in Bellingham's Dynasty Cellars 2008 DCC.)
I'll be blunt. I loved everything I tried at nearby Adamant Cellars. Devin and Debra Stinger, the husband-and-wife owners and winemakers, have done an outstanding job crafting some absolutely stunning wines.
Choosing a favorite is difficult, at best, but I lean toward the 2008 Nalin Bordeaux Blend (about $27), a 40/30/30 combination of cabernet, malbec and merlot, respectively. Luscious dark berry and cherry flavors fill the glass, while nuances of red currant and orange zest surround the plush, lengthy finish.
Another must-try is the 2009 Syrah (about $25), probably one of the best syrahs I tasted during my visit to the area. Opulent black plum and blackberry flavors lead off, with a finish that suggests notes of espresso, cedar and spice.
Jennifer Gregory, manager at Ash Hollow Winery, has designed a tasting room that's equal parts dark, gothic, and seriously good fun. Along with winemaker Spencer Sievers, they've created a memorable experience with memorable wines.
I especially enjoyed the 2008 Nine Mile (about $22) a merlot/cabernet blend that's loaded with lip-smacking red cherry flavors, and the 2009 Reserve Malbec (about $36) a huge, inky malbec with smoky blackberry flavors perfectly balanced by supple tannins and brisk acidity.
Sievers can also be found at his own El Corazon Winery making delicious red and white wines at a funky, laid-back tasting room in downtown Walla Walla.
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.