Walla Walla is one of my favorite wine destinations in Washington, one that I try to visit every year.
But despite the nice, and usually drier, change of scenery, the six hour-plus drive can be a sticking point. And there are accommodations, meals and fuel costs to add to the mix. When you consider all of the time and finances involved, it's not as simple as just loading up the vehicle and taking off.
Fortunately, as many of you know, the Woodinville area has become a mecca of tasting rooms for wineries based in Eastern Washington. And Walla Walla has become well-represented among the dozens of wineries that use the Seattle suburb as a second location.
Woodinville can be reached from Bellingham in less than 90 minutes, traffic permitting. It makes for a great day trip, or overnight stay, where you can experience a taste of Walla Walla at a fraction of the cost.
Walla Walla-based wineries with outlets in Woodinville include Cougar Crest Estate Winery, Dusted Valley Vintners, Forgeron Cellars, Isenhower Cellars, Otis Kenyon Wine, Patit Creek Cellars, Pepper Bridge Winery, and Trust Cellars.
Here's a smattering of wines I've recently sampled from a few of those wineries:
Cougar Crest 2010 Viognier (about $20) features generous aromas and flavors of peach and nectarine along with a pleasant tinge of orangey citrus. This well-polished, full-bodied white wine closes with a soft, round finish, and should pair nicely with poultry, crab or lobster.
Isenhower Cellars 2011 Pink Paintbrush (about $15) looked a bit more burnt orange than pink, but that's a minor quirk. It's a delicious cabernet franc rosé featuring stone fruit and honeysuckle aromatics, along with bright flavors of strawberry, pie cherry and green melon. Sushi was the first food pairing that came to mind.
Forgeron Cellars continues to impress me with its broad range of well-made wines. A new trio of favorites includes the easy-drinking Walldeaux Smithie Red Wine (about $18), a nine-varietal combination brimming with red berries and touches of spice and white pepper; the 2011 Ambiance (about $26), an amazing white Rhone blend with peach aromas, juicy Bartlett pear flavors and a nutty, viscous finish; and the drop-dead gorgeous 2009 Syrah (about $30), with layers of blackberry, currant and bittersweet chocolate.
For more information on these and other wineries in the Woodinville area, check out woodinvillewinecountry.com.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.