This week and next week I will feature four Walla Walla wineries with some stellar current releases that should be on your "wines to try" list.
First up is Lodmell Cellars, which features a tasting room inside the Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown Walla Walla.
Winemaker Andrew Lodmell is a fourth-generation resident whose family settled in the area in the late 19th century. They own 30 acres of vineyards on the lower Snake River in Walla Walla County and give a nod to the region with a distinctive rendition of a coiled snake on the winery label.
The two Lodmell wines I tasted had an almost opulent quality about them, and yet the price point on these wines is amazingly reasonable.
A delicious 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (about $15) is viscous both in the glass and on the palate. The luscious pear, pineapple and guava flavors that lead off are accentuated by brighter fruits of green apple and Meyer lemon on the finish. This is a perfectly balanced, true-to-the-varietal white that performs best with ample chilling.
Rich plum aromas explode from the first pour of the 2007 Merlot (about $25). There are more plum flavors on the palate, along with layered dark fruits, sweet cedar and candied cherry that melt into an ultra-plush finish.
I had to do a double-take on the vintage date for this wine. It's not often you get the opportunity to find a seven-year-old merlot that's still available ... and drinking beautifully, I might add.
Tertulia Cellars is located south of Walla Walla near the Oregon border and features a contemporary facility with a very cool, semicircular tasting bar. Tertulia owns over 40 acres of vineyards on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the Walla Walla Appellation. They also source grapes from Phinny Hill Vineyards in Washington's Horse Heaven Hills region.
The two Tertulia wines I recently tried were, without a doubt, completely over-the-top.
From the winery's Whistling Hills Estate Vineyards, the 2012 Viognier (about $18) is blended with 25 percent roussanne. A pleasant aroma of fresh greens is followed by white peach and nectarine flavors to start, with a crisp finish of citrus and lemongrass. The texture transitions nicely from creamy to lean within the same sip.
I took a bottle of the wine to Keenan's at the Pier in Bellingham and tried it with the restaurant's mussels in saffron cream broth. The pairing of food and wine was sublime.
Another "wow" wine is Tertulia's 2009 Carménère (about $36). Big black currant, black plum and slightly chocolaty flavors are highlighted with touches of dried herb and white pepper on the finish. It's a stunning example of the excellent red wines produced in the Walla Walla area.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.