Good wines certainly make visiting a winery worthwhile. And connecting with warm, friendly people along the way who welcome you in and treat you like family? For me, that’s the icing on the cake.
A recent visit to Robison Ranch Cellars in Walla Walla left me with just that impression. As a pair of retirees from the San Francisco Bay area, Brad Riordan and his wife, Ruth, launched their winery in 2008 after Brad elevated his winemaking skills from hobby status by completing Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture Program.
The Riordans partnered with the wheat-farming Robison family to establish the winery at a ranch the Robisons have been operating since 1918.
The tasting and barrel rooms are housed in an expansive metal building that Brad refers to as “the old shallot shed,” and wines are poured at a tasting bar that was once owned by the now-defunct Yellow Hawk Winery. Outdoor patio seating amidst containers brimming with flowers is also available.
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If this all sounds like a folksy, bucolic and serene setting in which to enjoy a glass of wine, it most definitely is.
The Riordans’ grapes are primarily sourced from Walla Walla Valley’s Dwelley Vineyard and Airport Ranch Vineyard near Yakima. Their annual production of about 800 cases appropriately places their gem of a winery squarely in the mom and pop/boutique category.
Here are my tasting notes on a few current releases:
2013 Viognier (about $19) – Gentle aromas and flavors of Bosc pear, stone fruits and green apple dominate this stunning white wine. The off-dry finish gives it a slightly lingering finish. Easily one of the best Washington viogniers I’ve tasted from this vintage.
2012 Eye of the Pheasant Pinot Gris (about $19) – Fermentation on the skins for 24 hours gives this refreshingly different wine a pale salmon hue. It opens with a splash of ruby red grapefruit before developing more of an herbaceous quality with lemongrass accents and a pleasant, light touch of celery seed on the extreme finish.
Non-Vintage Dinner Bell Red (about $19) – Spanning three vintages, this tasty, four-varietal blend is a lighter body-style red that’s perfect for everyday enjoyment. Delicious red cherry and berry flavors fill the glass on the way to a soft, velvety finish.
2009 Cuvée (about $27) – This cabernet sauvignon-based red, along with equal parts merlot and syrah, can easily be paired with anything beef. Black cherry, currant, and blackberry flavors are backed up with sturdy tannins that suggest ample aeration or additional cellaring.
Robison Ranch Cellars is a five-minute drive north of downtown Walla Walla, and currently open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. For more information and to order wines, call 509-301-3480 or visit robisonranchcellars.com.