Willamette Valley OR. and Walla Walla WA. Wine Tour
by Marla Brady
While enjoying Washington and Oregon wines at the February Trilogy Wine Club event, I asked our table mates and Trilogy neighbors if any had been to those areas. To my surprise, no one had been to OR or WA wineries except my husband and me. Thus, our trip to Willamette Valley and Walla Walla began to take shape.
The most challenging part was finding 13 days where three couples were free to travel! We found two weeks right after Labor Day and the rest of the planning fell quickly into place as each couple took on travel coordination tasks. We decided to do house rentals in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla and Moab so we could enjoy cooking in some nights and the joy of spending time together.
Finally, on Wednesday September 4, 2019 at 5:59 AM, we took off in our 12- passenger rented van. Why travel if you don’t have room to bring home wine??? Travelers included Karan Schmitz and Bernie Binder; Karen and John Edelen; Marla Brady and Kerry Gust. We were adamant to stop every two hours for a quick walk about and a bio break. We carried plenty of water onboard as well as snacks and pillows.
At the end of our second LONG day of travel (driving shared by 4 drivers), we arrived in Salem, Oregon. The next morning found us at a great market and butcher shop loading our large Costco cooler with supplies for the coming days. As we were only about an hour from Dundee, we decided to take in three Salem wineries before heading that way: Witness Tree has changed hands and was a disappointment from prior experiences; Cristom and Bethel Heights were enjoyable. The wine purchases began!
All our Willamette Valley winery visits were reserved in advance. This ensured we could get into popular sites as well as make the best use of our time. In all cases, we were openly welcomed and our table for six was awaiting us. We also found taking a light lunch with us to enjoy at a winery ensured we did not get too hungry. In general, Willamette Valley excels in Pinot Noir wines, but had plenty of white and other red wines to satisfy everyone.
A favorite in the Willamette Valley was Archery Summit where we enjoyed a private tour. Our guide was knowledgeable and generous with the pours! Other wineries visited were:
Shea Wine Cellars Lange Estate Winery and Vineyard Domaine Drouhin Patricia Green Bergstrom Penner Ash
We stayed at the Archery Summit Guesthouse, which is in Dundee. The house sits surrounded by vineyards and has a great view of the Willamette Valley. We would highly recommend it. The kitchen was roomy for shared cooking and who doesn’t love a firepit to sit around and have your coffee around on a cool morning?
We did have a birthday to celebrate and thus we went to two higher end restaurants that we would recommend: Joel Palmer House and Jory at the Allison Inn. Reservations are needed at both well in advance of your arrival.
After three nights in Dundee, we were on our way to Walla Walla. A stop at the Multnomah Falls was shortened due to pouring rain, but the falls were beautiful all the same. We stopped at the Mary Hill Winery along the Columbia River where the view is outstanding.
We arrived in Walla Walla to find our rental house better than imagined! The Cropp Mansion is over 130 years old and has been remodeled and updated beautifully. The Mansion could be haunted by a mischievous poltergeist that played a few tricks on some of us (I’m sure it wasn’t the wine we had for dinner). It is also walking distance from downtown Walla Walla and near a grocery store. The gourmet kitchen is a dream and we enjoyed sharing great food prepared by our fellow traveler and gourmet chef John!
We had two highlights in Walla Walla. The first was our private tour at Spring Valley Vineyard. We had a real treat as harvest started that morning and we got to watch the grapes being delivered and separated from the stems and leaves. The vineyard is located about a half hour from downtown Walla Walla; tours are free, and you must reserve (as we did with ALMOST all our Walla Walla wineries). Walking the vineyard grounds while sipping excellent wines at our own pace was a delight and we had many photo opportunities.
The second highlight was our Blending Experience at NorthStar. After a tour of the winery, we were led to the lower floor blending room were barrels of various red wines awaited us. After a bit of instruction, we each were set free to explore blending wines. More Cabernet? Less Merlot? How much Petite Verdot should I use??? We continued experimenting until we found a combination that we each loved. We then made the same blend into a 750ml size; bottled; corked and labeled our unique bottle of wine! It was more fun than any of us expected.
Other Walla Walla wineries visited were:
Gramercy L’Ecole Kontos Long Shadows Woodward Canyon
After leaving Walla Walla, we traveled to Moab of a couple of days and then stopped by Monument Valley. We returned safely to Trilogy after travelling 3,378 miles. We returned with 186 bottles of wine. And we all agreed that we returned all TOO SOON and that we are BETTER FRIENDS NOW THAN WHEN WE LEFT!
For more information on our trip, please contact any of us.