TCWS Board of Directors, Event Co-Chair
A&A Motorcoach was a big draw signing up for this trip; however, many also came to find out more about one of our scholarship recipient schools, Walla Walla Community College. Our scholarship supports students in the enology and viticulture program at College Cellars. In fact, the college won the “best-of-show” award at the Tri-Cities Wine Festival the past 2 years. Not only was College Cellars the first wine school to win best of show in the festival’s 40-year history, it was the first winery to win the award 2 consecutive years.
Tim Donahue, director of winemaking and enology instructor, spoke about the program and students. Highlights were: it is a hands-on program from day one; the tuition is kept affordable; there is training in all aspects of the winery business; and, there is an on-the-job internship and a very high rate of employment at the end of the 2-year program. Our most recent scholarship recipient, Adam Shelden, is currently the production winemaker for Foundry Vineyards and plans to attend WSU’s viticulture and enology program this fall. Tim paraphrased Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar when he said he was training students to "push the guy ahead of you and pull the guy behind you." This is his philosophy for the college program.
After our tour of the college’s winemaking facility and some barrel tasting, we sat down to a most delicious lunch prepared by the college’s culinary program students. Jay Entrikin, director of culinary arts, along with Chef Ian and many students, came up with a wonderful food pairing for the 6 wines. The Halibut Escabeche, paired with a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2017 RVM (Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne) lagged slightly behind the Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib as a favorite pairing. The beef was paired with 2 different 2015 Cabernet Sauvignons, one from fruit from the college-owned, 10-year-old Stan Clark Vineyard, and the other from 35-year-old Seven Hills Vineyard fruit. This made for an interesting comparison for the students and us as well.
Many purchased bottles of wine were stowed on the bus. Only the promise of chocolate allowed the bus to be re-boarded for our ride downtown! There, people made individual choices for their 2-hour visit. They ranged from antique stores and the Walla Walla Bread Company to d’Oliveri for olive oil and vinegar sampling. Wineries visited varied also: DAMA Wines; Kontos Cellars; Bontzu Cellars; Forgeron Cellars; Spring Valley Vineyard; Charles Smith Wines; Cadaretta; Bledsoe Family Winery; and, Browne Family Vineyards were among the tasting rooms visited.
To note – there are tasting room changes in downtown: g.Cuneo Cellars is moving to the former space of Spring Valley Vineyard. Spring Valley is taking over the g.Cuneo space and punching through a wall to allow Lagana Cellars to expand. DAMA Wines has moved into a new space a few doors from its former space. And, there may be more changes. Suggestion: Go for a visit!
All the comments received regarding the bus trip were very positive. They ranged from, “Excellent” and “Informative” to “Friendly,” “Relaxed,” “Enjoyed,” “Good company,” and, “This was one of the best wine events we’ve attended. We enjoyed all the snacks and great company!” So, in conclusion, this is an event the wine society should repeat!