we still love Rattlesnake Hills’  Hyatt the best–I’m sipping on some now.

Today, Bill and I spent five hours driving from Boise to Walla Walla, most of the time listening to a recorded version of the Hunger Games. Although we’ve tasted wine all over the world, for some reason we’ve never made the effort to get to Walla Walla for a tour. And truth be told, we didn’t have much time this afternoon, but we’d done a little research and had our hearts set on tasting at a few specific wineries.

Before I give you the detailed lowdown on two of my new faves, let me share what I learned today. Every single time I go wine tasting, I learn something new about wine-making, or a specific varietal, or the wine industry. Here are my newly acquired facts as of today:

  • Carmenere grapes, originally from the Bordeaux region in France, are “hard grapes to work with.” Bill and I were surprised by this because in Chile we drank Carmenere wine almost exclusively. I erroneously assumed they were a hardy grape since they survived near extinction and then turned up so plentifully in South America.
  • Reds grow well in the Walla Walla region, but wine makers in Walla Walla get their white wine grapes from the Columbia and Yakima Valleys.
  • Walla Walla wines are hella expensive. It’s important not to feel guilty if you decide not to buy a bottle after you’ve already paid the $5 tasting fee.

So now for the wineries.  We discovered a couple of gems and tasted plenty of fabulous wine.

DaMa Wines: We chose to visit this winery because this is a girl-powered business. Dawn and Mary (thus, DaMa, for the first letters in each of their names), and their business manager Judith, make, market, and sell their wines with the help of a fluffy white dog named Grace. If you want to give them a try, they’ll ship you a bottle or two. I liked the:

 

  • Chardonnay, a fresh, fruity, not overly oaked wine with notes of apricot. At $21, it’s a good value for Walla Walla.
  • Cowgirl Cab, which is actually 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot. I picked up a taste of those chocolate covered cherries you always get from people who don’t know you well at Christmas. I love those things. I missed the price on this one but I think it was in the low 30s for a bottle.
  • Merlot. Yum. We bought a bottle of this for $25. Smooth and sultry. You should try it.

Spring Valley Wines. OK, this was a chance to taste wines we would never buy, but you may be less frugal than we are, so I felt I should sacrifice myself in the service of those who can slap down $50 for a bottle without blinking. All of Spring Valley’s wines are red, and all of them are 2009 vintage. They’re named after family members and are to be tasted with the benefit of the whole family history. They are fabulous, complex, and rich–each.

  • Mule Skinner Merlot.
  • Uriah Bordeaux Blend.
  • Katherine Cabernet Franc.
  • Derby Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Fredrick Blend (Cab/Franc/Merlot/Petit Verdot/Malbec)
  • Nina Lee Syrah

Interestingly, we learned that the Uriah Blend is actually sold in a gas station in Bellingham. What the flip? A gas station?

We rushed out of town by 2pm because we wanted to get to Zilla by 4:00 so we could spend a little time at Hyatt Vineyards. As I mentioned above, Bill and I love Hyatt wines. We discovered them at the liquor store down the street from our house, of all places. Since we don’t drink hard liquor, we didn’t have much occasion to visit the State liquor shop, but one day we wondered to one another if they carried wine, and we wandered in. We found a Hyatt 2005 Cab for about six bucks and took it home. And loved it. You don’t often find a really good wine for a really good price.

For a couple of years, we’ve enjoyed shopping at the liquor store down the road. And then 1183 put all the State liquor stores out of business, and we’ve had trouble finding our favorite wine.

Today we bought a case at the winery!

We made a couple of other stops today, but these are the three most memorable. What are your favorite wines, friends? Don’t be stingy, share what you know. Cheers.