When we first planned our visit to Washington State wineries for the 2010 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we decided to arrive a day early and stay a day late, so that we could visit wineries along the way to Walla Walla. At the first WBC (2008) in Sonoma, there were several winery visits and a few break-out sessions. Last year, the 2009 conference planners packed amazing visits to many, many wineries in Napa and Sonoma, and left out the break-out sessions due to previous lack of attendance and/or popularity.
This year, it looks like a large portion of the conference will be devoted to break-out sessions. Although the agenda suggests plenty of opportunity for tasting Washington wine, most of the actual visits to wineries away from the host hotel are separate, added fee pre- and post conference events. Lucky for us, Another Wine Blog won a spot on the WBC-or-Bust Road to Walla Walla Tour. This means we shall see plenty of wineries on the way to Walla Walla, as well as spend some time in Woodinville, Yakima Valley and Seattle. Unfortunately, the tour also changes the dates we will be able to travel. And due to logistics in getting back to Seattle from the post-excursion, we simply will not be able to visit the Red Mountain AVA with the post-excursion group. It’s a shame, because we were really looking forward to it.
The Red Mountain AVA
Established in 2001, the Red Mountain AVA is an over 4,000 acre area, with over 700 vineyards currently planted. Located on the eastern edge of Yakima Valley, the “mountain” is more of a steep slope, which faces southwest near the Yakima River. Many Washington wineries source their grapes from Red Mountain, which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Many wineries occupy the area, with the Washington Wine Commission listing “over 15” currently on their website. They also provide a map (click here for map), with the names and locations of the wineries.
According to the website, the post-conference excursion registration closed yesterday. But we have two seats to give away! Here is what the event promises to include:
Bloggers will take a coach from Walla Walla to begin at Col Solare, a joint venture between Chateau St. Michelle and the Antinori Family. Vineyard manager Kevin Corliss, winemaker Marcus Notaro and Manager Wendi Warner will guide you through their wines and vines.
You’ll continue through the “sea of vines” accompanied by a group of Red Mountain growers and winemakers, to ensure some one-on-one time for questions and anecdotes. This vineyard walk is about one-mile and is level to downhill for the most part. Participants should be prepared for the walk with proper footwear appropriate for walking on uneven vineyard soils, a sun hat and sunscreen. Transportation will be provided to those who are unable to make the walk. The group will make their way to the Hedges Family Estate where National Sales Director Christophe Hedges will share information on biodynamics and how it matters to their family’s wines.
We’ll wend our way across the vineyards to Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Ciel is one of Washington state’s most influential and exciting vineyards and Red Mountain pioneer Jim Holmes, accompanied by fellow pioneers from Kiona’s William’s family will lead the group through some exercises that highlight the soil and trellising.
The bus will collect you and take you to Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyards for an evening with owners and winemaker Keith and ReNae Pilgrim and you’ll learn what Red Mountain wines are able to age in a way that makes them standouts among wine. Finally, member wineries and grapegrowers of the Red Mountain AVA Alliance will pouring their wines for you at a Grand Tasting and will then join you for dinner and conversation at sunset on the patio along with our dinner sponsors, Tri-City Visitor and Convention Bureau.
If you’re interested in using one or both of our seats for the Red Mountain AVA excursion on Sunday, June 27th, please contact us ASAP, so we can pass your names along to the WBC folks in charge of the event.
See you in Walla Walla!
*Winner must be registered for the sold-out Wine Bloggers’ Conference