Great Northwest Wine: Walla Faces is “Excellent”!

It’s always an honor to receive good reviews, whether for our hotels or our wine. This spring, Walla Faces won the TripAdvisor 2014 Certificate of Excellence for the second year in a row, and today, we’re excited to share two excellent reviews of our wine from Great Northwest Wine!

Great Northwest Wine is an online magazine about wine in the Pacific Northwest, featuring industry tidbits, news about wine, and wine reviews. The project of Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue, two seasoned journalists and wine writers, it updates daily with new content, and is a must-read website for wine enthusiasts, particularly those in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

We sent Great Northwest Wine two samples of our wine–a bottle of the 2012 Tempranillo and a bottle of the 2012 Estate Syrah. The reviews, we’re happy to say, were sparkling.

2012 Syrah and 2012 Tempranillo

The review of the 2012 Tempranillo compliments the choice of fruit–grapes from the “stellar” Stone Tree Vineyard in Wahluke Slope, WA. It describes the wine’s dark fruit flavors and the “splash of cola and creaminess” before settling on a final rating: “Excellent.” Similarly, the review of the 2012 Estate Syrah describes its aromas as “enticing” and its entry and finish as “rich”, and also rates the wine as “Excellent.”

We’re very honored to receive such praise, and want to congratulate co-winemakers Rick Johnson and Victor de la Luz, as well as consulting winemaker Chris Camarda, for a job superbly done!

A New Home for the Tasting Room

If you stroll down Walla Walla’s Main Street and stop at a familiar address, you may be in for a surprise: our downtown tasting room is empty!

Empty tasting room

Now that we’ve moved, the downtown tasting room sure looks empty!

After five years in the same place, we finally decided it was time to move to another location: our winery among the Walla Walla Incubators.

Five Years of History

Walla Faces has been at the downtown tasting room for quite some time. In November 2009, we poured some of our very first bottles of Walla Faces wine behind its doors–a 2006 Fusion, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2006 Syrah. We loved meeting all the different people who came to visit, from our hotel guests to Walla Walla locals, and everyone in between!

Crowd of people at Walla Faces

For more than two years, the downtown tasting room was a popular place for live music.

For a number of years, the downtown tasting room featured live music on a weekly basis. Many local musicians came out to play at the tasting room, drawing crowds and adding another hot spot to Walla Walla’s nightlife. Although the live music events were eventually discontinued, we were always happy to give back to the community in that way.

We see this move as an extension of that sense of community. Although we’re sad to leave the downtown tasting room, we’re excited to announce that its place on Main Street, as well as two other storefronts in the Hungate Building, will soon be filled by a variety of independent restaurants. We love Walla Walla’s rich variety of dining options, and are eager to see how these new businesses add to it!

(To assuage some concerns, if you’ve enjoyed staying at our downtown inn in the past, never fear: the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown haven’t gone anywhere.)

Our New Location

But we’re hardly done pouring tastes of our Walla Faces wine! Even though the downtown tasting room is closed, you can still sample and buy Walla Faces wine at our new location: the winery out near the Walla Walla Airport.

Walla Faces winery

Our new home: The Walla Faces winery!

Our tasting room at the airport is just a few minutes’ drive from both of our hotel locations–in fact, from the winery’s front door, you can see the green leaves of the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard. What’s more, since this building also houses our production facilities, while you enjoy a tasting at our new location, not only can you learn about our wine and the Walla Faces story, but you can also watch co-winemaker Victor de la Luz hard at work, carefully crafting Walla Faces’ future wines! A tasting out at the winery puts you at the heart of the Walla Faces experience, from vine to barrel to bottle.

Visiting Us

Our new tasting room is open every day from 11am-5pm, which makes it perfect for a number of different itineraries. If you’re staying at our downtown hotel, try starting your tastings off with a visit to the winery. Not only do our early hours make us perfect for starting a day of tasting, but our location at the airport, surrounded by other fantastic wineries, means you can follow up your Walla Faces visit with an assortment of other tastings before you head back into town! If you’re staying at the vineyard, it’s easy to make one last stop at Walla Faces on your way back to the inn–after all, we’re only two minutes off the highway!

And of course, as you’ll notice when you visit, there’s no shortage of beautiful views.

Golden wheat and blue skies

From the front door of the new tasting room, you can see fields and fields of golden wheat.

This is a big change for Walla Faces, but we’re excited for the new opportunities it presents. Join us at our new tasting room–we can’t wait to see you!

Visit us at the new Walla Faces Winery and Tasting Room!
598 Piper Ave., Walla Walla, WA 99362
Open daily 11am-5pm
(877) 301-1181

The Tale of Our Rosé

Spring Release 2014 will be an exciting event at Walla Faces for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the release of our very first rosé! We recently sat down and spoke to winemakers Rick Johnson and Victor de la Luz about the creation of this one-of-a-kind wine.

Choosing the Grapes

Our grapes glowing in the summer sun

Rick and Victor worked hard to find the perfect grapes for our first rosé.

Our rosé is a blend of three grapes: Counoise, Syrah, and Mourvedre. As Rick explained, the rosé was first modeled after the classic ‘GSM’ blend from the Rhône region of France, which uses Grenache instead of Counoise. But when it came time to buy grapes, all the vineyards he approached were out of Grenache! Instead, Rick and Victor sampled Counoise grapes, and fell in love, deciding to use them in place of Grenache. “In fact, next year, we’re contracting in advance for all of their Counoise!” he laughed.

Counoise (pronounced “coon-wahz”) is a rare grape in the United States. Typically grown in Provence, France, the Counoise grape was only recently brought to the U.S. from France—in 1990, California’s Tablas Creek Vineyard brought cuttings of the vine from Château de Beaucastel. Those Counoise vines had to stay in quarantine for three years before they could be used to produce new American Counoise grapes! Even after the first Counoise vines cleared quarantine, it wasn’t until 2000 that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms approved the new wine. Thankfully, by the time we were ready to make our rosé, all that hassle was behind us, and Counoise grapes were readily available in the United States.

This unique combination of grapes means our rosé has a one-of-a-kind flavor. The Counoise grape lends the wine a unique, spicy quality, but the Mourvèdre grapes temper that and create a smooth, velvety texture. Finally, the Syrah increases the wine’s savory notes and balances the wine’s flavor profile. And of course, the wine’s gorgeous grapefruit color absolutely sparkles inside a wine glass. It’s definitely not a wine to miss!

Making the Wine

Rick was more than happy to share with us the process of making the rosé.

Once the grapes were picked, their juice was extracted by using a free run process; we allowed the weight of the piled-up grapes to determine what juice came out. This juice went straight to the fermenters, where it had to be “pumped over,” or circulated, two times a day! Victor sure got tired doing pump-overs again and again.

Victor de la Luz pumping wine

Victor got exhausted pumping the wine over and over and over again!

After the free-run, the remainder of the grapes were crushed for a red wine. Meanwhile, the rosé-in-progress was fermenting away, and once it reached a sugar content of 1.25%, the fermentation was stopped.

The next step was stabilization, which helps give the wine its clarity. At this step, wines are often cold-stabilized—supercooled via expensive equipment. Rick and Victor, however, had a flash of inspiration, and dragged the tanks of rosé out into the frigid Walla Walla winter! “It was so cold,” Rick said, “that Mother Nature did the job for us.” Mother Nature was so eager to do her job, in fact, that they had to bring the wine back indoors before it froze!

From there, it was just a few more steps. The wine was heat-stabilized, filtered with Bentonite clay for three to four weeks, and then racked. Rick and Victor adjusted the sulfur, and then it was bottling time!

Clear glass bottles being filled with rosé

Bottling the rosé was an all-day process.

The Perfect Blend of Talent

Rick and Victor worked together on Walla Faces’ first rosé. “Rick’s much more about the science, and getting the right numbers, while I brought the experience,” Victor said. “It was always nice to have Rick behind me, pointing out the things I didn’t see.”

Both are pleased with the result. “We fell in love with Counoise because of its flavor and floral aromas,” Rick said. “The rosé highlights that.”

“I’m happy with it,” Victor said, taking a sip. “It has a dry, long finish, with a very good balance between the residual sugar and acidity.”

“It’s a sophisticated rosé,” he added. “I can’t wait to start working on next year’s.”

We’re excited to add this striking new wine to our lineup. Once it’s released in May, visit one of our Walla Walla tasting rooms or check out our online store to give it a try!  You’ll be glad you did!

L’Occitane en Provence

When you check in to one of our hotel rooms, you’ll soon notice that we don’t stock our bathrooms with no-name soaps or shampoos. We believe that our guests deserve the best, so we use L’Occitane en Provence health and beauty products in our suites.

L’Occitane, of course, makes high-quality products, which is one reason we’re proud to carry them. But in addition to that, the L’Occitane company is an example of a business dedicated to important social causes. Today, we’d like to share the L’Occitane story, so you can know more about the bath products we offer at Walla Faces.

A wide selection of the L'Occitane products we stock in our hotel suites

From soaps to fizzy bath cubes, we’re proud to offer a wide variety of L’Occitane products.

The Origins of L’Occitane

L’Occitane began in the tiny local markets of Provence, France. In 1976, founder Oliver Baussan, only 23 years old, reoccupied an old soap-making factory to follow his passion for traditional Marseille-style soap-making. Using a distillation still, he extracted the essential oils from wild rosemary and used it to make shampoo. A year later, L’Occitane expanded and reserved its very first harvest of lavender.

Four years later, Oliver began traveling the world, coming into contact with exotic new ingredients. He fell in love with the shea butter made in Burkina Faso, Africa and ordered a large shipment.

The little-company-that-could continued to expand, and in 1990 became a fragrance merchant. In 1992, L’Occitane en Provence opened its first boutique location in Paris, and by 1997, the company had also opened various other boutique fronts in other major cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Japan. As of 2012, L’Occitane had over 2,000 stores internationally.

A Brand with a Conscience

L’Occitane isn’t just committed to producing luxurious soaps and fragrances—it’s also dedicated to numerous social causes. For instance, in 2001, L’Occitane began a partnership with Orbis, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), to fight blindness in developing countries. The French company was even one of the first in the world to feature labeling in Braille on its bath products.

In 2006, L’Occitane created the L’Occitane Foundation. This philanthropic organization exists to support the blind and visually impaired, and to fight for the international economic emancipation of women. In particular, the L’Occitane Foundation supports efforts toward these goals in Burkina Faso, where Oliver Baussan first fell in love with shea butter. The United Nations Development Programme has even recognized L’Occitane as an “exemplary company”!

If that weren’t enough, L’Occitane also takes steps to encourage traditional cultivation of the ingredients in its products, doesn’t conduct animal testing, and purchases shea butter directly from women in Burkina Faso, earning their products the Ecocert “Fair Trade” certification. Clearly, L’Occitane is a brand with a conscience.

When you come to visit us in Walla Walla, you can feel reinvigorated by the indulgent L’Occitane products we feature, like zesty citrus verbena shampoo, or effervescent sugar cubes designed to make your baths that much more relaxing. But more than that, you can take comfort in the fact that the products you’re using come to us from Provence, France, home of a socially responsible brand!

Eager to enjoy a luxurious stay in our hotels? Learn more and make reservations here. For more information on the history of L’Occitane en Provence, check out their timeline and brand page.

Go Take a Hike!

Do you like to hike? If you do, then you’re in luck! Walla Walla’s surrounding area is full of gorgeous hiking routes and leisurely scenic walks—perfect for pairing with a weekend of wine tasting. After nearly four years living here, I’ve developed a few favorite hikes in Walla Walla and the surrounding area.

Harris Park

Just 14 miles south of Milton-Freewater, Walla Walla’s southern neighbor, is Harris Park. Although today, it’s owned and managed by Umatilla County, it actually began its life in the 1920s, as a Boy Scout camp owned by the Rotary Club of Walla Walla. About thirty years later, in 1950, most of the land was given to the County, and it was developed into a recreational area.

Today, the park features many different trails, which allow you to hike right along the Walla Walla River. On your hike, you’ll see various types of plants, breathtaking formations of ancient basalt, wonderful views of the river, and even spots to hop in and take a dip!

Harris Park is open from March to October 15th, weather permitting. You can learn more about the trails here or by visiting the Harris Park website.

Bennington Lake and Rooks Park

Want a mild hike? Take a ten-minute drive from our downtown hotel and check out Bennington Lake and its neighboring park, Rooks Park.

Bennington Lake is a recent addition to the Walla Walla landscape, all things considered. Back in the early 1900s, there was a great deal of concern about the possibilities of Mill Creek flash-flooding incidents—and in fact, in 1931, Mill Creek overflowed, spilling into the streets of downtown Walla Walla! The Army Corps of Engineers responded by constructing Bennington Lake, a man-made reservoir designed to protect both Mill Creek and the city of Walla Walla from dangerous flooding.

This man-made lake offers a wide variety of fun activities. Of course, there’s hiking—20 miles of multipurpose trails surround Bennington Lake provide the most scenic hikes in Walla Walla. But if you’re not in the mood for hiking, Rooks Park and Bennington Lake together offer picnic tables, a playground, BBQ grills, and even a sand volleyball court. And if you’re fond of fishing, you’re in luck—the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake with rainbow trout every spring!

The sun setting over a trail a Bennington Lake

The Bennington Lake trails offer gorgeous views at sunset.

Rooks Park is open year-round, from 7:00am until sunset. The Bennington Lake area is open year-round, from 5:00am until 10:00pm.

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls is a bit further than the two parks above, but it’s well worth the extra effort. Located about 90 minutes northeast of Walla Walla, the Palouse Falls State Park is named for the 200-foot waterfall it contains, which was designated Washington’s state waterfall in February 2014.

Not only is the waterfall an impressive sight, it’s also been the site of a hair-raising stunt. On April 21st, 2009, kayaker and adrenaline junkie Tyler Bradt descended Palouse Falls in a kayak, setting an unofficial world record for the highest waterfall descent! If you aren’t feeling like that much of a daredevil, though, you can take a hike around the Palouse River Canyon and bask in the beauty of the grand waterfall and its surroundings.

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls drops nearly 200 feet. It’s taller than Niagara Falls!

Palouse Falls is open from 6:30am until dusk in the summer, and 8:00am until dusk in the winter. You can learn more about it on the Washington State Parks website and on the Washington Trails Association site.

The Walla Walla Wheat Fields

Finally, if all else fails, you can always go for a leisurely stroll along the golden wheat fields just outside of Walla Walla!

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind? A romantic getaway with someone special? An elegant bottle of red wine? Or perhaps… chocolate? In recognition of the holiday, we’d like to take a look at chocolate—its history, the offerings here in Walla Walla and in our very own tasting room!

Although today, chocolate seems like the quintessential Valentine’s Day gift, its association with the holiday is actually fairly recent. St. Valentine’s Day has existed since the 1400’s, yet it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a Briton named Richard Cadbury introduced “eating chocolate” as a treat to share with one’s valentine. Almost 500 years of Valentine’s Day without chocolate—can you believe it? Naturally, once Cadbury introduced the idea of edible chocolates in lavishly decorated boxes, it took off. And today, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate can be found everywhere in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day!

One place to find delicious chocolates in Walla Walla is the legendary Bright’s Candies. Located in an historic building on Main Street, Bright’s has been hand-crafting candies and chocolates since 1934, and is a local favorite for everything related to sweets. Walk up to the counter and you’ll see rows and rows of handmade chocolates, as well as vintage glass jars filled to the brim with gummies and other candies. Love Jelly Belly jelly beans? A wall in the back of the store is loaded with every flavor imaginable. And for a cool treat during the summer months, Bright’s serves scoops of ice cream. You can even stick your nose to the glass and watch the master candymakers at work! You truly have to see it to believe it.

Of course, very little pairs with chocolate—or Valentine’s Day—like red wine. As part of Walla Walla’s “February is for Foodies” promotion, Walla Faces wine has conspired with Bright’s to produce scrumptious chocolate cordials infused with our 2009 Syrah, “Bill”. The rich, dark taste of the Syrah mingles with the smooth, sweet chocolate, producing an exquisite taste combination. We’re sure you’ll fall in love with them!

Through the entire month of February, each wine tasting will be coupled with a complimentary cordial. So if that sounds like your kind of treat, come visit us! We’re open every day from 1-6pm. From all of us at Walla Faces, we wish you a happy Valentine’s Day!

In Walla Walla, February is for Foodies

It may be cold and sunny in Walla Walla during February, but things are cooking here! Literally! Here in Walla Walla, it’s all about food and culture for this entire month. At least, that’s what the “February is for Foodies” promotion suggests, which is about to kick off its third annual iteration.

Started in 2012 as a way to promote local restaurants and wineries in the middle of the otherwise slow season, Tourism Walla Walla’s month-long promotion offers visitors a special glimpse of Walla Walla’s gourmet culture.

Many of the local restaurants are joining in the celebration by offering special menu items throughout the month of February. One of our favorites, T. Maccarone’s, is hosting a “Sommelier’s Valentine Wine Dinner” on Sunday the 16th. And for a breakfast or lunch option, Maple Counter Café is presenting White Chocolate Raspberry Pancakes, drizzled with their homemade Lemon Curd Anglaise. Oh my!

For home chefs who want to whip up delectable meals in their own kitchens, the Wine Country Culinary Institute, located at the Walla Walla Community College, will be offering cooking classes each Saturday during the month. For your $30 entry, you will enjoy instruction, a light lunch and wine tastings. This entertaining lunch will run from 11:30am – 1:30pm. For tickets, call Tourism Walla Walla at 509-525-8799.

Barb Commare, marketing and communications manager at Tourism Walla Walla, says she’s excited for the promotion to begin. “It’s so much fun putting it together and seeing the creativity of local businesses shine through.”

After three years of “February is for Foodies,” Barb has nothing but high hopes for the promotion’s future. “We want it to continue,” she says, “making it bigger and better every year.”

Of course, no celebration of Walla Walla’s food culture would be complete without wine! Many of the wineries will participate in the promotion by offering guests chocolates made locally, by chocolatiers such as Bright’s Candies, Alexander’s and Petits Noirs.

The complete list of this year’s “February is for Foodies” promotions can be found on the Tourism Walla Walla website, right here.

So, how is the weather, you ask? The weather has been quite nice this winter, with very little snow on the Snoqualmie Pass, traveling from Seattle, WA, and along I-84 from Portland, OR. Although this time of year is not known to be warm, we do have many sunny days here in Walla Walla and very little rain.

If you’re looking for something fun to do, something to entertain you, and possibly educate you, this might be just the adventure. Come and enjoy a day or two of food, wine, and fun–you might just discover your inner chef!

Holiday Barrel with Walla Faces

Every winter, Walla Walla wineries ring in the holiday season with one of the biggest events of the year: Holiday Barrel Tasting! On the first weekend of December, wineries across the valley open their doors for special events and samples of upcoming wines. Walla Faces is celebrating Holiday Barrel on Saturday, December 7th, and we want you to join us!

Come to the Walla Faces Winery on Saturday the 7th for an afternoon of good wine, good food, and good company. For your standard $5 tasting fee, you can meet some of the faces behind Faces, like co-winemakers Victor de la Luz and Rick Johnson! We’ll be pouring our normal full flight of six Walla Faces wines, plus we’ll have exclusive barrel samples of our upcoming 2012 Syrah, 2012 Tempranillo, and 2013 Rosé, all served up by Victor himself. Bottles of these wines won’t be sold for another few months, so it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity!

Co-winemaker Rick Johnson stands among barrels of Walla Faces wine

Co-winemaker Rick Johnson will be on hand to tell you the Walla Faces story from the vineyard to the bottle.

Victor and Barrel

Co-winemaker Victor de la Luz is eager to show off our barrels–and the wine in them!

In the mood for snacks? Treat your palate to scrumptious pairings, like gourmet cheeses, or cordials from Bright’s Candies, filled with our very own ’09 Syrah, “Bill”.

To top it all off, we’ll hold a drawing at 3pm, and the winner will go home with a free night at one of the Walla Faces Inns – your choice of the location! All of this, for only a $5 tasting fee. What better way to celebrate Holiday Barrel?

Wine Club Benefits

Members of our wine club not only get free admission to this event, but can also bring along up to three guests free of charge! This event is the perfect opportunity for wine club members to taste an early sample of the wine they’ll receive in their spring shipment.

If you aren’t a wine club member, it’s easy to sign up! Visit the Join Our Club page on our site or visit our downtown tasting room to learn more and join.

Holiday Barrel – Event Details

  • What: Holiday Barrel Tasting
  • Where: Walla Faces Winery, 598 Piper Way at the Walla Walla Airport
  • When: Saturday, December 7, 11am-4pm
  • Cost: $5 per person
  • Details: Taste sneak peeks of our upcoming Tempranillo, Syrah, and Rosé, enjoy wine-filled cordials from Bright’s and gourmet cheeses, meet the faces behind Faces, and enter to win a free night at one of the Walla Faces Inns!