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!

The Season for Pink

Pink wine?  What?

This May, Walla Faces is adding a new wine to its lineup: the 2013 rosé.  This wine was co-produced by winemakers Rick Johnson and Victor de la Luz.  It is the color of a beautiful Charlotte Armstrong rose— bright, pink and fresh—and it absolutely sparkles inside a wine glass.  With fragrant notes of cinnamon and strawberry, this beautiful beverage will give you a whole new appreciation for pink!

We are certainly embracing pink ourselves here at the winery! In honor of the rosé, we have replanted the gardens, which are now blooming bright with fresh new flowers and roses celebrating our new favorite color.

What makes wine pink?

You’ve heard of red wine and white wine. But how did we make a rosé such a bright color of grapefruit pink? No, we didn’t just blend red and white wines together, as I might have guessed a year ago! The answer has to do with where a wine’s color come from. I once assumed that green grapes made white wine and red grapes made red wine. But this is only partially true. You do need red or black grapes for red wine.  But as it turns out, you can use dark-colored grapes for white wines too!

Well, how does that work?

The color of a wine is actually determined during the winemaking process. After grapes have been harvested, they’re crushed to release their juice.  Left in the juice are the grape skins and seeds, called pomace. For white wines, the pomace is quickly removed from the juice, but for darker wines, the pomace is allowed to soak in the juice.

To make a rosé, as you might have guessed, you take the middle road. Rather than immediately removing the pomace, and rather than letting it soak in the juice until it turns deep red, you allow the pomace to soak for a short amount of time—usually a day or less. The result is a wine that isn’t as pale as a white or as dark as a red, but somewhere between the two.

Why else are we excited about rosé?

Rosé isn’t from a specific grape or region; it’s just a genre of wine, like red or white. The biggest producers by volume are France, Spain (where it’s “rosado”), Italy (“rosato”), and the United States. Most rosé wines are blends of multiple grapes. Some of the most common grape varieties used in dry/European-style rosé are Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault, and Pinot Noir. The grapes that make up our rosé blend are typical of the rosés of the Provence region in France, but we’ve selected entirely North American grapes for the wine.

A rosé can represent the best characteristics of both red and white wines. For instance, some cheeses go better with white wine, some with red; yet almost all pair well with dry rosé, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red. Our rosé, which is a blend of Couinoise, Mourvedre, and Syrah grapes, is at once spicy and velvety smooth, with both savory and fruity notes. We think it will make a scrumptious pairing with a spicy barbecue sauce, making it perfect for spring and summer parties.

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. Long live pink!

Want to learn more about the creation of our rosé? Read about the winemaking process here.

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!

Restaurant Spotlight: Green Spoon

Take a short walk from the Walla Faces downtown tasting room down Main Street, and you’ll soon find a unique little restaurant decked out with stylish modern furniture, funky artwork and splashes of bright green. This is Green Spoon, a local restaurant that has, over the course of six years, worked its way into the heart of Walla Walla. Along with their stylish interior decoration, Green Spoon’s notable for its tasty New American cuisine!  We thought we’d show our love and support by letting you in on one of our favorite places to eat on Main Street.

Green Spoon wasn’t always the contemporary restaurant it is today. Owner and manager Katie Gonzalez originally opened Someone’s in the Kitchen to teach cooking classes, but as the venture expanded, the focus shifted to being a full time restaurant, with a menu that presents soups, salads and burgers in an upscale take on classic American diner cuisine. Although Katie’s background is in marketing, she launched into the planning of the menu with zeal and originality. She recently let me in on her process, saying, “I always know what I want the finished product to be, but we work a lot on trial and error by trying recipes until we arrive at that taste that’s just right.”

Although Green Spoon has seen a number of changes in its six-year life, including a name change, a relocation and changes in management, today, dining at the restaurant is nothing but smooth sailing. What’s more, Katie is still cooking up new additions to the menu. Lately, she and her team have been working on a Green Spoon take on a Juicy Lucy–a hamburger stuffed with cheese. The Green Spoon Juicy Lucy is dressed up with guacamole, Tapatío hot sauce, Pepper Jack cheese and jalapeños. Yum! Once the Juicy Lucy is refined, Katie and her team are planning to present a different iteration each week until they settle on a permanent rendition for the menu.

There’s more in the works for Green Spoon, too. The restaurant already pours Walla Faces wine for guests to enjoy with their meals, but with the new year, Katie is planning to add a full-service bar to the restaurant! The restaurant will begin by serving draft beers from area brewers and hopes to broaden into spirits shortly.

One of Katie’s favorite things about owning Green Spoon is “all the friends I’ve made through the restaurant. We’ve been here just long enough to see some people start dating, get married, become pregnant, and then the baby is eating with her parents at the restaurant.” Green Spoon’s warm atmosphere is the perfect place for a first date, a proposal, to take the kids, or all your friends; the eclectic and delicious menu is sure to please even the most picky eater.

Located at 13 E Main St., Green Spoon is open for lunch Monday-Saturday 11-3 and for dinner Thursday-Saturday 5-9. They also deliver until 8pm.  Give them a call at 509-876-2583.

A special note for our guests: Green Spoon will deliver to the Walla Faces Inns, at either the Downtown location or the Vineyard–perfect for a dinner around the pool!

Candice in Seattle

Where is Candice Johnson, you ask?

Some of you have mentioned you have noticed an absence in our tasting room over the last few months. Candice Johnson, the artist behind the wall of faces at Walla Faces, has moved to Seattle. You may already know that in 1992 Candice moved to Paris, France where she spent several years honing her style, studying with French artists, and developing the têtes—French for heads—that you see on our wine bottles, but now she’s shifted her focus to philanthropic enterprises. We thought we would take a minute to let you all know what she’s up to.

Candice Johnson at a tea shop

Candice enjoying some tea tasting!

Candice moved to Seattle to achieve her dream of working with “a nonprofit whose mission is to work towards inclusion — by ending homelessness, poverty, racism and educational inequalities.” Towards this end, Candice enrolled at University of Washington to study Fundraising Management, where she is learning how to conduct successful fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. At UW, she learned that she is what Harvard calls a tri-sport athlete: someone who has participate in for-profit, government and nonprofit work. And on top of that, we all know she has some great artistic skills!

One of Candice’s passions in Seattle is the city’s Downtown Emergency Service Center, or DESC. She appreciates that “they believe in housing first and then address the medical, mental and social problems of the homeless.” Instead of excluding those who have addictions or requiring them to undergo treatment, DESC provides housing for them everyone—though many who take up housing with DESC choose to give up their addictions. DESC’s housing first initiative resonated with Candice so much that she elected to spend her Thanksgiving helping at DESC’s Kerner Scott building.

A meal at DESC

Residents enjoy a meal at the DESC service center in Seattle

While we miss Candice here in Walla Walla, we are excited for this new stage in her life–though, probably not as excited as she is! Candice’s training at the University of Washington and her selfless volunteer activities are inspiring to all of us at Walla Faces, and we wish her the very best in Seattle.

To learn more about Candice, visit her website at www.candicejohnson.com.  Want to say hello?  You can reach her at candicerjohnson@gmail.com.  Cheers, Candice!

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!