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!

Five Ways to Have a Wine-Infused Thanksgiving

Last year, we wrote about our favorite Thanksgiving day wine pairings. After all, a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner needs a great wine to make it truly ideal. However, there’s another great way to kick up your Thanksgiving meal a notch: infuse your food with its perfect pairing. Here are our favorite ways to incorporate wine into your Thanksgiving Day dinner!

1. Make that turkey meat even more luscious with a bottle of Walla Faces Cabernet. Place the turkey breast-side-up in a shallow roasting pan. Make a hole in the skin at the top of the breast. Fill a turkey baster with half a cup of Cabernet Sauvignon and drench your beautiful bird with wine. After that, cook as you normally would.

A Thanksgiving meal and a bottle of wine

Make a place for Walla Faces wine in your Thanksgiving meal!

2. When making stuffing, substitute a cup of chicken broth for a cup of Walla Faces Fusion Red. The smooth cherry flavors will add a layer of depth and sophistication to your final product.

3. Poached pears are a great way to add a bit of light fruitiness to a heavy Thanksgiving meal. Poach them in a medium sized saucepan filled with a bottle of Walla Faces Riesling, a cup of sugar, and a split vanilla bean for an extra treat.

4. In addition to gravy, whip up a red wine sauce with a bottle of Walla Faces Syrah to serve over your mashed potatoes. We love this one by by FineCooking.com. Even better? The sauce can be made a few days in advance so it won’t take up any extra precious minutes on Thanksgiving Day.

5. The Walla Faces 2008 Riesling Ice Wine is the perfect pairing for pumpkin pie. Help them mesh even better by adding a few tablespoons of ice wine your homemade whipped cream after whipping it up!

Feeling inspired? Head over to our store to grab all the Faces wine you need for a scrumptious meal.

May your Thanksgiving be delicious, merry, and full of wine!

The History of the “Walla Walla Inns at Historic Downtown”

The Walla Faces Inn at Historic Downtown is housed in one of the oldest, most prominent buildings in Walla Walla: the Hungate Building.

Erected in 1905, this building has stood on as Walla Walla has progressed from a rural farming town to a bustling, elegant destination.

The Washington Territory was created in 1853 and Walla Walla County was created a mere year later. Subsequently, the city of Walla Walla was laid out by the surveyor H. H. Chase in 1859. The property is a part of the oldest patent in Walla Walla, dated from 1861, which was before Walla Walla was incorporated as a city. Its first owners were A. J. Cain, the newspaper financier and Walla Walla prosecuting attorney who was known as “the Father of Columbia County”, and A. H. Reynolds, who established Walla Walla’s first bank. The area housed a grain warehouse in 1884, an agricultural supply store in 1888, and a blacksmith shop in 1894. Although these small businesses fit the needs of the rural farming community, some local businessmen had grander ideas.

In 1903, the property was purchased by Harrison H. Hungate, an educated farmer who served as the Walla Walla County treasurer. The area that now houses a bustling downtown was rows of stables and Hungate had to seek permission of the livestock owners to build his two-story building. As soon as the ink was dry on his contract, Hungate got to work.

Hungate employed an architect named Henry Osterman, a German immigrant who designed many of the prominent buildings in Walla Walla, including the Whitman College Administration building, Green Park Elementary, Sharpstein Elementary, Liberty Theater, and Carnegie Library.

Osterman immigrated to the United States in 1889, where he worked as a carpenter. On the side, he designed his own house and learned to speak English. His skilled work garnered so much attention that he was able to open an architectural firm in 1899. According to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Osterman designed “practically all the important business and office buildings in the city, together with many of the finer residences”.

The exterior of the Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla

The Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla, home to Walla Faces

Construction began in 1904 and the Walla Walla Hotel was finally erected in 1905 with the same address that the Walla Faces Hotel at Historic Downtown holds today: 214 East Main. When Hungate died in 1916, his daughters split inn property equally. It was kept in the family until 1972, when its ownership again came into flux. The Hungate Building hosted a variety of short-lived businesses ranging from ice cream to barber shops.

Rick and Debbie Johnson, the Walla Faces owners, purchased the Hungate Building in 2005, continuing the building’s historical tradition as one of the most prestigious hotels in the Walla Walla Valley.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out our Hotels page for more information about the Hungate Building’s latest evolution and to make a reservation!

The 2013 Fall Teaser

It’s fall! The leaves have turned and are fluttering off the trees, and wineries around the Walla Walla Valley are preparing to open their doors and cellars for the big event this weekend: the 2013 Fall Release!

Here at Walla Faces, we’re busy preparing for our next release, in spring 2014. However, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate, so this weekend, we’re inviting you to our 2013 Fall Teaser!

We’ll be hosting a cozy reception at our downtown tasting room and art gallery this Saturday, November 2nd, from 3 to 6 pm. For your typical $5 tasting fee (free for our wine club members, of course), you can taste a sample of our work-in-progress 2012 Estate Syrah and our soon-to-be-bottled 2012 Tempranillo.  Tempranillo is a diverse food-pairing wine with great flavors of cherry and plum followed by a little vanilla and clove.  This wine pairs beautifully with lasagna, pizza and other tomato-based sauces.

Come chat with our assistant winemaker, Victor De La Luz.  You’ll enjoy his charismatic personality and stories of this year’s harvest.

We’ll also have some tasty tidbits of  luscious chocolates filled with the 2009 Estate Syrah, “Bill,” and samples of various cheeses paired with our current wines.

A small plate of chocolates beside a glass of red wine

Wine and chocolate–a heavenly pairing for our Fall Teaser!

This weekend’s your only chance! Stop by the downtown tasting room, at 216 E Main St., and celebrate Fall Release with us!

Fall Teaser – Event Details

  • What: 2013 Fall Teaser
  • Where: Walla Faces Downtown Tasting Room and Art Gallery, 216 E Main St.
  • When: Saturday, November 2, 3-6pm
  • Cost: $5 per person
  • Details: Meet our assistant winemaker, Victor de la Luz, sample our upcoming Tempranillo, and try nibbles of Bright’s Syrah-filled chocolates and premium cheese.

Why start a tasting with red wines?

If you’ve dropped by the Walla Faces tasting room, you may have noticed something a little unconventional about our tasting order: we start with our red wines and move to our whites. Usually, when you do a wine tasting, it’s the other way around entirely! So, what is the benefit of moving from red to white wines?

Although the order may seem unusual, the reason we, at Walla Faces, go from red to white comes from traditional wine tasting sequences. There are two classic orders for wine tasting. Firstly, people move from light wines to heavy wines. Because tannins can build up in your mouth, ending a tasting on richer, heavier wines prevents any residual tannins from tainting your impression of a lighter, more playful wine. The second classic tasting order involves starting with dry wines and ending with sweet wines. Moving from a sweet wine to a dry wine can cause the drier wine to taste comparatively sour. Thus, it’s usually best to “end on dessert”.

For many wineries, these two orders are the same. For example, a winery might start a tasting with a dry Chardonnay and end on a sweet, heavy Port. For us, they are not the same! We have a sweet, light dessert wine: our 2008 Ice Wine.

A Walla Faces wine tasting moves from red to white!

A Walla Faces wine tasting moves from red to white!

We’ve adjusted the traditional wine tasting order to really showcase the wines that we make, moving through the wines the same way you might move through a meal. We start with our ‘appetizers’, which are our lighter, smoother reds: the 2008 Fusion Red and the 2009 Syrah. We move to our ‘entrees’, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2008 Reserve Cabernet. Finally, we end on our ‘desserts’, the 2010 Riesling and 2008 Riesling Ice Wine. Within the red wines, we stick to the classic ‘light to heavy’ order. However, by moving from red to white, we don’t affect our palettes by putting sweet wines ahead of their dry counterparts.

The “whites to reds” order is usually a good rule of thumb. However, it is sometimes necessary to adjust a rule to fit wines you want to highlight!

Wine Grapes Vs. Table Grapes: A Comparison

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting our vineyard just before harvest, you might be surprised at the dramatic differences between wine grapes and table grapes (the grapes you might buy in the grocery store)! Although both wine grapes and table grapes are the same genus, Vitis, they have many disparate characteristics.

Wine grapes are always one particular species of grapes: Vitis vinifera. This is a species that is native to the Mediterranean region, ranging from central Europe to northern Iran. Table grapes, on the other hand, vary. Some table grapes, such as Red Globe grapes, are also Vitis vinifera. Others are a cousin of the traditional wine grape. Concord grapes, for example, are Vitis labrusca, a vine that is native to the Eastern United States.

Table grapes and wine grapes have been selectively bred for different qualities, meaning that the grapes are pretty dissimilar! In comparison to table grapes, wine grapes are very, very small, closer to a centimeter in diameter. They have very thick skins, which will ultimately impart a lot of flavor onto the wine. Table grapes tend to have thin skins that are easier to munch on, meaning they’ll pop delightfully in your mouth. Wine grapes also have big seeds, which take up a huge part of the fruit. As a result, when you bite into the thick skin of a wine grape, they’ll sploosh open, leaving you with a big, hard seed.

Table grapes vs. wine grapes Walla Faces

Table grapes vs. wine grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Faces vineyard)

Wine grapes are also much sweeter than table grapes, since that sugar is necessary for fermentation. Wine grapes are harvested when they are around 22-30% sugar. Table grapes might be closer to 10 or 15% sugar.

In addition to the genetic differences between wine grapes and table grapes, the vines are also treated differently. The T-shape of the grapevines maximizes their exposure to the sun. Table grapes use a trellis system in which the grapes hang under the vines. They get less exposure to the sun this way, but they don’t rub against each other. This increases the amount of fruit they can produce, yielding up to thirty pounds of grapes per vine. (For comparison, wine grape vines would be lucky to get to ten pounds!)

Worldwide, there are 75,866 square kilometers dedicated to grapes. A solid 71% of these grapes are used for wine. 27% are consumed fresh fruit and 2% as dried fruit. Thus, it seems that even though wine grapes aren’t as delicious right off the vine, their unique characteristics make them the more popular of the two!

Restaurant Spotlight: Whoopemup Hollow Cafe

Opened in 2005, Whoopemup Hollow Cafe has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the tastiest culinary experiences in the Walla Walla Valley. Their Cajun-inspired Southern menu draws Walla Walla residents and tourists alike to the sleepy town of Waitburg, a tiny municipality that is northeast of the Walla Walla city limits.

The four owners, Ross Stevenson, Valerie Mudry, Bryant Bader, and Leroy Cunningham,  each bring a different skill set to the table. Stevenson, Mudry, and Bader got their start in the fine dining industry in Seattle. “Between the three of us, there’s probably 100 years of restaurant experience!”, Stevenson notes. Cunningham’s specialty is woodwork and interior design. With Bader as the chef, Mudry as the pastry chef, and Stevenson and Cunningham working out of the kitchen, the Whoopemup Hollow Cafe works like a well-oiled machine, with four hard-working owners. “We’re all from the school of hard knocks,” Stevenson observes.

Stevenson and Cunningham originally came to Waitburg to open a B&B. When Mudry and Bader came to visit, the Whoopemup dream was born! The Cajun inspiration came from the passions of the chefs. Although none of the four owners are from the South themselves, Stevenson assures me, “We like to eat it and we like to cook it!” The delicious and unique menu certainly draws a crowd. “When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to be something out of the ordinary to make people want to visit you,” says Stevenson. (The restaurant is a little bit off the beaten path; it’s about a half an hour drive from the Walla Faces Inn at Historic Downtown.)

 

Luckily, the fantastic food more than makes up for the trip. My personal favorites include the Boudin-Stuffed Beignets and the Sausage and Chicken Gumbo. If you can save room for dessert (a hard task), your socks will surely be knocked the rest of the way off! Each dessert is not only sumptuous and delicious, it’s a bonafide work of art.

The rich farming community of the Walla Walla Valley ensures that the Whoopemup Hollow Cafe’s food always tastes its best. “We get as much local produce as we can,” says Stevenson. Fruits and vegetables come from a local farmer in Dayton. Their andouille sausage comes from the award-winning local butcher, Blue Valley Meats. Cheese is purchased from Monteillet Fromagerie, a farmstead artisanal cheese facility in the Walla Walla Valley who produce goat and sheep cheeses. Steaks hail from Painted Hills, a grassfed beef pasture in Fossil, Oregon.

Whoopemup is definitely a place to relax with some delicious food. As the menu reads, “Sit back and relax; you’re in WAITSburg!” Stevenson adds, “Come to have a good time. We’ve all been in fine dining for so long… I just want to have a good time and serve some delicious food!” It’s awfully difficult to argue with an invitation like that.