A Message From Rick and Debbie Johnson

More than two years ago, Walla Faces began featuring live music as part of its “Arts” program.  We initially started with music one night a week and gradually built it to five nights a week this summer.  It has been a fun project and very rewarding to see all of the local talent play in our tasting room.   Many of our local performers have impressively grown and expanded their musical skills over the last couple of years.  I like to think we played a small part in that development by offering them our venue in which to play.

In addition to our many talented local performers, we have had many nationally known performers play in our tasting room.  It is hard to believe we had the likes of The Posies, Randy Hansen, Susan Gibson and many other nationally known performers play right here in Walla Walla.  And of course, the capstone and high point of the last two years was Walla Faces promoting and sponsoring Peter Frampton playing in Walla Walla at Cordiner Hall.  For me that will definitely be a life memory.

Along with the music program, Walla Faces has also grown.  Since we first opened our doors a little over two years ago, we have been pleasantly surprised about the acceptance of the Walla Faces wine brand.   Our wine sales have been growing.  Continued growth is going to require changes on our part to increase our production to meet demand.  Up until now, we have been sharing our wine making with another local winery.  We now are moving into our own winery out by the airport.  This move will help us to increase our production and have better control of our product.  It is also going to require more time on our part to monitor the wine and expanded production.

Starting November 1, we are going to have to suspend our music program for the near several months because of these new time constraints.    We hope to bring back music in one form or another in the future.  We are exploring many options to include music as part of our tasting room and winery experience.

We sincerely appreciate your warm support and hope to see you in the tasting room, or at the airport winery – especially when we have special events to share with YOU!  Please stop in and say hello!  We will be open downtown on a daily basis from 1-6pm.  We are working on our hours at the airport, but they will be mostly on the weekends.  Again, please do stay in touch!

Rick & Debbie Johnson and the entire Walla Faces Team

Why Walla Walla for Wine?

There are about 700 wineries in Washington state, making us second only to California in wine production. Over 100 of these Washington wineries are situated in the Walla Walla basin. So what helps our beautiful grapes grow so well in this area?

Walla Walla means “many waters” in the Native American language Sahaptin. These waters flow down to this small town at the foot of the Blue Mountains, irrigating the 1,800 acres of grapes that grown in the region. In addition to vineyards, Walla Walla is known for its orchards, wheat, and onions, all of which benefit from the amazing rivers that flow throughout the area. Because Walla Walla does not get much rainfall, growers can perfectly control the amount of water their grapes receive for the most delicious product.

Washington State
The complex history of the Walla Walla soil has also helped facilitate the wine industry. 15,000 years ago, glacial floods brought mineral-rich silt to the area. Heavy winds deposited a form of silt called loess into the soil, allowing for the perfect amount of drainage for the grapevines. Finally, volcanic eruptions covered the area in rich ash. Volcanic ash breaks down quickly and releases minerals when it is in contact with the sun, making it ideal for nurturing growing vines. (Indeed, most world-renowned wine regions, from Napa to France to Italy to Germany have benefited from volcanic ash in their soil.)

Cabernet GrapesBecause Walla Walla is on latitude 46°, just like the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France, it has long summer days and short, cool nights to create the perfect balance between sugar and acidity in the final wine product. Regardless of the stereotypes about Washington as a super rainy state, during the 200-day long growing season, Walla Walla has two hours more sunlight per day than California. Thanks to Walla Walla’s extended summer, grapes can be left on the vine longer than they can in most places. Walla Faces, for example, often doesn’t harvest until the middle of November.

It’s no wonder that Walla Walla has been producing some of the best wines in the country since in the mid-1980s.

The first grapes were planted in Walla Walla as early as the 1850s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the industry really began to take hold. Although Walla Walla originally gained notoriety for its Merlot, it is now producing some of the most delicious American Syrahs and Cabernets. 41% of the grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley are Cabernet Savignon, followed by Merlot and Syrah. These luscious reds should not be missed. Our delicious white-peppery Syrah, smooth Fusion Cabernet blend and fruit-forward Reserve Cabernet all benefit from the amazing region where they are grown.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling, Ice WineWalla Walla has even more to offer than the wine. Walla Walla has a myriad of upscale restaurants, a rich art and music scene, beautiful historic buildings, lush parks including a locally-run aviary, and a the longest-running symphony on this side of the Mississippi River.

If you want to visit these exceptional wine-growing conditions yourself, make your reservation at our hotel at the vineyard here.

Join us for “Jazz & Wine Among Friends”, a benefit to support Friends of Children of Walla Walla

Aug_24_2012Walla Faces is proud to participate in the 5th annual “Jazz & Wine Among Friends”. Proceeds for this event will go directly to benefit Friends of Children of Walla Walla.

Friends of Children of Walla Walla is a local non-profit that pairs children in Walla Walla with adult mentors. Participation in mentor programs can help children communicate effectively with their parents, decrease school absences, decrease drug use, increase academic performance, increase self-confidence and more.

The various venues are staggered so that entertainment will last from 4:30pm until midnight. Walla Faces is featuring Fork in the Road, a band featuring Dr. Mark Brown, the Executive Director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla.

The venues include:

4:30-6:30: Sinclair Estate Vineyards, 109 E Main St., featuring Gary Hemenway

6:30-9:00: Walla Faces, 216 E Main St., featuring Fork in the Road

7:00-9:30: Marcy’s, Colville & Alder St., featuring the Sound Money Band

8:00-10:30: Charles Smith Wines, 35 S. Spokane St., featuring the Crawford Glenn Band

9:00-12:00: Sapolil Cellars, 15 E. Main St., Franco Paletta & the Stingers

Tickets are $25 a person for all five venues. They can be purchased at the door of any of the venues, or by stopping at the Visitor Center on Main St.

There are also “Jazz & Wine Among Friends” events on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, check out the Friends website, here.

Pairing on Main, a benefit for the Providence St. Mary Cancer Center

granfondo3Walla Faces is excited to participate in the 8th Annual Providence St. Mary Gran Fondo: Pairing on Main. This event, created to benefit people with cancer, offers an amazing opportunity to taste dishes by some of Walla Walla’s best restaurants, paired with local wines. 100% of the proceeds go to the Special Needs Fund at the Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center in Walla Walla, which provides support ranging from medication to wigs to supportive undergarments for breast cancer patients. Join us on September 29, 2012 from 6-8:30pm for this inspiring celebration of our town that helps those of us most in need of assistance.

The Providence St. Mary Gran Fondo event is becoming a tradition, showing Walla Walla’s dedication to helping those in need. “Gran Fondo”, which means “the Great Ride” in Italian, is a European tradition that is perfectly captured when traveling across the beautiful eastern Washington landscape. The Pairing on Main, one component of the Providence St. Mary Gran Fondo, is the perfect way to admire the downtown area, getting the quintessential Walla Walla food and wine experience.

At each winery location, participants will have the opportunity to taste the wine and eat a small plate of perfectly paired food. Walla Faces will be matched with the Backstage Bistro.

backstage-bistroThe complete list of pairings includes:
Otis Kenyon/Green Spoon
Rotie Cellars/Brasserie Four
Chataeu Rollat/Aloha Sushi
DaMa Wines/the Marc
The Chocolate Shop/Bright’s Candy and Frosted
Sinclair Estates Vineyards/Graze
Walla Faces/Backstage Bistro

After the event, come back to Walla Faces and listen to our weekend music lineup. Ben Bullington, a Montana-based folk artist, will be playing in the Tasting Room until 9pm.

Tickets for the pairing on Main cost $40 each and can be purchased at the Cancer Center at 401 West Poplar St. They are only selling 150 tickets, so be sure to make your plans early!

In addition the Pairing on Main, Providence St. Mary has a series of other Gran Fondo events. More information about these can be found here.

Entry fees are half price for cancer survivors and for those who are still in treatment.

Not in Walla Walla? Alaska Airlines, who is sponsoring the event, is offering a special discount to get you to the Gran Fondo. Travel to Walla Walla via Alaska between September 26 and October 2 and get a 10% discount. For the discount, enter ECMU09 in the discount box.

The Women and Wine Book Club is reading the Book of Ebenezer Le Page.

le pageFor the uninitiated, the Women and Wine Book Club is our monthly meeting of some of the most fun ladies in Walla Walla. They get together, talk, eat delicious food, and discuss the monthly selection. It’s the perfect place to meet new friends, get wonderful suggestions for books, and, of course, have a glass of Walla Faces wine!

The book club meets on the third Tuesday of every month. The $25 fee includes the book of the month, a glass of wine, light snacks and great company.

This month, we are reading the Book of Ebenezer Le Page, a novel by Gerald Basil Edwards. This fictionalized autobiography follows Ebenezer Le Page as he lives out his life on the small island of Guernsey. Although the book was rejected by publishers repeatedly during the author’s lifetime, it was posthumously published to critical acclaim. William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, said, “To read it is not like reading but living.” Its compelling voice makes it the perfect choice for the August book club.

To join the book club, simply drop by the Tasting Room to grab a copy and reserve your seat. We are discussing the book on Tuesday, August 21, so there is still time to grab a copy and read it before the Women and Wine Book Club meets.

The icing on the cake? The books are purchased from Book & Game, a locally owned, independent bookstore. That means that attending the Walla Faces book club is the perfect way to support two local businesses in one step!

Interview with Paul Gregutt, wine writer and expert!

greguttIf you’ve been in the Washington wine industry for a while, then you know the name Paul Gregutt. Last week, we were lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Paul at his home in Waitsburg, where he lives and writes about wine full-time for the Seattle Times, Wine Enthusiast, and his personal blog. Easygoing, friendly, and modest, Paul and I talked about his journey as a wine writer, the ever-changing Walla Walla wine scene, and his tips on educating oneself about wine. While Paul is a great source of information about wine, he has other fun passions as well, like playing and composing music. In fact, Paul has played at the Walla Faces tasting room in the past!

When I walked into his yard on Friday, Paul and his friend Larry were playing guitar together out in the sunshine, and Paul explained that he first got into writing through music. Working at a radio station in western Washington for a couple of years opened up opportunities for Paul to write concert and music reviews in the area. From that point on, Paul worked as a writer and wrote about many different areas, from music to film to technology to travel. He didn’t really become interested in wine until a dinner party at a friend’s house where he had some great wine and decided to learn more about it. After years of reading, tasting, traveling, and talking to people about wine, Paul convinced his editor at the Seattle Weekly to let him write a wine column about 25 years ago – around the time wine in Washington started to take off. As of 12 years ago, Paul began writing about wine full-time with the Seattle Times (which he joined in 2002) and Wine Enthusiast. While Paul seems like the Washington wine authority now, he simply describes his career in wine writing as being the “right guy, at the right place, at the right time”. After traveling all over the world to study and gain experience in wine, Paul still claims that he has never stopped learning new and exciting things about wine, which is why he has been able to focus on it for so long.

oldcabThe Washington wine industry, and Walla Walla specifically, has experienced phenomenal growth from the time it began, both in the sheer volume of wineries and the quality of wine made, according to Paul. The very first guidebook of wineries in the Pacific Northwest was only 25 wineries long! And that is including Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. He attributes the improvements in the quality of wine to the learning curve that comes with making wine for a many years; that is, year to year, winemakers experience new challenges and learn from them, which helps to create a better product down the road. The maturing of vineyards, and improvement in vineyard knowledge and management in the area hasn’t hurt either! Additionally, there are also more resources available to those opening wineries or pursuing wine making, especially in Washington. Paul mentioned that previously, those who had been trained in California-style wine making had come to Washington state and found a very different environment, where their wine making knowledge needed to be adapted. Now with great enology programs open to students at places like the Walla Walla Community College or Washington State University, those who wish to make wine in Washington can have solid education and training.

I asked Paul briefly about his book, Washington Wines and Wineries…a great read if you want to learn more about Washington wine! While Paul admits he was reluctant to write the book at first, years of being hounded by a publisher and a desire to write the book in his own style eventually prompted him to write the first edition of the book. The second and more recent edition was actually published not too long ago, and is almost a different book just because of the rapid growth of Washington wines.

So what can a wine beginner do to learn more about wines besides read Paul’s book? Paul recommends talking to people who are knowledgeable about wine, going to events at wineries and wine tasting, joining tasting groups, asking a lot of questions, and traveling. Additionally, trying to learn everything in the world about wine is frustrating, so focusing your energy in one area at a time and building your knowledge methodically is key! As for starting a business in wine or opening a winery…Paul notes that there are thousands of different business models for wineries, and that models that are successful for some are unsuccessful for others.

After our interview, Paul showed me his wine cellar! (Pictured previously in the article.) Let me tell you…there is a lot of wine in there. He even had these empty bottles of Chateau St. Michelle and Associated Vintners (now Columbia Winery) from the 1960s! I also got to hear him play a couple songs on the guitar with Larry, and they’re pretty good! Their band name is The Wicker Chair Rhinos, and they’re actually going to be playing at the Green Spoon this coming Saturday (5/26). To learn more about Paul Gregutt, be sure to read up on his articles in the Seattle Times or Wine Enthusiast, or visit his blog! Big thanks to Paul for taking time out of his day to chat with me, and for giving Walla Faces such a great shout-out in last month’s Wine Enthusiast!

Vive Washington wines!