Taking Home the Gold!

The Dallas Wine Competition is a celebrated annual event that honors the best wines available, including entries from both the United States and worldwide. With judges that included wine writers, wine instructors, winemakers, master sommeliers and more, this prestigious group of wine experts were able to pick out the true gems of the worldwide wine industry.

Walla Faces is proud to announce that, out of 2,704 entries representing 25 states and sixteen countries, the Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the select few wines to win a gold medal, the highest honor.

2008 Matthew

2008 Matthew

The Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Matthew, is a free run wine with grapes exclusively from the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard. Free run wines are wines made from both the natural breakdown of the grapes during primary fermentation and from the pressure of the grapes pressing down on each other. This allows the wine to generate a greater sophistication, a more elegant mouthfeel, and a smoother flavor. In addition, a free run wine will have more aging potential than a pressed wine.

The Walla Faces Reserve Cab is a fruit-forward wine with a lustrous blackberry bouquet. Its polished midpalate unfolds on the tongue exquisitely, with a fully body and perfect balance. The grapes from this wine are local, growing on the rich volcanic ash that makes the Walla Walla Valley the ideal place for growing Cabernet grapes.

This Matthew is the most exclusive wine offered by Walla Faces. We only made 176 cases. Because it is so special, it is usually only available to Walla Faces wine club members. However, in celebration of our spring release this year, it will be available to everyone for a limited time in May!

Is Hyperdecanting All Hype?

 
Traditionally, decanting wine involves pouring the wine into a larger receptacle and allowing it to sit and “breathe”. This helps to reduce the taste of tannins and the astringency. Additionally, it will help bring out the natural aromas and flavors. Decanters made of metal or earthenware have been traced back to the Roman Empire.

Although most Walla Faces red wines do not need to be decanted, our bold 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, the Janice, benefits from sitting in a decanter for about an hour at cellar temperature. Unfortunately, many of us are impatient creatures. Waiting an hour for a glass of wine can be a slow torture. That’s where hyperdecanting comes in.

Master Chef Nathan Myhrvold, author of the colossal (an expensive!) cooking volume Modernist Cuisine proposed hyperdecanting as a quicker method for decanting your favorite wine.

Myhrvold outlines his technique, stating “I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it ‘hyperdecanting.’ Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.”

So we did!

I wanted to test which method of wine would yield the most delicious results for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: undecanted wine, traditionally decanted wine, or hyperdecanted wine.

To ensure that our preconceptions about decanting and hyperdecanting didn’t play a role, the tastings were done blind. Everyone tried all three wines, but they tried them in different orders and they didn’t know what version they were trying.

20 participants tried the wines, ranked them in order from least favorite to favorite, and offered their tasting notes. I then assigned each ‘favorite’ three points, each ‘second favorite’ two points and each ‘least favorite’ one point.
The hyperdecanted wine and the decanted wine were the best liked, receiving almost identical scores. However, they got very different comments from the tasters.

Although the hyperdecanted wine had the mildest tannins, participants reported a bitter, unpleasant taste. The traditionally decanted wine still displayed very strong tannins, but had a richer bouquet and fuller, more flavorful body and a more appealing mouthfeel.

Given these comments, it is clear that hyperdecanting does change the flavor of the wine significantly. However, it is NOT the equivalent of traditional decanting.

For individuals who appreciate bold red wines, traditional decanting will offer a much better product with more flexibility, since you can choose how long you decant the wine. Still, if you are very sensitive to tannins, you might want to give hyperdecanting a try on an inexpensive bottle of wine.

Malolactic fermentation and barrel aging at the Walla Faces winery!

 
Last weekend was the first time that Walla Faces was able to open our winery at the incubators to the general public. Winemaking is a complex art that involves many processes and a skillful hand to do well. Our tiny winery has many processes going at once, making it a bustling place to visit. Each step of the winemaking process affects how the wine tastes when it finally gets to your table!

The Walla Faces winery is divided into two big sections: a warmer area for malolactic fermentation and a cooler area for aging.

Malolactic fermentation takes place in the warmer part of the winery. During this process, bacteria convert malic acid, a natural part of freshly pressed grape juice, to lactic acid. Malic acid is very tart, with a taste almost like an under-ripe green apple, whereas lactic acid is almost buttery. Thus, malolactic fermentation helps reduce the sharpness and bitterness of the wine, improves the mouthfeel, and enhances the wine’s flavor.

Of course, during malolactic fermentation an even more crucial process is occurring: the sugar is being converted to alcohol! About 70% of the sugar has already been turned to alcohol by the time malolactic fermentation begins in a fast, frothy process called primary fermentation. During malolactic fermentation, the remaining 30% of the sugar is converted to alcohol.

After the wine has finished fermenting, it is time for it to age. A cooler section of the winery is reserved for the wine aging in the barrel. Immediately after fermentation has completed, the wine usually still tastes “green”. The porous oak allows for controlled oxidation, decreasing the astringency and adding greater complexity of aromas and flavors throughout the aging process. In addition, the tannins are softened and the wine begins to take on the character of the barrel.

Last weekend, for holiday barrel tasting, we opened up one barrel of 2012 Cabernet, which is currently undergoing malolactic fermentation, one barrel of 2010 Cabernet, which is currently aging in the barrel, and our Reserve Cabernet in the bottle. This offered winery visitors the opportunity to see how the wine progressed from

Thank you to everyone who came out and visited the winery last weekend!

Cheers!

What is Barrel Tasting Weekend?

One of our most beloved holiday traditions has just arrived: Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend! This festive event offers an exclusive opportunity to taste future vintages before they make their way into the bottle. We have carefully selected a few of our favorite barrels to help provide a unique and exciting sample of Walla Faces wines. This is the perfect opportunity for those of you who can’t wait for this wine to make it into the barrel!

This is also your first chance to check out our new winery at the airport. This tiny location forms the backbone of Walla Faces’ wine production operation. We are actively working on new projects right now. Drop by, get a sample, and meet our assistant winemaker, Victor De La Luz, who is bustling about the winery, hard at work.

Downtown, at the Tasting Room, we have opened up a bottle of our Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Matthew. It is named for our head winemaker, Matt Loso. This fruit-forward Cab was made from the free run of 100% Walla Faces Estate Cabernet grapes and is normally not available to the general public.

We hope to see you this holiday weekend! Cheers!

The Walla Faces Tasting Room at 216 East Main St. is open 1-6pm.
The Walla Faces Winery at 598 Piper Ave. is open 11-5pm.

Walla Faces is moving our production to the incubators at the airport!

Between 2006 and 2008, the Port of Walla Walla built five Dr. Seuss-colored “incubator” buildings to serve as functional wineries for up-and-coming Walla Walla entrepreneurs. Walla Faces is excited to announce that we will be joining four other innovative wineries at the incubators. We will be in the green building– right in the middle of everything! We are currently busy moving everything in, painting and decorating the space. When it is done, it will be like an industrial art gallery, with white walls and a dark cork floor.

Walla Faces is excited about our new winery location because it will allow us to be much more hands-on in the winemaking process. When Matthew Loso, the Walla Faces winemaker, learned that we were signing the lease, he breathed a sigh of happiness. “Finally,” he said, “a home.” Up until now, we have done something called ‘custom crush’ and our barrels have been stored at another winery. Now, we are doing it all on our own, offering new opportunities for innovation and creativity.

We are also happy that we will be able to share the winemaking process with you. Walla Faces employees are always ecstatic to have visitors in the Tasting Room, and we welcome Walla Faces hotel guests and other visitors by appointment at our vineyard. However, this is the first time we will be able to share the actual act of winemaking with our customers. It is fantastic opportunity to see the production of small, local wineries in progress. You can even do a wine tasting in the bustle of the winery itself. When winter comes, we will also offer barrel tasting at the winery, letting you taste the wine as it progresses.

We haven’t moved in yet and we are still unpacking all of our shiny new equipment, so you will have to wait a little longer to come take a tour. But keep an eye on our facebook and blog! We will tell you when this busy building is open for business.

In the meantime, you can always visit us at the Walla Faces Tasting Room at 216 East Main.

A look at the Walla Faces 2012 harvest!

 

The decision about when to harvest is one of the most critical steps in the wine-making process. If you harvest too early, the undeveloped tannins will lead to a grassy flavor and a bitter wine. If you harvest too late, winter weather conditions may destroy the entire crop.

Walla Faces harvests our grapes later in the year than most other wineries, a luxury afforded to small vineyards, to ensure that the grapes have had sufficient time to mature. Our pesticide- and herbicide-free vineyard is 10 acres of juicy Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, two varietals that take longer to reach the ideal sugar and acid level. For 2012, Walla Faces is also producing a Tempranillo and a Merlot blend that use grapes from other vineyards. Tempranillo, whose name comes for the Spanish word for “early”, matures quickly. Consequentially, our 2012 Tempranillo was well into its time in the barrel by the time we harvested our Cab and Syrah.

This year, we harvested on October 31st and November 1st. In the days preceding harvest, we kept a very close eye on both the ripeness of the grapes, testing them for sugars and acids to ensure a perfect product, and on the weather, waiting for clear skies. On Halloween, we had a perfect storm of beautifully ripened grapes and crisp, dry conditions.

Every year, we assemble a crew that handpicks our grapes off the vines. They move quickly, allowing us to completely harvest our grapes in a mere two days.

When harvest is over, the grapes are immediately taken to be crushed at a crush pad. Unlike table grapes, wine grapes do not last once they have been picked, so they need to be crushed immediately.

If you have a patient palette, be sure to keep an eye out for the 2012 vintages from Walla Faces. It was a perfect harvest, so our wines are sure to be wonderful as well. In the meantime, drop by the Walla Faces Tasting Room at 216 East Main St. and pick up a bottle of the 2008 vintages.

October at the Walla Faces Vineyard

Cab_SauvIt’s October and starting to get a little chillier in Walla Walla! Even though many of us are starting to abandon our summer apparel of shorts and tank tops for sweaters and hot beverages, the grapes at the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard are still soaking up the sun.

Leaving the grapes on the vine longer allows for that perfect balance of sugar and acidity. Harvesting too early will mean that there is not enough sugar and too much acid. The resulting wine will lack aroma and will often have a “grassy” flavor. Because our vineyard is a very small 10 acres, we are able to be sensitive to changes in the weather, allowing us to harvest at the perfect time. Often, we hold off on harvesting until November. This year, we anticipate waiting another two to three weeks to harvest, depending on the weather. Harvest typically takes only two to three days of hard work.

rows_of_syrahThe luscious grapes aren’t the only thing vineyard visitors are likely to notice. Ever since the grapes underwent veraison, the process by which grapes turn from green to red, they have been a juicy treat for wandering birds. Consequentially, we use speakers playing a soundtrack of “birds in distress” to ward off hungry pests. Thankfully, even though this is the only pest-control measure we use, we have never had a problem with birds!

The grapes are not just a treat for birds- they are a treat for humans as well! When you bite into one of the Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah grapes growing at the Walla Faces vineyard, you will be surprised by the opulent sweetness. Although the grapes are very sweet now, much of that sugar will be converted to alcohol during fermentation. Wine grapes are also smaller, softer and juicier than table grapes. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have a subtle hint of cherry with a deep fruitiness, whereas the Syrah taste almost like blueberries. This will contribute to the ultimate flavor of the wine, although these differences are significantly enhanced during the wine-making process.

Both the skin and the seed also hold important clues about the wine. The skins play an important role in the wine, giving it both its color and most of its flavor. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have very thick skins, allowing them to be robust, age-worthy wines. The Syrah has slightly thicker skin than the Cab, making the tannins more prominent in that wine.

The seeds help give clues about the ripeness of the grape. As the berries ripen, the prominent seeds inside the grapes change from green to brown. Looking at the seed color is a quick and easy way of assessing ripeness.
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Overall, our grapes are coming along very nicely. File this away for future knowledge: 2012 is sure to be an amazing vintage!

All photos in this post were taken Saturday, October 6, 2012 at the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard.

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.