Winemaker Profile: Chris Camarda

Joining as consulting winemaker, Chris Camarda may be the newest member of the Walla Faces team, but he’s hardly an industry novice. Camarda opened Andrew Will Winery in 1989. “I’d worked in the restaurant industry a long time,” he says. “I always ordered the wine!” Andew Will was named for his nephew, Andrew, and his son, Will. Will is currently working at Andrew Will Winery, making it a family affair.

Camarda was mentored by Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar, Rick Small of Woodward Canyon Winery, and Alex Golitzin of Quilceda Creek Vintners, all of whom were founding figures in the Washington wine scene. Camarda recalls, “At first, I was copying them. They looked at my wines and gave me some critiques.” He quickly learned, however, to integrate their lessons into a style that was all his own. “They were three very different people and I got different ideas from each of them.”

Chris Camarda

Chris Camarda

His first vintage, sixteen barrels of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was an instant success. “People liked the wine and that was a big help! Making wine is one thing but selling it is another.” His first cases were snatched up by Seattle Wine Shops, allowing Camarda a foot in the door of the wine industry.

From 2000-2003, Camarda put his methodological mind to work, testing vineyards to find the perfect grape source. “The weather and the vineyard are everything”, he asserts. Camarda looks critically at vineyards for detail work and other signs of a quality grape source. “It’s not like a vineyard, it’s like a garden,” he says. His work on these vineyards transformed his winemaking. He moved from making single-varietal wines to single-vineyard blends. By highlighting the unique attributes of the vineyard itself, Camarda was able to capture the essence of the location.

Andrew Will is still a small operation, making 5,000 cases a year that are quickly snatched up by wine lovers.

Although his vineyard-focused approach was revolutionary, Camarda has a classical eye for winemaking. “I have a lot of respect for tradition,” he says. “I think that although Washington was not a part of that tradition ninety years ago; now we are.” Using his unique blend of traditional methods and off-the-wall ideas, Camarda is able to create something truly unique. “There is a tendency for people to want to make their wines the same and I want mine to be different”, he says. “People just copy what wine critics have liked. In the end, it all ends up being the same. You have one wine and it’s all 100-point wine… It’s the depth, focus, layers, and complexity that makes the great wines, and that’s what I focus on.”

Given Camarda’s dedication to offering unconventional, high-quality wines, it’s no wonder that Into Wine named him as the 33rd most influential winemaker. The 2013 vintage will be his first wines for Walla Faces.

Celebrate Walla Walla

The first Celebrate Walla Walla took place this past weekend. The 70 participating wineries came together to concretely demonstrate how special the Walla Walla Valley wine region is. On Saturday, Walla Faces hosted a winemaker dinner at our estate vineyard. The dinner featured the wines of four boutique wineries: CAVU Cellars, Corvus Cellars, Kontos Cellars, and, of course, Walla Faces! Each of these small wineries makes their wine at the Incubators at the airport. Our side-by-side wineries produce some of the most exclusive, innovative wines in Walla Walla.

The 77-degree Saturday was the perfect weather for sitting by the pool, admiring the flourishing Cabernet grapes, sipping wines, and dodging Angel, the winery dog, as she tried to acquire some snacks for herself.

The evening commenced with appetizers, including Copper River salmon flatbreads, topped with Dijon and local Monteillet fresh chevre. We also featured roasted red potatoes, which had been dug up that very morning from Chef Greg Schnorr‘s garden, and were complemented by a Parmesan souffle.  Mini BLTs made from jowl bacon also featured Chef Greg’s home-grown ingredients; Greg is known throughout Walla Walla for his hand-raised pork. Each of the four participating wineries cracked open a few crisp, chilled bottles to kick off the celebration! CAVU’s Barbera Rosé, Corvus’ Viognier, Kontos’ Gossamer White and Walla Faces’ Riesling all helped provide the ideal complement to the light appetizers and warm June day.

The second course included a Walla Walla Sweet Onion soup, with juicy braised oxtail at the bottom of the bowl. A toasted baguette covered in Gruyere was lovingly placed on top of each portion. This soup was paired with the Kontos Cellars 2009 Alatus Blend, a classic-tasting blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc that perfectly complemented the rich earthiness of the soup.

The third course was a duck confit ravioli, nested in an bolognese filled with more duck confit. A carrot and celery topping adorned the hand-made raviolis, which were created using duck eggs for the dough. Paired with the CAVU 2010 Barbera, a bold and spicy varietal that is an uncommon find in the Walla Walla Valley, the fatty duck flavors melted perfectly in my mouth.

The fourth course was a cherry stuffed pork chop straight from Chef Greg’s farm. “I named them after monsters this year,” Chef Greg quipped. “I believe that today we are eating ‘Kim Lard-Ashian’.” The bitter fresh arugula balanced the sweet, sage-stuffed cherries. The 2008 Walla Faces Fusion Red was the perfect pairing. This egg-white fined blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Syrah has dark cherry flavors that perfectly complemented the cherries in this dish.

The fifth course was lamb with a wild mushroom demi glace over a spoonful of whipped potatoes, which was paired with a 2009 Corvus Syrah/Petite Sirah blend. The allspice, plum and pepper flavors make this earthy, full-bodied wine great for lamb dishes.

Desserts included dark chocolate truffles, fresh Klicker strawberries over Hungarian shortbread, candied walnuts and a myriad of cheeses, served with the Walla Faces Ice Wine.

The dinner was an incredible success, with the beauty of the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard, the mouth-watering flavor of the food, and the locally-made perfection of the wines melding together to showcase the best of what Walla Walla has to offer. We were happy to celebrate this region with both Walla Faces regular customers and brand new faces. Thank you to everyone who helped this event happen or who attended. For those of you who we didn’t see, please feel free to come visit all four wineries out in the “winery district” at the Incubators by the Walla Walla airport.

A Walla Faces Christmas

Twas some weeks before Christmas, when all through the west
Washingtonians were in a state of unrest
With stockings all hung and trees set out with care
They needed some great gifts to put under there.

The children were happy to eat sugarplums
To play with toy cars and to bang on loud drums
“These kids will have all of the gifts they could want,”
You said with a smile, “But what for my aunt?”

You sip from your glass and your eyes open wide!
An idea arrives that is only upside
This plum-colored vintage has numerous graces
You’ll gift some great wine from where else? Walla Faces!

This surely will cheer your hard-to-please friend
Should you get the Syrah? Or the Cabernet Blend?
For those who drink whites, the Riesling appeals
With a bottle of Ice Wine to sweeten the deal.

If you live north, on the coast, or outside of the state
Grab six bottles online, get a free shipping rate
For those who are Washington’s southeastern legion
We’re hardly a drive! We’re right in your region!

The Tasting Room’s decked out with holiday cheer

With hopes that you’ll drop by and visit us here
With drinks to be drunk and wine gifts to obtain
Stop in one to six at two sixteen East Main.

A Gift From Walla Faces

Holiday Wine Pairings

Holiday Placements

Winter holidays are made better with the perfect bottle of wine! Here are our tips for the perfect Walla Faces wine and food pairings this December. Don’t forget that Walla Faces is offering free shipping on six or more bottles until the end of the year, so it’s the perfect time to take home some holiday wine!

Red Wine

What should I serve with prime rib?
The Walla Faces Syrah has a beautiful white pepper flavor and an earthy boldness that pairs nicely with prime rib. Wine club members should also consider pairing their this luxerixous cut of beef with the Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which has just the right balance of the tannins to be elegant without being too mellow.

What should I serve with a roast lamb?
The Walla Faces Fusion Red, a Cabernet-blend, is so smooth it won’t overpower a cut of lamb. The Fusion is also available in the 2006 vintage in a magnum size, which is perfect for holiday parties.

White Wine

What should I serve with ham?
The Walla Faces Riesling has enough fruity notes to truly enhance the flavor of your holiday ham, especially if it is glazed with succulent honey, which plays off the slight sweetness of the wine.

What should I serve with turkey or goose?
The Walla Faces Riesling is the perfect off-dry, allowing it to complement both white and dark meat, enhancing the complexity of your favorite holiday poultry.

What should I serve with latkes?
The Walla Faces Riesling has stone fruit flavors and a crisp minerality that cuts the grease of a fried latke.

What should I serve with dessert?
The Walla Faces Ice Wine brings a beautiful richness that pairs nicely with not-too-sweet desserts such as pumpkin pie, fruitcake or cheeses. And, of course, ice wine is the perfect dessert all on its own!

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.