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!

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.
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.

Walla Faces Spotlight: Black Tie Wine Tours

Black Tie Tours Walla WallaIn our new blog series, we will be featuring community members, businesses, and Walla Faces friends! Our first interview with Brian Gaines was a huge success, and thank you again to all who have supported Brian over the years. Our featured friend for this week is Black Tie Wine Tours, a wine tour and transportation company in the area who has been providing convenient and luxury wine tours to the Walla Walla area for around nine years. I talked with Amy, the Black Tie Wine Tours manager, about the business and wine tours in the Walla Walla area.
Black Tie Wine Tours caters not only to Walla Walla tourists, but also to community members who want to safely enjoy all that the Walla Walla Valley has to offer. After all, Black Tie aims to provide the best wine-tasting experience possible to its patrons! Their fleet consists of limos, vans, town cars, and stretch SUVs that are all licensed, insured, and have passed stringent industry inspections and follow regulations. All drivers have been chauffer-trained, and the business prides itself on its longstanding reputation as one of the most professional wine tour services in the area.
Black Tie is happy to help clients create a wine tasting route, or to follow a previously planned route. They encourage clients to send in an itinerary ahead of time if they have wineries in mind to plan an efficient and logical route, and to notify wineries ahead of time of large tasting groups. However, they recommend that for the best, most authentic wine tasting experience while using their services, clients should explore the wineries outside of the downtown area that is only really accessible by car. (Black Tie strongly encourages wine tasting in the downtown area as well, but by foot! Driving, parking, and traffic can create inconveniences and cut into wine tasting time…)
Amy says that the best part about working for Black Tie is the people she meets while working, and providing a fun and safe way for wine tasters to explore the Walla Walla Valley wineries. In the future, Amy hopes to see Black Tie and other wine tour companies in the area develop greater solidarity in order to provide more available transportation services to Walla Walla. Additionally, she hopes to strengthen bonds between Black Tie and other wineries in the area to provide the best wine tasting experience possible for tourists and community members alike.
Thanks Black Tie, for all that you do!

You can call Black Tie at 509-525-8585,  email a reservation to reservations@blacktiewinetours.com, or visit their website here.