Go West - II
In the recent past, Reininger seemed to me to have lost its way. Apparently, highway 12 is disorienting. You can get wound up and twisted into a double helix. The Helix wines used to be great values, but at $30 a throw, that is no longer an accurate description. Nevertheless, many of Chuck's regular bottlings are quite interesting and delicious. The 2003 Cima, tasting a little old (or had it been open too long), was quite beautiful. The 2005 Merlot, despite the grapes from Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, was light - enough to confirm "Miles" opinion of Merlot. The 2005 Cab Sauv had great fruit and tasted a little like what a Merlot should taste like. The 2008 Ash Hollow Syrah had nice tobacco and pepper notes. The 2006 Carmenere was probably the most interesting wine. As I read over this paragraph, it appears that I had a negative impression of Reininger wines. This is not true. Most of these wines had character and interest. Reininger survived the jinx of route 12 and Codi ably poured all these wines with a great running commentary on each. It was obvious that she is really into wine. She is a student at the enology program at the community college and I predict she will become a great winemaker in her own right in just a few years.
Deborah and Dave Hansen survived for the longest time in a "Quonset Hut" at the airport. So far, their move to route 12 seems to be liberating. Sooo much more space! Both have deep roots in Walla Walla and, in fact own several vineyards. They tore up apple orchids and own vineyards in the stones just over the border in Oregon to the west of highway 125. They sold a vineyard to finance their beautiful new winery on highway 12. Dave is a farmer, a vineyardist who is happiest on a tractor or a forklift. Deborah is an outstanding winemaker. Cougar Crest is one of the most consistent labels around. This is a great help in a restaurant when you are unsure what to order from the wine list. The 2006 Walla Walla Viognier is an outrageously good wine. Viognier at its best - dry, stony, with good subdued fruit - to my gout. The Grenache Rose is pleasant, a cut above most American Roses. Dedication is a delicious wine dedicated to the hospital that saved the life of Dave and Deborah's daughter after near fatal injuries. The 2006 Walla Walla Valley Anniversary Cuvee is fairly light , but totally great for chocoloholics. The 2006 Walla Walla Valley Cab Sauv is a delicious blend and the 2005 Walla Walla Syrah is an outstanding wine. Virtually all Cougar Crest wines are made from estate grown grapes. Since moving into their new digs on highway 12, Dave and Deborah couldn't quite let go of their original hut at the airport, so they've started producing a new line to sell there - Walla Walla River Winery. This is their opportunity to explore various varietals from grapes sourced from all around the Columbia Valley. I didn't get to taste these wines, but I'll bet they are good.
Waterbrook just opened a new winery on highway 12. This high tech building is spectacular and is home to Precept Brands in all of its manifestations. I must admit to not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Melange Noir and White, to say nothing of the Sangiovese Rose and a perfectly typical, classic Riesling all at very reasonable prices. I found the higher priced wines to be somewhat disappointing for the price, but Waterbrook is producing some fabulous value with great price points.
So the western entrance to Walla Walla is a good introduction to Walla Walla wines, but the best is yet to come south of town and at the airport.