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Walla Walla Food & Wine Adventures

We recently spent three days in Walla Walla choosing wineries and restaurants we hadn't experienced in prior trips. Here's a day-by-day breakdown. Tasting in pandemic times is different, so plan ahead. Most wineries require reservations so they can control the amount of people in the room and to ensure staffing is appropriate. It's no longer a drop-in-when-you're-in-the-neighborhood world anymore. Same with restaurants. You might be able to walk in, but you're much more likely to eat when and where you want if you've made those plans in advance.

There's a lot to share, so we'll do this in three parts, starting with:

Day 1

Fiction Restaurant at Bookwalter Winery

On our way to Walla Walla, we stopped at Bookwalter Winery to have lunch at their restaurant Fiction. What a way to start! Between the three of us, we enjoyed bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chevre cheese and Marcona almond with cabernet jelly (as good as it sounds). We also shared a burrata/sundried tomato pesto/butter and garlic crostini which was out of this world. Don't ask--they won't give out the recipe, we tried. The pesto turkey club sandwich was excellent as was the house salad with candied pecans, rosemary chevre, and balsamic vinaigrette. The dining room is lovely, overlooking a patio and there's more outdoor seating in front.

894 Tulip Lane, Richland, WA 99352     509-627-5000

The Walls Vineyard

Being able to taste a number of wines from different vineyards really gives you an idea what a winemaker is doing. Winemaker Todd Alexander worked with the starting winemaker in 2018, and the 2019 wines are all his. The winery is owned by Mike Martin who also owns the restaurant Passatempo. He is a former Microsoft executive/corporate attorney who chose a second career in wine and food. "The Walls" is what locals call the Washington State Penitentiary. The winery is named for the walls we all build that wine overcomes by bringing people together. Their first vintage was in 2013. They purchased and moved into their current building in 2016. Toward the end of 2019 they began renovations in the cellar, then the communal room, finishing the tasting room in 2020. Their patio has a pizza oven and a corner vineyard where people can learn about wine growing. There's a small kitchen and people can rent space for private events.

The Walls corner vineyard

We tasted the 2019 Lip Stinger (named for the acid that "stings" your lips) from Frenchcreek Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA. It is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Picpoul, and Clairette Blanche.

Next up was the 2019 The Ramparts inspired by a trip to France and the papal residency walls, from Red Heaven Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA; Grenache, Mouvedre, Counoise, and Syrah.

The 2019 Wonderful Nightmare, 100% Tempranillo, is named after a Hemingway novel that involved the running of the bulls in Pamplona, from Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA.

2018's Mahana, Syrah and Grenache, is from the River Rock Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. This name's history is fascinating, based on the town of Milton-Freewater. The city was named after Mr. Milton who agreed with Prohibition. Mr. Mahana did not agree and created the town of Freewater. The town became Milton-Freewater and we know what happened to Prohibition.

The 2019 Gaspard, 100% Syrah, is named after a French knight who laid down his arms to make wine. You have to love that guy. These grapes come from Red Heaven Vineyardd in the Red Mountain AVA.

We were also able to taste two PÁŠXA (Pahk-sha) wines, created to emphasize their commitment to sustainable farming and winemaking practices. The indigenous people of the Walla Walla Valley called the area Pášxapa (Place of the Sunflowers); this is an homage to them. We tried to 2018s: River Rock Grenache and River Rock Syrah, both from River Rock Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. Technique-wise, they interact with the natural process as little as possible.

1015 W Pine St, Walla Walla, WA 99362     509-876-0200

Passatempo Taverna

In 1920, the Pastime began as a cigar store, moving to its current location in 1925. It was sold in 1927. Food was introduced in early 1932 in a small way and later in the year spaghetti and meatballs made their debut. The premises was expanded twice over the years and family members would take over as the previous generation retired. The spaghetti and meatballs were an iconic part of Walla Walla. Mike Martin purchased the Pastime in 2015 and pulled together winemaker Ali Mayfield, Jim German (jimgermanbar), consultant Chef Mike Easton (Il Corvo) to create The Walls and Passatempo next door to each other. The Walls has now moved to their new tasting room. Expect to find rustic Italian dishes with homemade pasta, pizza, antipasti, a few large plates, plus great cocktails and wine.

Photo courtesy of Passatempo Taverna

Wood booths across from the bar, a separate dining area, cool music, and dim lighting draw you in. The space is open and comfortable, prices and sizes of dishes make for a good value.

215 W Main St, Walla Walla, WA 99362     509-876-8822

November 2021

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