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Walla Walla's Celebrate

While the event Celebrate focuses on a grape varietal, it also celebrates all things Walla Walla, and that's a lot. The event encompasses so much, you have to pick and choose what most interests you and plan a return trip.

This month, we'll talk about the public events that anyone can be part of and enjoy. Next month, we'll share all the other event-related things we enjoyed while there.

Marcus Whiteman Hotel & Conference Center

As on several other trips to Walla Walla, we stayed at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown. We'll refer you to an article we published in 2016 here. Suffice it to say there are updates needed in the story, but you will get the history. The hotel is as lovely as ever. We had dinner the night we arrived in the Vineyard Lounge which was just what we wanted (grilled cheese!). The service was so good, we ended most evenings with a final beverage of the day, and perhaps dessert, before heading upstairs. The breakfast buffet is as good as always. They have moved the buffet line to a room next to The Marc where there is more room to maneuver around the main table with hot foods and separate tables for coffee, juice, and other items.

At one end of the lobby, there are the wine tasting rooms. We visited L'Ecole and got reacquainted with their Chenin Blanc, tried their Rosé, and a few reds. All big hits.

Location, location, location, right? Being in downtown, you can walk to restaurants, retail, tasting rooms; everything the city has to offer.

6 W Rose St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Syrah Kick-Off Event at the Gesa Power House Theatre which launched on November 1, 2000, is a place to find nearly everything you want to know about wine. Elaine Chukan Brown joined the team in 2015 to beef up coverage of American wine, eventually becoming the full-time Executive Editor US in 2022.

Elaine shared that Syrah is a wine that has proliferated around the world. Despite being everywhere, or because of that, it is often a challenge to sell it. Each bottle is different. Someone may try it and then find the next bottle is so different, they don't know what to think.

Syrah originated in France. It was found in Austria in the 1830s and came to North America via California in the 1880s. It wasn't until 1974 that a bottle of wine was labeled "Syrah" in North America, by Joseph Phelps. In 1986, Mike Sauer took cuttings from Phelps and planted them in Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima, the first planting in Washington. Others followed, including Dick Boushay in Red Mountain. In 1996, Syrah proved it could survive cold winters. In 1996 Christophe Baron planted Syrah in the Rocks District of Walla Walla.

This is a much-abbreviated look at her talk; if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, go! She has fascinating information and is a wonderful presenter.

Vintage Pour

Thirty-one wineries were onsite at CAVU Cellars (a tasting room and event space) to share library wines 10 years and older. There were wines from 2005 to 2012. Quite an opportunity to see how wines age.

CAVU Cellars
175 E Aeronca Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362


Wine Panel Presentation & Tasting

Elaine Chukan Brown returned to moderate this panel of five winemakers. They each provided a Syrah to taste:

  • Richard Funk (photo), Saviah Cellars , Walla Walla, 2018 Funk Estate (96% Syrah, 4% Viognier)
  • Trey Busch, Sleight of Hand Cellars , Walla Walla, 2019 Psychedelic (100% Syrah)
  • Devyani Gupta, Valdemar Estates , Walla Walla, 2019 Blue Mountain (100% Syrah)
  • Anthony Yount, Denner Vineyards , Paso Robles, California, 2019 Dirt Worshipper (98% Syrah, 2% Roussanne)
  • Sam Coturri, Winery Sixteen 600 , Sonoma Valley, California, 2019 Dos Limones (100% Syrah, co-fermented with Viognier skins)

Winemakers talked about their wines, shared history, and more. The idea here was to have people compare and share Walla Walla Syrahs with other internationally acclaimed Syrah growing regions. Watching and listening to the winemakers was almost as fun as tasting their wines.


Syrah Grand Tasting

"Walla Walla Valley's largest tasting event of the year" is no exaggeration. Over 100 wines from 50 Walla Walla Valley wineries poured their latest releases of Syrah alongside white, sparking, and rosé wines.


Collaborative Winemaker Dinner Series

Eventgoers can choose to go to one of these dinners; they all take place on the same night, so these are tough decisions. We attended the REININGER Winery and Tamarack Cellars dinner with Chuck Reininger (photo) and Danny Gordon, two of the longest-tenured winemakers in the Valley. Chef Emry Kleck of Q Wood-Fired Grill offered a four-course meal.

  • Creamy Chantarelle Soup paired with:
    • 2020 Helix Stone Tree Vineyard SoRhô
    • 2020 Tamarack Counoise    
  • Grilled Lamb Chops paired with:
    • o 2019 REININGER Syrah
    • o 2019 Tamarack Mourvèdre
  • Pork Collar paired with:
    • o 2019 REININGER Merlot
    • o 2019 Tamarack Petit Verdot
  • Gourmet Cheese Plate paired with:
    • o 2003 REININGER Syrah
    • o 2003 Tamarack Syrah

Some interesting points from Chuck and Danny:


  • He uses neutral barrels for Syrah so the wine will show all its nuances.
  • He crushed his first Syrah in 1999. Rusty Figgins had turned him onto Syrah, and it's one of the most challenging grapes.
  • He gets grapes from Seven Hills and Pepperbridge, and co-ferments with Viognier.


  • He gets Mourvèdre grapes from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain. When he tasted the wine, it was so good, he didn't want to blend it with anything, so this is 100% Mourvèdre.
  • His Petit Verdot is a late-ripening varietal from Dionysus Vineyards in the White Bluffs AVA. It is not tannic, but fruit forward, and a nice wine to drink.
  • Tamarack stopped making solo Syrahs.

5858 Old Highway 12
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Tamarack Cellars
700 C St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Q Wood-Fired Grill
137 Main St
Waitsburg 99361



Shuttles for tastings and events were provided by Dream Ride Charters and Black Tie Wine Tours.

Dream Rise is a family-owned company was started in 2007 and offer charter services and tours throughout the Northwest and into Canada. Consider them for wine tours, weddings, reunions, business outings, team travel, and private tours. They have three large buses and a vintage luxury limousine.

Black Tie provides luxury transportation for wine tours in the Walla Walla wine region with each tour customized for the group. They have six-passenger SUVs, eight-passenger limousines, and 10-passenger Sprinter vans.



While it's not normally our way to tell you about a great event that's already over, we love to share Walla Walla information as it's such a great destination. Also, Celebrate is produced each year, so this is our way of saying, if you want to do a blow-out wine tasting event, this should go on your list. The varietal focused on changes annually. Here's what's coming up:


  • Celebrate Merlot, July 13-15, 2023
  • Celebrate Cabernet, July 11-13, 2024
  • Celebrate Syrah, July 17-19, 2025

You'll learn a ton and have fun doing it!

Connie Adams/August 2022

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