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Walla Walla's Celebrate Syrah 2022

Last month we shared all the events you can join in as a member of the public. This month we want to share the extra fun we had going to vineyards, tastings, and meals above and beyond the official happenings.

Les Collines Vineyard/Gramercy Cellars

We met with Les Collines Manager Brad Sorenson and Grammercy Winemaker Brandon Moss for a tour of a part of the vineyard where Grammercy gets their grapes. The vineyard was planted between 2000 and 2003; 212 acres of the 300 acre vineyard are planted, the largest contiguous vineyard in Walla Walla. It has an elevation of 1100-1400, putting it above the winter cold. Bordeaux Rhones are grown here: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Syrah. They also experiment with Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Primativo, and Reisling. "I moved here in 2013", says Brad. "One of the first things I did was pull 40 acres out. We've committed 1-1/2 acres of Piquepoul to Grammercy. We do thoughtful redevelopment; we know what works and what doesn't."

Brad Sorensen, left, and Brandon Moss, right

Grammercy Cellars started in 2005 when a Manhattan-based sommelier tasted Washington wine and knew he had to be part of what was happening. He sold everything and moved to Walla Walla. They pick mostly organic grapes at almost-peak ripeness, use minimalist winemaking techniques, and age extensively. "We make food-friendly wines that are acid driven," explains Brandon. "We make Syrah from one block at Les Collines each year. It is a special site for Syrah. The vineyard is all about balance. Almost 50 wineries use Les Collines grapes, from brand new to established wineries."

Most soil at Les Collines is wind-deposited sediment (loess) and is very deep; roots have been found 12 feet down and 12 feet across. The ancient gravel has good drainage. "We irrigate 2-3 times per year. We could actually grow grapes here without irrigation, which is not true for most of Washington."

Les Collines grows 75-100% whole cluster Syrah for Grammercy, which adds stems for herb and structure, body and texture. Grammercy's 2018 John Lewis Syrah is from Block 46 and is more structured, meaty, and peppery. It pairs well with lamb, and for Brandon, it's amazing with smoked pork shoulder. "Syrah is a wonderful food wine," he says. "That's where it shines. I'm not sure why this mid-slope area is so special, but it's amazing."

Les Collines Vineyard
4137 Hood Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Grammercy Cellars
635 N 13th Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Rôtie Rocks Estate Vineyard

Located in the heart of the Rocks District of Milton Freewater, a sub-AVA of the Walla Walla Valley, wines here have a distinctive 'Rocks' sensibility. Owner/Winemaker Sean Boyd says his Rocks vineyard produces the kind of wine he likes to enjoy, and prefers sites that mature as late as possible for specific varietals. He appreciates wines that taste like they're supposed to, i.e., he doesn't co-ferment Grenache with Syrah to extract color because he loves the light color and lean/bright/spicy flavor of Grenache. He wants the use of oak to enhance a profile, not overpower it, and uses 15-20% new oak on dark Syrahs.

Sean Boyd demonstrating his ability to work in the vineyard while enjoying the fruits of his labor

"Cold air flows like water, but then rolls through and hits the Blue Mountains. Rain and snow fall there, about 24" of rain vs. the seven we get here. The river rocks from the alluvial fan of the mouths of two rivers are stacked, up to 480 feet of river rock. I loved Christophe Baron's wines (Cayuse) and was so impressed by what he produced that I bought land as close to him as possible," says Sean. "It's hard when you're starting out to reduce clusters. You see them lying on the ground and think about the wine that could have been made. But you have to give airflow to grapes and clusters can't touch each other. We open from the east side, leaving the west side protected from the sun. We don't use herbicides or pesticides, but don't have organic certification."

Sean moved to the area in 2005 when there were 17 wineries. He started Rôtie in 2007. "I was super ineffective at first. But after 15-20 years, you get pretty good at it. You realize you have to adapt to Mother Nature, adapt to what you're given."

84328 Trumbull Lane
Milton-Freewater, OR 97862

SoDo Tasting Room
3861 First Ave S, Ste F
Seattle, WA 98134

The Walls Vineyard

We visited The Walls in 2021 and you can click here to read about it. Naturally, being part of Celebrate Syrah, we tasted their Syrah. They make other Rhône-style wines like Grenache Blanc, Grenache, Mourvedre, and more. The facility is small and elegant with a lovely outdoor area.

The Walls event room

1015 W Pine St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Walking Tour of Downtown Walla Walla

We got an abbreviated version of the walking tour which normally encompasses stops at three tasting rooms and two local shops for personalized experiences with a local guide. There are eight people maximum on each tour, and it's easy to book online. You get Walla Walla history, have the opportunity to have wine purchases delivered to your Walla Walla accommodations, and a goodie bag. We started off at the Colville Street Patisserie for coffee and pastries, walked to D'Olivo to taste olive oils and vinegars, headed to Epicurean Kitchen to look over gourmet kitchen items, meats, cheeses, wines, spices, and more. Then we were off to AK's Mercado where we had lunch with three women winemakers.

Walla Walla Wine Walk
Owner Jaiden Eskil

Lunch with Women Winemakers

A lunch at AK's Mercado means amazing tacos and smoked meats. There's a lot going on here including a beer program that features their own house brew, AK's Mercado Lager, brewed with the same corn used to make fresh tortillas daily. Perfect pairing.

Winemakers and their wine we tasted were:

  • Ashely Trout, Vital Wines, 2018 Vital Syrah
  • Fiona Mak (photo), SMAK Wines (Rosé only), 2021 Autumn Syrah
  • Kate Derby Raymond, Spring Valley, Nina Lee Syrah

Vital Wines

Ashley started Vital to give back to the people who work in the wine industry who don't have health insurance. Nearly everything that goes into the wine is donated: corks, capsules, grapes, etc. Tasting room is run by volunteers. All profits go toward open-door, free clinics or other healthcare sources for local wine workers. "We Are All Vital."

SMAK Wines

Rosé is "more than just a beverage, it is a lifestyle" says Fiona. It's not limited to summer and is very versatile. By choosing different varietals and techniques, the possibilities are nearly endless. Her wines are named seasonally, and the Autumn Rosé is made with Syrah.

Spring Valley

In October of 2021, we did a full tasting at Spring Valley. You can read about it by clicking here.

AK's Mercado
21 E Main St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Vital Wines
17 N Second St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

SMAK Wines
594 Piper Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Spring Valley Vineyard Walla Walla Tasting Room
2 E Rose St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Exploration of Rhône-Style White Wines over Lunch at TMACS

We met at TMACS, a popular and long-time restaurant in Walla Walla, with three winemakers to talk about something other than Syrah - Rhône-style white wines. Winemakers and wines:


  • Steve Wells (at right), Time & Direction, 2021 Gigawatts White Rhône Blend
  • Toby Turlay (center), Ducleaux Cellars, 2020 Jordyn Viognier + Roussanne
  • Matt Reilly (left), Prospice Wines, 2021 Prospice Viognier

We heard the origin stories of the wineries and why they made these specific wines, which were paired with a three-course meal from TMACS created by Executive Chef Jose Meza:


  • English Pea Bruschetta paired with the Gigawatts White Rhône Blend
  • Grilled Peach & Watermelon Salad paired with two wines from Ducleaux
    • 2020 Jordyn Viognier & Roussanne
    • 2021 Matriarch Roussanne & Marsanne
  • Blackened Sea Bass paired with the Prospice Vigonier

Time & Direction
4 N Spokane St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Ducleaux Cellars
54211 Turbyne Rd
Milton-Freewater, OR 97862

Prospice Wines
145 E Curtis Ave
Walla Walla, WA 99362

4 N Colville St
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Other Food Information

We tried food from several spots:

  • Bacon and Eggs , 57 E Main St, Walla Walla 99362, 509-876-4553
  • Graze , 5 S Colville St, Walla Walla 99362, 509-522-9991
  • Kinglet , 55 W Cherry St, Walla Walla 99362, 509-676-4550

If you haven't visited Walla Walla recently, new things are popping up all the time, and the classics are still great. Head on over!

Connie Adams/September 2022

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