My Walla Walla autumn 2017 wine awards focused on taste. The 2018 spring awards will not focus on taste and will instead focus on other things which can’t easily be categorized with a single word.
The award for Best Vibe goes to Solemn Cellars. The interior tasting room at Solemn Cellars does not have any chairs or tables and that sounds terrible on the surface but the best way to taste wine at this winery is outdoors. There are Adirondack chairs, concrete benches and a lush lawn to take a seat and enjoy a wonderful Syrah. There’s also bean bag toss at this winery if you’ve got ants in your pants and can’t sit still.
Several wineries have the bean bag toss game on the lawn, however, I only saw people playing bean bag toss at Solemn. Why was that? In my opinion, Solemn has a vibe where you just want to hang out and play a little bean bag toss, sit on a blanket on the grass or kick your feet up and soak in the vitamin d. Don’t worry about having to get up and go the tasting counter for your next glass, this winery is “full service” and will come to you with the wine!
Best Tasting Room
There is almost no competition when it comes to the Best Tasting Room award: Revelry Vintners is the clear winner. The tasting room was designed by the winemaker, Jared Burns. The marriage of Danish and Industrial design in this space will keep your eyeballs busy for the duration of your visit and you’ll be sad when you have to leave.
I spent my time at this winery sipping wine and observing the reactions of people as they walked through the door. The two main attractions in this space are the glass wine cellar and the ginormous vertical black steel panels adhered to the wall behind the main tasting counter. Both are equally stunning and impressive but I was drawn to the little details; the furniture, the pots of the plants, the steel on the welcome counter with the winery’s name cut into it, the lighting fixtures, etc.
Best Community Giveback
The award for Best Community Giveback goes to Brook & Bull. Everything that goes into making a bottle of their Vital Wines is donated (a collaboration of many wineries in the region) from the grapes to the winemaker’s time to the design of the label and all proceeds from the sales of Vital Wines goes to a local clinic in Walla Walla, SOS Clinic.
SOS Clinic provides free healthcare to those in the community who need it – no questions asked. A clinic like this is key for WW wines, specifically for the small family-owned wineries who cannot afford to provide expensive health insurance to their employees. It’s a community taking care of their community and that’s a lovely thing.
Best Unexpected Surprise
The award for Best Unexpected Surprise goes to Tertulia Cellars. Tertulia was never a winery that came up in my research but thankfully, it came up in my sister’s research. We visited this winery late in the day and the sun had dipped just slightly for the tasting room building to cast shade on the front “lawn” where the outdoor seating is located.
Pours were provided by one lone soldier who scurried between the interior and exterior. She had a sweet nature and was knowledgeable about the wines, providing enough detail to understand the wine but not enough to overload our buzzed brains.
The award for Best Grounds goes to Basel Cellars because there is no other comparable property (except for possibly Pepper Bridge Winery). Basel Cellars is situated on top of a hill and overlooks the cluster of Southside wineries. It reminds me of estate wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
The tasting room at Basel, however, leaves something to be desired. The large and open tasting room is filled with mismatched furniture and lacks spacial definition. Since there are rental accommodations at Basel, I’ve wondered if the room is also used for breakfast and/or dinner and/or children’s birthday parties. I feel that all the room is missing is a pool table and an arcade machine in the corner.
Best “Member of the Family” Feel
The Best “Member of the Family” Feel award goes to Balboa Winery. Peter and I recently cancelled our wine club membership with another winery and told ourselves we would not join another wine club but it didn’t take long before we were talked into joining Balboa’s club. It just felt right.
When this tasting room is busy, it is easy to feel like “just another person tasting wine” but when it’s not busy, you’ll find the ladies behind the counter to be some of the nicest people in Walla Walla. As mentioned in my prior post, we purchased a shit ton of wine from Balboa and when we returned two days later to collect our wine, I felt like a university student pulling out of the driveway as my wine barista parents stood near the front door, waving me goodbye.
The award for Best Labels goes to The Walls Vineyards, however, it must be noted that this award has stiff competition. The simple cartoon sketch theme is consistent across their labels and in their tasting room. If I saw a bottle of The Walls in a store, I’d buy it just because of the label.