For years leading up to our 20th Wedding Anniversary, Steve and I thought about where we’d like to travel to celebrate such a hallmark of our time together. Since falling in love with wine country, we thought it would be nice to visit a wine region and enjoy the relaxation it has to offer.
We looked at France, New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, and of course Napa and Sonoma. And then we started to hear more and more about Willamette Valley in Oregon and Walla Walla in Washington. We began researching both areas. Knowing they were pretty close to each other (about 5 hours apart), we thought one trip focusing on both regions would make sense. And since we love road trips, we thought what a great excuse to pack up the car and bikes and drive from LA to the Pacific Northwest.
To top it all off, we decided to stop in Sonoma on the way up – we love the wine from Dry Creek Valley and since we’d be passing through the area it only made sense to stay a couple of nights.
We stayed at the Auberge Inn on the Vineyard in Sonoma County. We had a great time checking out all the Dry Creek vineyards.
Before leaving LA, we wanted to learn more about the Pacific Northwest wine region to know what we should seek out and taste. From our studies, we learned that Willamette Valley is the largest wine region in Oregon and is known for their Pinots, especially Pinot Noir. The white wines Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are very popular too. We aren’t huge Pinot Noir fans but we thought it would be nice to immerse ourselves in Pinot country and really give it a chance to wow us.
The Pinot grape is very fussy. It doesn’t like harsh conditions and it’s thin-skinned, making it harder to keep healthy. Therefore, it does better in more temperate conditions. The Burgundy region in France is famous for its Pinot production. And now the Willamette Valley, which has been likened to the climate conditions found in Burgundy, has become a nice home for the hard-to-grow Pinot varietal.
Pinot Noirs are light- to medium-bodied red wines and typically lower in alcohol content. Pinot-lovers have told us that they love the varietal for its complexity. They believe the Pinot grape can deliver very nuanced wines.
Interestingly enough, we would be driving only about 5 to 6 hours east to Walla Walla, Washington, where the climate is very different.
The region is hotter and drier due to being east of the Cascade Mountain Range. These conditions help yield much bigger reds, such as Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even the lovely varietal Carmenere. GSMs (Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, sometimes mixed with Cinsault instead of Syrah or in addition to) can also be found in Walla Walla.
Full-bodied reds that are earthy with strong minerality are the kind of wines we normally love. And Walla Walla seems to be the perfect breeding ground for these kinds of wines. They will make a very interesting comparison to the Pinots we will be trying in Willamette. From Willa to Walla we go!