Season 3, Episode 1
The Walla Walla Valley is the epicenter for Washington winemaking. It's a hub for production in the state, has a great hospitality and restaurant scene, and its soils are 17 million years in the making! Take a closer look and you’ll find camaraderie and a wine culture that rivals any other long standing wine community in the world. More importantly, outside of California, Washington produces more wine than any other state in the US - and did I mention the quality? Yeah, it’s fantastic! Learn why so many winemakers call Walla Walla, Washington home on the season 3 premier of V is for Vino!
filmed October, 2020 | runtime 43 minutes
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from the Walla Walla, Washington episode
from the Walla Walla, Washington Episode
DOWNTOWN WALLA WALLA
Downtown Walla Walla is the hub for all the restaurants, hotels, and a lot of winery tasting rooms. Use this as a home base to explore the rest of the region! Make sure to visit DAMA tasting room and Saffron restaurant.
This is where Madeline and I hung out. A great park in near downtown Walla Walla for a picnic!
L'ECOLE NO 41
Make sure to say hello to Marty at L'Ecole No. 41! One of the first wineries in Walla Walla, L'Ecole specializes in Bordeaux style wines. The property is in an old school house, and is really fun to explore!
WOODWARD CANYON WINERY
Another one of the most historic wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, take a tour of the basement cellar, and don't forget to try the Artist Series Cabernet.
ABEJA WINERY AND INN
Not only are the wines great, but this property in Walla Walla wine country is also an Inn, perfect for a getaway far from the crowds! Don't miss their famous breakfast!
WALLA WALLA STEAK CO
With the big rich wines from Walla Walla, you definitely need a steakhouse. Walla Walla Steak Co fits the bill. Get the crab cakes to start, and then split the "hatchet cut" rib-eye steak.
- Welcome to Walla Walla Washington. It's a wine region whose soil is 17 million years in the making. Take a closer look and you'll find camaraderie and a wine culture that rivals any other long standing wine community in the world. More importantly, outside of California, Washington produces more wine than any other state in the US. And did I mention the quality? Yeah, it's fantastic. Welcome to Walla Walla Washington, and welcome to V is for Vino. Alright, so I have a lot to tell you about Washington wines. First off, welcome to Washington. The state, not the city, the only lobbying you're gonna see here is for red or white wine.
- Grapes were planted in Washington as early 1825, but the bulk of the Washington wine story is a recent one, from 2000 until today, Washington went from 100 wineries to over 1000 wineries. And you're not gonna believe this, besides California, Washington makes the more wine than any other state. More importantly, Washington makes more really good wine, and they do it at scale. This is because they have an absurd amount of land that can grow high quality grapes. The Napa Valley AVA has about half a million acres of land. Sonoma County is about a million acres. The Columbia Valley, where the bulk of Washington wine is made, has 11 million acres of land. ♪ When you come you raise the tide, on me ♪ But how can that much land all be suitable for grape growing? 6 reasons, you ready?
- Number one. Dry Climate. Wines like dry climates to prevent against rot and mold. And the entire east side of the state is dry, shielded from the rain from not one, but two mountain ranges, the Cascades and the Olympics. Number two, lots of sunlight. Because of how far north we are, Washington wineries get 17 hours of sunlight a day during growing season, an hour more than Northern California. Number three, diurnal shifts. They're the swings between daytime and night time temperatures that help grapes ripen in the day, and retain acidity at night. Number four, lean soils that are well draining, which forces vines to stress and dig deep for nutrients. Number five, the availability of water from the Columbia River and it's tributaries. And number six, low diseases and pests due to the cold winters that kill those types of problems. ♪ I don't know what's wrong, let me be ♪ All of this is a formula for great grape growing. But just because the conditions for good grapes are met, doesn't mean great wine's gonna magically appear. For that you need a supportive, collaborative, helpful community of winemakers, enter Walla Walla. This is downtown Walla Walla, the city and region at the heart of Washington's wine country. There is a higher concentration of wineries here than anywhere else in the state. It's also the hospitality center for the wine tourism, many of the hotels, restaurants, tasting rooms, and shops are right here. Walla Walla is one of the 16 AVAs in Washington, the bulk of which are located within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Many winemakers use Walla Walla not only for its grapes, but also as a hub for their production facilities. From here, they can source their grapes from all over the Columbia Valley. I happen to know a Washington native. She's an icon in the wine industry, and a James Beard award winner for her book "Wine Folly", which I can say with confidence is the greatest wine book I've ever purchased. I was just happy I got to meet one of my heroes in the industry, Madeline Puckette.
- [Madeline] Wine Folly really got started, I was working in a restaurant as a sommelier, and there was kind of this difference between my level of knowledge and the level of knowledge of my customers. So my goal was to be like, all right, when I talk about wine with my customers, they're very excited and they're enthusiastic about wine and they love to learn about it, but they never had the opportunity to do so. There was nothing that was really communicated to them. It was always an educational program. It was really deep and hard to understand, wine is delicious and fun. It should be fun to learn about wine.
- I always say, you don't have to wear a suit to drink wine. And I just want people to be able to talk about wine the way they talk about their favorite burger. And in America, we put it a bit on a pedestal. In Europe, it's just like part of the meal.
- It's like part of the meal. Like let's throw some wine down. We're gonna have a fun time. The more I started teaching people about wine, actually answering their questions, I realized that wine drinkers have very different questions than wine makers wanna tell them about wine. Like what are the calories of this glass of Chardonnay? Like they have different questions. They have different needs associated with wine. And then sure enough, a bunch of those people will suddenly get to the point where they actually care about where that plot of wine came from.
- That's, exactly.
- And that's the cool moment is when you get someone who was like, didn't care about anything, about wine at all, and is all of a sudden like licking the dirt 'cause they get something out of that.
- Like that's what's so amazing about wines is when I get those flavors that are completely unexpected.
- And it gives you the opportunity to accept flavors into your palette that you've been taught are bad flavors. Like bitterness in wine, for example it's a bad thing like ooh, bitterness.
- And we develop bitter to like taste poison, right? So technically like in history, you're not supposed to do that, but it's cool in wine.
- We have 26 taste receptors for bitterness and only one for sweetness. And so we're kind of sweet stupid, and we're very bitter smart.
- The first book was such a reference for me as I started my journey. And then the second book you just went, you went deeper, not only with more regions, but there's other things in there too.
- We built out more of the regional section because even the same wine grown in a different place is gonna taste totally differently.
- I preach place over everything all the time.
- And so how do you learn about what is the place of a thing? And so now I'm like doing things like eating tomatoes and being like, where's this tomato from, or like. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause it is true, it's not just grapes. You have the tomato from... There's places that are famous for their different apple varieties is probably a pretty easy one to compare.
- Yeah, like Washington.
- Yeah, like Washington, exactly. So Walla Walla, east side of the state, a lot dryer over here, and here they pretty much make red grape.
- This place kicks butt at making Syrah, they can grow the crap out of Syrah. They can grow the crap out of Cabernet Sauvignon. They make serious wines in Walla Walla.
- You can be here in Walla Walla. And there's a lot of wineries that have their home base here. And maybe they're sourcing from other places, but you can visit, there's I think over a hundred here.
- And a community that can actually support the hospitality, like there's hotels, there's nice restaurants and all of that kind of thing. And it's like an old historic town. It's really pretty.
- Nice, well do you wanna go try some wines?
- Yeah, of course.
- Let's do it. Before heading to taste some wines with Madeline, let's get you up to speed on Washington soil. Ah soil, just a fancy name for dirt, right?
- Wrong. Soil's a living thing. It's the mixture of fallen leaves, dead plants, rocks, minerals, water, animals, layered on top of each other for thousands of years. It's so important that you always have to know a region's soil type, if you ever take a wine test. And a lot of wine regions are famous for their soil. But how did it form? Especially soil that makes exceptional wine. It's kind of different for every place, but it's usually through some miracle of events that happened long before us humans were ever around. Let's talk about soil in Washington state. Five to 17 million years ago, massive lava flows from volcanoes, which now for mountain ranges, made a base layer of volcanic rock called basalt. Fast forward to around 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, a 1200 foot ice dam, something reminiscent of the wall in "Game of Thrones" broke releasing 400 foot waves, which are as tall as the Statue of Liberty rushing at 60 miles an hour from the glacial Lake Missoula into the Columbia River Valley. This event was called the Missoula Floods and were the largest floods on Earth in the last 2 million years. I'm standing here in front of the Wallula Gap. This is where the floods hit a wall and bottlenecked. The result was large quantities of water forming giant temporary lakes and eroding the surface. When it was all said and done and everything dried up, you were left with layers upon layers of flood deposits on top of the basalt that was transported here from the floods. Gravel, sand, granite, and silt, all that. So in 2020, you could have vines planted in a rich, well draining complex soil. Pretty impressive, huh?
- Some other wine soils with famous history? How about the 150 million year old Kimmeridgean soil. from Chablis, in Burgundy, France. This chalky marl soil is laced with fossilized, seashells and oyster shells from an ancient seabed. And it gives the line of beautiful saline minerality. Or how about the volcanic rock soil in Sicily, Italy. These are from recent eruptions over the past 400 years or so of Mount Etna and make fresh yet concentrated wines. Now you know the reason winos geek out about soil and geology, it's one of the elements that makes wine history in a bottle.
- This feels like kind of an intro to Walla Walla Wine. So what do we have?
- All right, so this first one is maybe one of the lesser planted grapes in Washington state, but it has proved to be pretty amazing from the Walla Walla region and that Syrah. The place in Walla Walla, where it grows, it's a spot where a lot of stones have rolled through the past few thousand years and they've turned to, they're river stones but in some areas it's over a hundred feet deep of just stones.
- And the vines grow in that?
- And the vines actually survive in that crazy environment, and it's all basalt. So it makes actually a very savory, almost like irony, like meaty tasting Syrah wine.
- And this region it's, this is the sub region of Walla Walla, right?
- It's a sub region of Walla Walla that now has been designated only recently called the rocks district of Milton-Freewater. You smell that? What is that? It's not even fruit! It's like kind of olives and meaty.
- Exactly, like it's more savory on the nose than fruity a hundred percent.
- But then you get this floral note almost like violets.
- I almost wouldn't immediately say it's a new world wine. It has this great, like kind of, you said, that rocky minerality, that really, the fruit comes second, which I love, I think that's really fun. Well, like what would you pair with this?
- You know, I was just thinking that I kind of want pizza, like quite honestly pizza with maybe some olives.
- Yeah they put the olives on it. Put the briney-ness on it.
- So this next wine is really cool. It comes from a producer, the Leonetti Cellars. They're the first commercial winery in the Walla Walla Valley. And this is probably their flagship wine. And most people won't pick Merlot as a flagship. But I think this is an amazing wine to try from Washington because Merlot is exceptional here. And the reason why, is the high latitude, the position where we are, where we get these really long days and cool nights produces Merlot these aromatics in Merlot that I don't get from a lot of other regions when I'm sniffing around for good quality. So when I smell this wine, I almost always get violets.
- Oh, wow. I mean, you're right. It's super poppy is the first thing I get, plummy.
- And Merlot has this weird reputation. It's like the second cousin that nobody cares about to something like Cabernet, but I love Merlot, and it's such an approachable wine. It's approachable, it's a lot of times a little younger and it's usually honestly a little cheaper than it's Cabernet cousin.
- When I'm looking for great value, I love to look for Merlot.
- Are you getting like bacon fat?
- I actually do get a little bit of meatiness in this wine, even though I always think of this wine as very fruity, but I get a little mint.
- Oh, you get that, you get some of the mint too.
- Yeah, certainly some mint and black cherry.
- Oh wow. Black yeah.
- Definitely black cherry. Last one is definitely the most important grape variety planted in Washington state as a whole. And that is Cabernet Sauvignon. This one in particular comes to us from Walla Walla Valley also. And the producer actually used to be an NFL football player, Drew Bledsoe.
- Oh so this is also Drew Bledsoe's project?
- So he actually grew up here. He came back to start making wine. So Cabernet in Washington is a really fun thing to get into, because again, you have this acidity that comes through in the palette, which makes these wines really, they're big and they're super fruity, but they have balance. Value wise, if you compare it to some places in California, you're gonna get excellently made, obsessively made wines here for a lot less than you might pay.
- People won't blink at spending a pretty good amount of money on something that has the name Napa on it. But sometimes they're afraid to do that in other regions and they shouldn't be, you don't get the cache of the name, but you're getting such value from the product and how much love they're putting into it. This is everything I want from Cabernet. It's big, it's rich, but it's still fresh. Yeah, exactly, you got . Well, I am absolutely honored that I got to hang out with you for a little bit.
- Yeah whatever Vince, you're awesome.
- Thank you so much for taking some time. And I can't wait to go try more of Walla Walla and more Washington wines, this was awesome.
- Cheers. Walla Walla. It's the second oldest AVA in Washington, established in 1984 and is home to some of the most historic wineries in the state. The region's actually 57% Washington, 43% Oregon because mother nature doesn't really respect state boundaries. Walla Walla is diverse in terms of soil altitude and has a little more rainfall than other Washington AVAs because of its proximity to the Blue Mountains. There are 120 wineries here and growing, and most of them are within a 10 minute drive of each other. While many wineries in Walla Walla source grapes from all over the state, the grapes grown in Walla Walla itself are 95% red. And while Cabernet is technically the most popular today, I wanna talk a bit more about Merlot because there is nowhere else in the new world, making as much high quality dynamic Merlot as here in Washington. There are a whole lot of misconceptions about Merlot, most stemming from a famous line in the movie "Sideways". I am not drinking any Merlot, which if you've seen the movie is ironic because Miles' prized wine, he drinks in the diner scene is actually in Merlot.
- Merlot's the backbone to some of the most famous wines on the planet. One of the most expensive wines ever sold was Merlot based. A 1947 Cheval Blanc from Bordeaux for $304,000. And many times Merlot is a better alternative to Cabernet. It tends to be cheaper than the more in demand Cabernet at the same quality level, similar in style to Cabernet and ready to drink sooner than Cabernet. Merlot has a medium plus body, fairly high tannin and medium acidity. When I think of Merlot, I tend to think of plums, dark cherries and raspberries, green herbs, violet, blackberries, and coffee, cedar and vanilla from oak aging, which it usually has. A lot of this is similar to Cabernet. But where Merlot is different is in the mouthfeel. It's got slightly lower acid and tannin than Cabernet, which means a rich, plush, soft wine that's ready to drink earlier, but don't be fooled. Many Merlots are incredibly age worthy with the grace and elegance that even Miles would approve of. In order to understand the history of Washington wine a bit more, I thought it would be good to head to two wineries that helped pioneer the industry here in Walla Walla. The good news they're literally right next to each other. Welcome to historic Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole No 41. ♪ Trying to break all the rules ♪ ♪ We were given by the Lord ♪
- [Marty] Woodward Canyon & L'ecole were part of the earliest wineries here in the Valley. My family go back to the very beginning of Walla Walla in the 1860s.
- You were some of the founding with I think a few other wineries who basically put Walla Walla on the map.
- [Jordan] Yeah, I mean, we started back in 1981, and L'Ecole whole came along a few years later and it just kept gaining more popularity and notoriety.
- What was the perception of Washington wines and Walla Walla wines when it was first started with basically your parents' generation, right?
- Basically we were completely unknown. I think the quality of wines made by Leonetti and Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole really put Walla Walla on the map. Jordan's father, Rick Small, was on the cover of "Wine Spectator" I think, right, it was that 1990 era.
- Yeah it was early nineties, yeah.
- It happened quickly. So in the wine world, there was immediate recognition of the quality of wines being made in Walla Walla.
- Why do you think it happened so quick here?
- I mean, we're really isolated here. And so people had to work together, and they shared information and they shared equipment and they tasted wines together and it still is going on today. I think every winery that's come along since has really gotten on board with the collaborative aspect of Walla Walla.
- I hear that a lot, when I talk to people here, it's just kind of a really helpful community and anybody can kind of break in and expect that they'll be pulled along and they'll be pushed along by the people who came before and after them.
- Totally. We're gonna start with a wine from here in Walla Walla from one of our estate vineyards, Seven Hills vineyard. And it's a classic Bordeaux white blend. This is 50% Sémillon, 50% Sauvignon Blanc.
- And what I love too, oh it's delicious, what I love about these blends is the Sémillon kind of rounds out the super high acid Sauvignon Blanc. So you get this nice balanced wine.
- Yeah, you get a lot more of that melon, pear, apricot, fruitfulness from the Sémillon, but the Sauvignon Blanc gives you that flinty, crisp, mineral finish. And so the two grapes are very different from one another, but their marriage together in a bottle like this is just unbelievable.
- This is really gorgeous.
- All right so this is the Chardonnay from Woodward.
- This is our Washington state Chardonnay. And we've been producing Chardonnay since we started.
- And if you were to compare, what would you say the character is for Washington Chardonnays compared to maybe what people would expect from a Northern California or something to that effect?
- I think Washington Chardonnay is gonna be really balanced and that's what we go for with this. So we want a little bit of softness, a little bit of the oak integrated, but we don't want it to be overly oaky, overly buttery.
- And you're right, that is perfectly balanced between all the things I want. And I kind of get those apply characters. I do taste the oak and I do taste some aloe, but it's nothing's overwhelming. I get some of that baking spice going on. This is beautiful.
- All right, well, the red we brought is from Ferguson Vineyard, and this is a high elevation site planted in fractured basalt. So it's in lava, it's planted in lava. And so that really drives the minerality in this wine. It's 60% Cabernet, 28% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec.
- Wow, so the nose is like super flamboyant, which is amazing.
- Yeah, you just get a really kind of explosive blueberry, blackberry kind of wild herbs, rose petal.
- Oh my gosh.
- So this vineyard really put us on the map. The first vintage from Ferguson won the Decanter World Wine Awards in London for best Bordeaux blend in the world.
- Ripeness with freshness, it's not super weighty, I wouldn't have any problem doing the whole bottle of this. Sometimes I have those big wines and I can have one glass and I'm done. Bravo.
- So the red we have for you guys today is our artist series Cabernet.
- We're on blending side over here, and we're on single variety side over here.
- Unlike the Ferguson, this is actually from multiple vineyards, vine age for that Cabernet is gonna be over 25 years. You get the really nice complexity from those older vines, and you're gonna get really nice red fruits on this baking spice. It's a great representation of Washington Cabernet.
- They're different, like this is more in red fruit land, whereas this is kind of more in dark fruit land. But I can still tell that they're both from Washington. Well, thank you guys so much for letting me into your homes and showing me your family's history, that really, really means a lot. And these wines are absolutely incredible. So thank you so much!
- Thank you Vince.
- Thank you.
- Welcome to the V is for Vino Nerd Lab. We take complicated wine topics and make them simple. Today we're talking about bottle shapes.
- Bottle shapes.
- As an astute wine drinker yourself I'm sure you've noticed that wine comes served in an array of vessels. From bags to cans, jugs, but by far the most common transport for wine is the bottle. But is there any primary reason to the different bottle shapes that you find on the shelves? There actually is, while there are no written rules in regards to bottles, you'll find trends as to what type of wine is in what type of bottle. And while you can find exceptions, like whatever this is, for the most part, we can break down bottle shapes into six categories. Number one, the Bordeaux bottle. This is the most popular bottle in the world and holds the two most popular grapes in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which no surprise are the grapes produced in Bordeaux, France. It's cheap and easy for machines to produce. It's sturdy, durable yet compact which makes it good for shipping and exporting and it's got high sloped shoulders, which rumor has it was developed for catching sediment. You see the red wines stored in this bottle usually are age worthy and age leads to sediment at the bottom of the bottle. If you pour from a Bordeaux bottle, just right, you can see here, the wine comes out, but the sediment gets caught at the top in the shoulder. And while Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are always in this bottle, many other varietals are often found in here too, like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, basically any wine that doesn't fall into one of the next five categories, which leads us to number two, the Burgundy bottle. Made for wines, you guessed it, that come from the grapes of Burgundy, France; Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. In simpler terms most full-bodied whites and light bodied reds find their home in this bottle. Some grapes even bounce around styles based on their bottle. Light Syrahs from Northern Rhone live here, while big Syrahs from Australia, tend to live in Bordeaux bottles. This is also rumored to be one of the first bottles ever made, since its smooth sides were easy to make without machines. Number three, the Alsatian bottle, the Hock bottle. Continuing our trend, these typically house grapes from Alsace, France. Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc, basically cold climate whites. Its said that these bottles were made tall and slender so that more can fit inside the skinny boats that transported them along the Rhine River. Innovation I can get behind. Number four, the sparkling bottle. These are your superheroes of the wine bottle world. They're built for strength. They have thicker walls and a deeper divot on the bottom called a punt that is meant to hold the added pressure that comes from the bubbles that are in the wine. It's a good thing too. The average champagne bottle has more pressure in it than the average car tire. Number five, the port bottle. Port is meant to age even longer than the wines that go into the Bordeaux bottles. And so they gave this bottle a little ball right at the top to catch all the extra sediment that may appear after decades of aging, yeah decades. Some vintage ports can age over 50, even 100 years if stored properly. And that leads us to number six, the dessert bottle. These are half bottles, sometimes short, sometimes tall and skinny. They're used because one, desserts are consumed in smaller quantities due to their intense sweetness. And two, they tend to be more expensive to produce. And there you have it, at the end of the day. I don't really care if your wine comes in a Bordeaux bottle, Bocksbeutel, what size, shape, or color your bottle happens to be, all that matters is what's inside. I hope you enjoyed this Nerd Lab on bottle shapes, and as always keep geeking out. ♪ Life is like a day at the ocean ♪ I couldn't leave Washington without drinking a bit more Merlot. So I had to meet the husband and wife team who run a winery that's also an inn. Welcome to a Abeja. ♪ I'm in danger ♪
- [Amy] Every building that you see on property right now with the exception of our new winery was built between 1902 and 1906.
- And it's this perfect blend to me of new and old. You have the beautiful facilities that have been renovated for their purpose now, but they all, every single building has history. And even the pieces in here, the tables, they're all, a lot of them are antiques. Vince - We love coming to work every day.
- [Dan] We call it church, but our church key has a corkscrew on it.
- Tell me about yourselves. Tell me how you got in the wine, give me the story.
- I'm from Michigan and moved out West to join the Washington wine industry because it's the most thriving, still with room for evolution. I met Amy and we fell in love with each other at the same time falling in love deeper with wine production and wine making.
- Why here, as opposed to California or Oregon.
- Washington state has, first of all, the best people that I found throughout my travel in wine. They have the best vineyards throughout an enormous series of valleys, and there was critical mass, but there was still a large expansive area to go from different varietals, different wine styles. But mostly I think the community.
- One of the things I love too about Walla Walla is you're still very close to the winemakers. There's very few where you go to a tasting room and you're not talking with somebody who has a direct hand in the wine.
- I know one of our winemakers really well, I married her.
- It's a collaborative effort for the wine making.
- Amy does all the hard work and I ride coattails. We make all wine making decisions together. And then the rest of the business aspects we divide and Amy conquers. Beautiful.
- So this first wine that we're gonna taste is our Washington state Chardonnay.
- Wow, beautiful, first thing I get is almost like a, kinda like a white flower, like really, really fresh.
- So this is 100% barrel fermented, 100% French oak, it's about 30% new.
- We like to refer to this as our Washingtonian style, as well as our Washington state Chardonnay. It's got that beautiful acidity, great length, mouthfeel.
- For Chardonnay, the grape is so magical that I want that complexity. And I want, like every time I go in, I want to get something new and that's what I get with this.
- Yeah, absolutely, and the Oak that we choose is all about lifting the fruit and framing it as opposed to being the focus Chateau 2 by 4.
- Yeah . You get those spices you want, you get some tropical notes going on. I don't know if it's 'cause we were talking about bees, but I almost feel like I get a little bit of like honey or like some sort of honey flower of some sort. I love it.
- All right so this is the Merlot, which is sourced kind of all over right, all over Columbia Valley.
- Oh yes, primarily from the Columbia Valley, but we also have some estate fruit in here as well. It is a hundred percent Merlot. It's just very lively and fresh. I get a lot of cherry.
- Yeah there's this black cherry core that runs throughout the entire length of the wine.
- Sure, yeah you almost get a little bit of that cherry pie thing going on, beautiful dark cherries. And I think you mentioned the freshness which I keep seeing in Washington Merlot specifically.
- Yeah, absolutely, Merlot is so intrinsically pure in Washington state, partially because of that diurnal shift. But there's something special in which it's a big wine that's still light on its feet, dancing across the pallet.
- Well, thank you guys so much. This property is amazing. The wines are amazing. This was such a great tasting. I really appreciate you guys showing me around.
- We loved having you.
- Our pleasure.
- [Dan] So I was born and raised on a cattle ranch, just two hours east of here. My dad, when he was alive, he would joke that I grew up feeding it, now I feed it to other people. Started working in a restaurant when I was 15 years old and fell in love with the industry. And then this town, I felt like it was ready for a steakhouse. It blew me away that here we are in agricultural central and in Eastern Washington, there was no great steakhouse in town so I brought it.
- That is mind blowing, especially because when you think about the wines that are made here, they're steak wines.
- No, exactly.
- And tell me more about this building you just mentioned. So you've got the rail car out front, you've got this cool exposed brick, the kind of brownish colors, which I love all scream steakhouse to me. Tell me about the space. Like what was it before?
- So 1914, the space was constructed. It was the train station for Walla Walla. And so this was kind of the hub of town for many years. The historic rail car that's outside is a 1950s Pullman dining car, on the concrete pad over here, that's where the freight scale was.
- And tell me a little bit about the cuisine, obviously it's steakhouse, but what's the philosophy, what's kind of your motto behind the food.
- It starts first for us with our steak program. And so we source all of our beef through Cattle Company Beef, which is a co-op of 62, roughly, maybe 61 family owned ranches, predominantly Angus genetics, everything's corn finished. That's where we start is with quality beef. And then we look at, we keep it simple. We've got a charcoal grill in in the kitchen there. So live fuel, natural charcoal, the grill all of steaks on. We run seasonally through all of our vegetables, but at its core it's a steak house. For us, the work behind the steak happens nine months ago, as we're sourcing and as we're looking at the steers coming into finishing, that's where a lot of our work is. After that it's simple, just cook it right, season it correctly and put it on a plate and you're done.
- The wine program, a lot of local wines, right?
- Absolutely, so we were very fortunate, the very first year we were open, we got Wine Enthusiast top 100 wine restaurants in the country. We have a huge selection from Walla Walla, but a lot of our Walla Walla wine makers wanna see wines from around the world. And so we do have a pretty good selection of international wines as well. And then we've got our wine locker program at the front door too. So we have 24 wine lockers that guests can buy for the year and they can store their wine. They can buy one off on our list and store it there. They can call ahead and say, hey, could you have this bottle ready?
- I am so excited to try this, steakhouses are just, top of the top for me. So I think your chefs waiting and I'm gonna go eat if that's cool with you.
- Yeah, don't be late.
- All right, let's do it.
- All right, thanks. Stephen- We're gonna go ahead and cook a hatchet steak on our wood-fire grill. And we're gonna do some crab cakes for you. I'm gonna start with the crab cakes. Vince - All right, beautiful. I love it.
- So I'm gonna add uh, first we've got some Dungeness crab, then we've got some red crab They're both a sweet crab. I'm gonna go ahead and combine those.
- [Vince] Now why are you doing the combo?
- The texture of the red crab meat is a little bit firmer. The Dungeness is a little bit sweeter and softer. So I'm gonna go ahead and add some mayonnaise. Okay and then I'm gonna add the panko.
- [Vince] Okay, breadcrumb basically.
- [Stephen] Yeah, it's a Japanese breadcrumb, some sauteed vegetables, it's the trinity in Creole food. So it's a combination of peppers, celery onions,
- [Vince] And you sauteed them up.
- [Stephen] And then there's a little garlic added in there as well. And then I also added some old bay seasoning. Cause who doesn't like old bay seasoning in crab right? And then I'm gonna get my hands dirty. Even if you get crab meat that says it's been picked, make sure you pick through it again. You need to make sure that you get all the shells and the cartilage out of there. Sometimes there'll be some shells that are missed.
- And you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.
- [Stephen] Yeah, that's correct.
- I like the sign on the ring mold. Put me away, do not lose me basically.
- I'll tell you, it's been many times on a Saturday night, it's like, okay, where's the ring mold. Search, the search party begins for the ring mold.
- In the middle of dinner rush.
- [Stephen] My sous chef Mikey Pleio who slaps a lot of crab cakes, I think he says he slapped a million cakes. The panko to help bind it together on the outside and also helps to brown it, panko with a little bit of clarified butter because everybody loves butter.
- All right, so our crab cakes look nice and kind of golden.
- [Stephen] A Curry Aioli on the plate.
- [Vince] Curry Aioli.
- [Stephen] Curry Aioli is made by mixing a little bit of a Tandoori curry with water, egg yolk, garlic, and acid, we use, lemon juice. And so then at the restaurant we use a compressed apple. It's a Granny Smith apple, that's grown here locally in Washington. It's mixed with olive oil and a little bit of chives and some lemon juice for acidity. And we make a little slaw.
- [Vince] Oh, look at that, all right, well, can I try this out?
- [Stephen] Yeah, absolutely.
- [Vince] Yeah, I would love, all right. So let's see how this came out here and I gotta make sure I get a bit of the slaw. Oh, that is so good, the curry. That X factor of the Curry is phenomenal. Oh my gosh, those are perfect, I love it. While our Chardonnays and White Bordeaux blend are different, they have a few things in common. They're both fairly high in acid and are both medium bodied wine. Acidity in the wine means that they can pair with the acid from the apple slaw, the fat from the mayo and butter and the salty fried character of the crab cake. And the medium bodied wines match the weight well of the medium body dish. You know what I mean when I talk about the weight in the dish, right? Here's an example, chilled crab legs, light dish. Our crab cakes, medium dish. Crab pasta, that's a heavy dish. And you usually wanna match the weight of your dish with the weight of the wine.
- First of all, look at this cut. This is absurd.
- [Stephen] This is actually a hatchet.
- [Vince] Hatchet.
- [Stephen] And there's many names. You could call it a tomahawk, you could call it a cote de boeuf, its a really large Frenched rib eye.
- [Vince] Very good, and you get all that beautiful marbling you can see.
- [Stephen] So I'm going to go ahead and take that rice bran oil, give it a rub.
- [Vince] Little steak massage.
- [Stephen] Yeah.
- [Vince] And then what are you putting on now?
- [Stephen] This is actually our seasoning. So it's kind of a secret. But you know, it's a combination of spices, salt and pepper. Okay and I'm gonna go over here to our charcoal grill. We started this grill, let's say two hours ago. And we have actually fed more charcoal onto it about five minutes ago. But once it gets to temp, we can constantly be putting charcoal onto it to keep and maintain that.
- [Vince] And you maintain it all night and it's so worth it because the flavor you get from that charcoal is just lights out. Oh wow, but look at those marks already. And any of you want the quarter turn?
- [Stephen] Yeah, I do a 45 degree turn. Some chefs say, if you see grill marks, you're not doing a good job because it should be evenly moved around. But this is the traditional way to do it.
- [Vince] Yeah. I like the criss-cross.
- [Stephen] We're a traditional steakhouse here. Also at home, if you're gonna do it inside, I recommend opening windows and having your fan turned on. Any chef that comes over to your house, I guarantee he's gonna set off your smoke alarm.
- [Vince] My wife knows very well when we do steak, we smoke out the whole place. It's the only way to do it right. All crisscross and nice.
- Yeah so I'm going to put it into a 500 degree oven. I'm gonna check it in about 12 minutes.
- [Vince] It looks amazing.
- [Stephen] And we've rested it about seven minutes, eight minutes.
- [Vince] Which is important.
- So as you let it cool down and rest, the fibers kind of pull themselves together and the juices redistribute themselves so that when we cut into the steak, it shouldn't bleed out a tremendous amount.
- Yeah, that was a sixties thing. They wanted the juice all over plate, but now we know better.
- [Stephen] So the first thing I'm going to do is I'm gonna take and lift it up and I'm gonna take my knife and I'm going to just follow it down the bone. There is what's called a lifter muscle or an abductor, it's right here. So you wanna cut against the grain, just like with wood. You don't wanna cut with the grain.
- [Vince] Why go against the grain? What does that do?
- [Stephen] Well then you don't have long fibers that you're trying to chew. You've got shorter fibers that you're trying to chew.
- [Vince] Oh yeah and you see that beautiful crust on the outside, beautiful pink on the inside. All right, so we have this wonderful steak and the big question is what wine, right? And I think a lot of people don't actually think about their sauce pairing, when they're thinking about steak, they think oh steak and Cab. But there's a lot of options with steak and it really depends on how you cook it and what you're gonna be serving with it. Chef made us three sauces to go with our steak. An herbal acidic chimichurri, a red wine Bearnaise, which is an egg yolk based sauce, and a green peppercorn demi-glace, which is similar to a rich, dense gravy. Honestly, none of our wines would be a bad pairing. They all have comparable weight to the steak and have a good tannin structure to match the fat from the steak. But as I mentioned, it's a good thing to take into account your sauce, when pairing wine. In a perfect world, let's match the green chimichurri with the green herbal character of the Woodward Cabernet, the softer plush Abeja Merlot with the creamy Bearnaise and the big rich tannic Bordeaux blend from L'ecole with the rich meaty demi-glace. One more tip, if you're ever having an older vintage wine let the wine be the star of the show and don't use any sauce at all. Oh my God, this steak, the cut of beef is incredible. Yeah, that is unreal, cooked perfectly. Well, thank you so much, all of this has been absolutely incredible. I am so honored to be here. Thank you chef.
- Thank you, we appreciate you coming in. Yeah, absolutely, cheers.
- Cheers. ♪ In a saddle, nowhere to go ♪ On my way had a Washington, I hit one more stop, as a reminder of the geological forces that carved this great state. This basalt wall was formed millions of years ago during the same time period, that helped create all the wonderful soil here. Needless to say the time capsule that is a bottle of wine, never ceases to amaze. Cheers to another million years and cheers to Walla Walla. We'll see you next time on V is Vino. ♪ Sorry for me ♪ ♪ I'll be rolling, on the way ♪ ♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ Best thing of my life ♪ ♪ Best thing of my life ♪ ♪ I'm going away ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ Ooh come on home ♪ ♪ The best of my life ♪ ♪ I'm going on away ♪ ♪ But I'm still singing anyway ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ Ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪ ♪ It was the best thing of my life ♪ ♪ The best thing of my life ♪
- [Vince] Hey, everyone, hope you enjoyed the episode and just want to extend a huge thanks to our Vino VIP gold members. You guys are the best.