Only 3 cases? 1000 miles and some great wine.

As previously mentioned, The Oregon Wine Blog dispatched a crew in Eastern Washington last weekend to check out the Red Mountain and Walla Walla Valley AVA's. I suppose to call ourselves a "crew" would imply a higher level of sophistication than the reality of Chris, Rick, myself with a camera, laptop, and an appetite for great wine and food. Nonetheless, we covered 1000 miles on the road and returned with some fantastic memories and a carload of great wine. Below is a brief overview and some highlights, with more detailed reviews to come in the weeks to follow.

The weekend started at a brisk pace Friday morning with some jet-skiing on the Columbia River in Richland, WA -- the heart of Eastern Washington wine country. After working up an appetite and taking a quick lunch at Atomic Ale Brewpub, we were on the road to Benton City for the first highlight of the weekend: a private tour with formal pairing at Col Solare. The estate was gorgeous, wine phenomenal, pairings spot on, and the hospitality of Wendi (the tasting room manager) among the best I've seen in the wine industry. No detail is left to chance at Col Solare and contrary to popular belief, they are not open "by invitation only". You just need to call and make an appointment. We'll definitely be doing an entire post on Col Solare.

The second highlight hands down was Terra Blanca. You may remember that Micheal blogged about Terra Blanca a year ago and to my very pleasant surprise, we walked in to see the same smiling face from the last visit behind the tasting room bar -- Rachel's. After a mediocre experience at Fidelitas, Terra Blanca left the perfect taste in our mouths and we spent over an hour chatting with Rachel, Keith the winemaker, and Drew from the tasting room. Oh yea, they have some great new wine out as well. We'll also be dedicating an entire post to TB.

We found the final surprising highlight in a Walla Walla culinary experience. We had planned on having dinner at Saffron as it had come highly recommended and had a great menu, so it was much to my chagrin to find a 2-hour waiting list with no reservation
made. The host was kind enough to direct us to Brasserie Four, a French-inspired restaurant with unique menu and an unassuming take on wine. All three of us ordered different main courses, and we shared an appetizer as well as a dessert. Everything we put in our mouths that evening was simply amazing, and the waitstaff very helpful. My favorite part of the entire experience is their wine list, or lack thereof. Patrons go to the wine rack on the wall, pick a bottle, and take it to the table where it is promptly opened and poured. How refreshing! More to come on this fine dining establishment as well.

We also had good experiences at Barnard Griffin, L'Ecole 41, and Cougar Crest wineries. All in all, a perfect vacation / research trip for The Oregon Wine Blog. It's a rough job, but somebody has to provide you with the latest and greatest from the Pacific Northwest. Fire up those RSS readers because we've got more great Eastern Washington coverage on the way -- in addition to our series on nontraditional wines of the Pacific Northwest and a review of the Oregon State Fair wine competition. Cheers!