As previously mentioned a couple posts ago, a few of us at The Oregon Wine Blog had the opportunity to do some wine tasting in both the Red Mountain and Wall Walla AVAs in Eastern Washington. While we will slowly be publishing highlights of that trip, the first destination I would like to write about is Benton City's Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard. If you have not read it yet, I highly encourage you read Michael's post about Terra Blanca from last year as I will be entirely skipping pieces he has already covered.
As a relatively new writer for The Oregon Wine Blog, I was really excited for my first expedition out to Eastern Washington for some serious wine tasting. Our first day ended at Terra Blanca (much like last year's trip) and after hearing about how great of a time was had last year, I was more than ready to experience Terra Blanca for myself. Having only tried their Onyx Bordeaux-style red blend before, I was in for quite the experience.
Let me also preface before I get into this article that I'm probably going to ramble. I may have started rambling already. The point is that when I'm excited about something, I tend to ramble. The following is more or less an instruction book for how to get a wine nerd excited.
Upon entering Terra Blanca's beautiful facility by tugging on one of the largest wooden doors I have ever seen (side note: they should consider going all the way and installing a draw bridge), Josh, Chris, and I were warmly greeted upon walking up to the tasting area. Not only was I surprised at how many different wines Terra Blanca has for tasting, but something else happened that I didn't expect. The woman cracking jokes and pouring wine behind the bar? Yup, that was Rachel from last year's article and she almost immediately recognized Josh. Not only did she accurately recall their trip from last year, but it turns out she also read our article and became a mini celebrity around the winery. Who knew we had that kind of effect?
Time to try some wine! Terra Blanca, like many large-scaled wineries, offers both a standard and a reserve tasting. We opted for the reserve line, where virtually every wine we tasted was phenomenal. I'll get to the wines in a bit, but one person in particular considered the non-reserve cab sauv better than the reserve. Rachel introduced us to Drew, who had recently started working at Terra Blanca and was finishing off his day with a glass of wine. After insisting we try their other cab sauv, the panel was split 50/50 in regards to which we preferred. While I could go on about how both cab sauvs are great wines for different reasons, I point out our experience with Drew because it didn't end at the tasting bar.
Although he had just finished working for the day, Drew graciously agreed to give us a tour of the facility and it's cellar. Even more gracious considering that he was originally planning on sticking around to give a tour for his parents. While Michael described the cellar in great depth, I would like to also point out that we were also shown where Terra Blanca libraries their wine as well as the bottling room. A fun fact I learned is that wax-covered bottles are hand-dipped. I suppose that makes sense, but for whatever reason I assumed there was some sort of bottling technology out there more sophisticated than a crock-pot full of wax. Guess not!
I would also like to point out that each and every one of our readers since the blog redesign has seen a piece of Terra Blanca. See that beautiful header at the top of every page? That's their cellar.
Another fun fact: Drew's father is John Clement; regional photographer and author of a couple books we have on our coffee table. That was definitely a surprise.
Once the tour finished it was back to the tasting room! After Rachel's awesome impression of her sister, we were up for another treat. Keith Pilgrim (owner/winemaker) paid us a visit and even took over some pouring duties. Keith is one of the most down to Earth and completely open people in the wine industry I have ever met. We talked about a whole array of topics including wine making, wine blogging, marketing, their new labels, and even his thoughts regarding the future of the wine industry in terms of audience. In short, Keith definitely has his finger on the pulse of the wine industry and expect big things from Terra Blanca.
Did I mention Terra Blanca also makes wine? While we had the opportunity to try almost all of their wines, I'll expedite the process by listing what we went home with.
-2004 Winemaker's Barrel Select Syrah
-2004 Reserve ONYX Bordeaux
-2003 Pantheon (blend of 81% Nebbiolo, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Dolcetto)
-2002 Estate Reserve Merlot
-2002 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
-2005 Forte Cabernet Sauvignon Port
While all of the above wines were obviously good enough to where we couldn't leave without them, let me specifically point out their Pantheon blend. Everybody in the wine industry does blends and often times many are not memorable, but this isn't the case for Pantheon. I was rather shocked at seeing its blend composition and it took all of one sip before Chris knew he had to have a bottle. I highly recommend picking up a bottle of this if you want a truly unique red blend not typically seen in the Pacific Northwest.
Rarely do wineries have that perfect combination of atmosphere, great wine, and a dedication to the experience as a whole. Terra Blanca is one winery that gets this absolutely perfect and what's even better is that we can now prove this experience is replicable. In terms of having the holistic perfect wine tasting experience, I can't think of another winery I would recommend any higher to visit in all of Eastern Washington. The selection is broad enough that everybody will find something they like and the staff is welcoming enough to where you can feel comfortable asking the most basic of questions.
After at least an hour and a half of visiting, it was time to head out. A huge thank you goes out to Rachel, Drew, Keith, and everybody else at Terra Blanca that makes it such a gem.