04/10/18 - X.O. Alambic in Dayton

We took a side trip up to Dayton, a bit northeast of Walla Walla. Our goal wasn't a winery, but a distillery. Like many towns, Dayton has an agricultural business incubator, basically big open spaces with concrete floors, big doors, loading docks, good plumbing and good wiring. There was a Jolly Green Giant on the hillside behind it. This area is frozen vegetable country.

One never knows what one will find inside one of these spaces. They are intentionally generic, so businesses can make what they want of them. A step into the X.O.Alambic space was a trip into steam punk. We were suddenly back in the 19th century or early 20th with pipes, valves, shining metal boilers and condensers, pressure sealed windows and an air of organized clutter that would not have been out of place aboard Jules Verne's Nautilus.

There was methanol dripping from the recently charged still. Neurotoxic, we were informed. Our host carefully isolated the bucket and set up a new one. Soon, proper ethanol would start condensing. We stood and marveled. The drivers of modern industry are so dull in comparison. Compare the uniform matte racks of a modern server farm with the gleaming stainless still and rich copper of the alambic stills.

We tasted firewater prepared using the cognac process. It had been aged, and was quite good. We tasted a variety of whiskeys. We had passed grain farms and granaries on our drive to Dayton, and here a variety of grains were being fermented, then distilled and the product aged in oak barrels. We aren't whiskey people, but it was fun tasting. We'll stick with wine for now, but it's good to see people thinking and experimenting like this.

The Jolly Green Giant

Welcome to Captain Nemo's laboratory

A view towards the rear

Stills and barrels

Copper can be beautiful

The bottling area

Aging barrels

What it takes to keep things running

The tools

Another telephone; perhaps for calling one's broker when the silver standard returns

Our host preparing for sea trials

Keywords: farms, walla walla

04/09/18 - Bennington Lake in Walla Walla

It's that time of year again, the Cayuse spring release. It wasn't very spring-like, but we headed out to Walla Walla anyway. Usually, all the fruit trees en route are full of blossoms, but this time only a handful were. It has been a slow spring on both sides of the Cascades.

In Walla Walla, we made a point of walking around Bennington Lake. It is very different country from where we live. There were dry grasses and old seed pods and wide open agricultural land with mountains only in the distance. The Army Corps of Engineers had closed the sluices, so the lake was low and the side stream was dry. We assume they know what they are doing.

Dry grasses

Distant mountains

Very different from the Olympic Peninsula

This is where one fords the feeder stream for Bennington Lake. It was just about dry.

The closed gates

A view with some water

Agricultural land

Dried berries

Dried seed pods

Bare trees

Lovely country

Keywords: spring, walla walla

04/09/17 - Walla Walla Coffee Roastery

We usually travel with coffee making gear and a supply of ground coffee. The quality of coffee on the road has been going downhill for some years now, even in Seattle, the supposed home of great coffee. In Walla Walla, we needed a resupply, so we discovered the Walla Walla Roastery, a true temple of great coffee. They even had nitro shots, cold coffee pressed with nitric oxide. We found a delightful Peruvian roast.

The coffee shop clearly has a following. It's right off the airport entrance road east of town. When we arrived, the parking lot was full of college students and their cars. The roastery itself was a flashback to college days with students, textbooks and laptops sprawled all over the place. (We'll confess. When we were students, laptops hadn't been invented yet, but I'm sure our coffeehouses would have been full of them if they had been.) We had some great coffee and relished not having to take finals. Who says Walla Walla is just about wine?

Some of the great coffees

Keywords: walla walla

04/08/17 - Walla Walla - Bennington Lake

We were out in Walla Walla, so we made a point of dropping by Bennington Lake. It's actually a water control project run by the Army Corps of Engineers, but its also a gem of a park and a great place for a walk between wine touring and fine dining. This year we had great views of two ospreys flying by the lake, and, as usual, the scenery was stunning.

Dried grass and ark wood

One of the trails

The water works

One of the ospreys

Possibly the same osprey, possibly the other

The scene later as the sky darkened a bit

More wonderful sky

Trees and the sky

The trail

Grasses and sky

More ominous sky

Keywords: trails, walla walla

04/08/16 - More Walla Walla

We visited a number of wineries in Walla Walla including some of our favorites like Reynvaan and Rulo. We rather liked the wines at Palencia, a newcomer based out at the airport winery incubator. If nothing else, driving around the wine country is beautiful, though we did learn a lesson about the limitations of GPS navigation and the advantages of paper maps. Google Maps, at least had the decency to say “You can’t get there from here”, but Apple Maps took us off the paved roads despite a much easier parallel paved route.

We also tried out Dora’s Deli and tried some of their tacos. We were amazed. They were out of tongue, but the other meats were rich in flavor, not fatty at all, and perfectly seasoned. We grabbed take out so we could have a proper breakfast and were extremely pleased. This was our second round of Mexican food this trip. We had grabbed some tamales from Los Hernandez in Union Gap on the way out. They not only had wonderful fillings, but the masa was the most flavorful we’ve ever had.

The view from Rulo Winery

We have to include at least one picture of grapevines.

Palencia at the airport winery incubator

Dora’s Deli

Los Hernandez in Union Gap

Keywords: restaurants, walla walla, wineries

04/07/16 - Walla Walla - Lake Bennington and Mill Creek

One of our favorite places in Walla Walla is the Army Corps of Engineers water control works and Lake Bennington. It is dry country, very different from our usual stomping grounds. We had a bit of time in the morning, so we walked from the parking lot at the lake up to the control gates and a nearby view point.

Dry country

Spring time though

Water works

A glimpse west towards the Rockies

The dry trail

Keywords: walla walla

04/06/16 - Our Favorite I-82 Giants

We were out east in Walla Walla, and on our way home passed two of our favorite electrical transmission towers. There are lots of them out that way what with all the hydro and wind power generated in the area. We like these two for their facial expressions. There’s the tall angry guy and his calmer, shorter friend. These two look like they are starring in a buddy movie.

Two giants

Keywords: walla walla

04/07/15 - Mill Creek and Bennington Lake

We were out in Walla Walla to celebrate the Cayuse spring release and a friend's birthday. With all the good food and wine, we really needed a bit of stretch. So, we drove out to Mill Creek and Bennington Lake at the eastern edge of town and explored a landscape we found quite exotic. For one thing, it is much drier out here than back home in the North Olympic Peninsula, and the mountains are much farther away.

Mill Creek and Bennington Lake is an Army Corps of Engineers site, much like the Ballard Locks. The primary purpose of the site was water management, but there were picnic tables, bathrooms and lots of hiking trails. There was also the Mill Creek diversion dam, Mill Creek itself, and the Mill Creek storage dam itself, a large earthwork near the parking lot.

This may sound awfully industrial what with all the dams, but like the Ballard Locks, it has a lot of charm. A short walk gave us a good sense of the prairie and at a high point across the diversion dam there some wonderful views of the distant snow capped mountains. So much of the area is agricultural and off limits. Either that, or it is a vineyard. It was nice to have a place to go and just wander.

A dry country


Lake Bennington

Public works

More public works and more trails

The view from a high point

These flowers had an amazingly sweet scent.

Looking down at the diversion channel crossing

Another view - Those are big concrete blocks.

Keywords: flowers, spring, trails, walla walla

04/06/14 - Walla Walla WIneries

We visited a few wineries in Walla Walla, some new, but also a few old favorites. We dropped by Rulo and Reynvaan for an update, but we visited Maison Bleue for the first time. They make a very French styled wine, and we were quite impressed. We were also impressed with the decor, deep blue and with plenty of antlers. At Foundry, to be honest, we were most impressed by the art including some pieces by Maya Lin and bathymetric sculptures of the Black and Caspian seas.

Downtown Walla Walla

Maison Bleue, antlers included

The view from Rotie

The Foundry reflecting some amazing sky

The outdoor exhibit at the Foundry - Don't ask.

More amazing sky at Foundry

Walla Walla vintners, because we had to include at least one industrial shot

Keywords: walla walla, wineries

04/05/14 - Walla Walla Skies

We were out in Walla Walla enjoying the skies. There's a lot of sky in Eastern Washington. We had clouds and some rain, but not very far away it was snowing in the Rocky Mountains.

Dramatic sky

More sky

Even more sky, but this time with grapes in the foreground so you can tell it's Walla Walla

Keywords: walla walla, atmosphere

04/14/13 - Even More Walla Walla

Before dinner, we explored downtown Walla Walla a bit. Most of the downtown area seems to have been built in the early 20th century, so there are lots of nice old buildings to look at. We made a quick stop at El Corazon Winery which is right in town and looks as much like a hip bar as a winery. Then we wandered around a bit and dropped into Salumiere Cesario which sells charcuterie, salumi, cheese and other gourmet items. It looked like a great place to pack a picnic lunch.

Then we went to dinner at Saffron, a mediterranean restaurant which made the most amazing turkish lamb flatbread sandwich called a gozleme. It tastes like they put grape leaves and zaatar in it. We ordered one to go for breakfast. We also tried the lamb fatee, a stew with lamb and celeriac. Our appetizers were the grilled quail and grilled octopus, two separate dishes. Everything was wonderfully prepared and wonderfully spiced. The serving staff was great, especially given that it was Cayuse weekend, and the house was packed.

El Corazon Winery in Walla Walla proper

Walla Walla is full of early 20th century architecture.

Another Walla Walla street scene

Chandelier at Salumiere Cesario

The salumis at Salumiere Cesario

A whimsical sculpture

Another bit of whimsy

More great old buildings

Another downtown view

The river runs through it.

Saffron, our new favorite restaurant

Keywords: wine, restaurants, walla walla, washington state

04/13/13 - Walla Walla Continued

We wandered a bit more and dropped by Reynvaan Winery which made wines in what they called a French style, but they were too high alcohol for us.

We did get to learn more about the area. The Walla Walla valley is a broad, flat expanse, but bounded by gently rolling hills. The wineries occupy much of the flat land, but they also follow the land as it rises. The wine makers try to take advantage of the varying temperatures and exposures, as well as the type of land itself. Some vineyards have river stones arrayed between the rows of vines to hold the heat better. Others simply rely on the weather and land.

Wine making is an interesting business. Even we can understand its appeal. Back at our hotel, there was a winery for sale right outside our window. It looked like a bit of a fixer upper, in need of a lot of work and some replanting. Presumably this was reflected in the price what with it being "for sale by owner" rather than through a realtor. We were truly tempted, but we had other fish to fry this trip.

Walla Walla, hills and valleys

Dramatic sky

Reynvaan Winery

More rolling ground

We were so taken with the wine business, we almost bought a winery of our own.

Keywords: walla walla, wine, washington state

04/12/13 - Walla Walla Wine Country

We were recently out in Walla Walla with some friends of ours. They were there for one of the big local events, the Cayuse Winery annual release weekend. Cayuse is a bit of a cult winery with a serious fan base and limited production. Their wine is carefully rationed, with each buyer getting a certain number of bottles of each type of wine based on their previous purchases and seniority. This means their release is a big event with people driving in from a fair catchment to grab their allocation of yellow boxes. There is also a nice reception with all sorts of hors d'ouevres like smoked salmon, curried goat and pork loin sandwiches. (We washed a lot of them down with their Chamberlin Syrah.)

After Cayuse, we headed south into Oregon and dropped by Petits Noir, a confectioner selling ganache centered chocolate bonbons, a broad variety of nougat candies, and little chocolate buttons. Our favorites might have been the little chocolate buttons with pink peppercorns in them. This being wine country, there was also the Ellanelle Winery offering samples of their wares, and this being Cayuse weekend, also a selection of excellent charcuterie. We rather liked their wines and bought a few bottles, but they need a few years before drinking.

Then it was on to Watermill Winery which is in a lovely old building, some kind of agricultural office with a grand old safe and hard wood floors. They also make apple ciders, some flavored, but we most enjoyed their simplest with a good tart apple flavor.

Then it was back to Washington for Rulo Winery. They were caught up in the spirit of the weekend, so we wound up tasting most of their wines and really enjoying their grenache blanc. It actually tasted more like a rich French white than more traditional white varietals from the area. We also bought a few of their reds which were quite good, but also quite young. We are going to have to do some serious sampling over the next few years.

Wine country, flat country

The great Cayuse wine distribution - a surprisingly exclusive club

The Cayuse mascot

Wine country grapes

Ellanelle Winery had a table at Petits Noir chocolates in

Petits Noir has chocolate and nougat confections

Watermill Winery also makes apple cider

We could smell the foul burger grease across the street at Watermill.

Rulo WInery

One nice thing about winery is that you can drive your forklift right up to the wine and cheese table.

Rulo Winery and their child friendly policy

Keywords: walla walla, wine, washington state