Walla Squared


Walla Walla, circa 1917. Not much has changed.

Well, here I am in mid-sized, quaint Walla Walla. I’m on the second week of my time at Waters, and I’ve finally gotten enough of the bullshit out of my system in order to sit down and write.

After an incredibly opulent, debaucherous few “good-bye” weeks to New York, I arrived in Seattle on Thursday before the Monday I had to be in Walla Walla (the 15th was my start date). I got my certification to ride motorcycles on Saturday and Sunday in a two-day class, so I didn’t get out of Seattle until about five on Sunday and I was into Walla Walla around 10:30, where I moved into a completely unoccupied six-bedroom house.

After spending a sort of spooky night by myself on an air mattress, I got up early and went to find coffee. I discovered an excellent bagel and mediocre coffee. One of the offshoots of small-town living is that you often don’t have everything you need in one place, or at least within reasonable (read: walkable) proximity of each other, so now, every morning, I have to go to one coffee shop for my coffee, another for my pastry. Such is life. At least they’re both on the way out of town.

Walla Walla prompted many newly-found firsts: first in-house laundry and first dishwasher in seven years, first honest-to-goodness weekend (I mean the type that happens when you have Saturday and Sunday off) in three years, first car-based work commute ever, first trip to a Walmart (there was simply no other place to buy sheets) since my summer doing Christian dinner theater in south-central Virginia…

I’ve gotten a few roommates since arriving, but I’ve learned that my house is known by Whitman (the 3000-or-so-student liberal arts college in town)  students simply as, “The 905,” and is a lauded, historic party house which bookends Fraternity row. I am nothing but entertained by this. My tenure here is short, so the fact that I scavenged up a very nice-looking full-sized bed, a desk, a chair, an armoire and book-case is pretty stellar, because I was just going to rough it otherwise. To give you an idea of what the house is like, there’s a sign over one of the bathrooms in hand-painted, 1-foot letters that simply reads, “URINE.”

The skinny on work: it’s hard, but it’s great. I’m learning an incredible amount and getting all the manual labor I could shake a stick at, “Ask and ye shall receive.”

I’ve been endeavoring over the past few days to investigate the watering holes in town, and a few are remarkable, definitely including a place where I successfully ordered a Hanky Panky, and another one where I had Jacky Blot’s sensational 2004 Taille Aux Loups Montlouis with a perfectly prepared brook trout in beurre meuniere and fresh herbs. I’m completely ignoring the fact that I cannot afford any of this on a harvest assistant’s salary.

As soon as I get my photo transfer situation figured out, I’m going to start in on a series of blog posts with more detailed information on what I’ve been doing at the winery, which has been mostly general cleaning in addition to blending a few wines from the 2010 vintage, and a day spent out at a few of the vineyards to the west of Walla Walla in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA (a.k.a. American Viticultural Area).

The harvest still a ways out, probably no earlier than the third or fourth week of September for the early ripening varietals like Merlot and Tempranillo. Much to the opposite of Europe this vintage, we’re well behind the usual harvest. The year has been very cool, plus frosts devastated low-lying vineyards last year (negative 11 degrees in mid-November). The plants weren’t killed, but the next year’s growth was, and so they won’t have a harvest from those plants until next year. The vineyards we saw last week showed only the most marginal signs veraison. Theoretically perfect conditions to make the sort of wines Water’s likes to put out; the wines aspire to old-world quality with a definitive sense reflecting the various terroirs working with the winery.

This weekend I’m headed back to Seattle for one of my best High School friend’s weddings. I’m also crashing another. And going to a boat party. And shopping for Burning Man clothes. My life is ridiculous.

For moment-to-moment updates on what’s going on, follow me @techdrinking on Twitter.



About Morgan

Liquid enthusiast. Sommelier and wine communicator living and working in New York City.
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