West Coast Wednesdays: Waterbrook Winery

It’s hard to believe that we are already in week #5 of our West Coast Wednesdays series!  This venture has been so enlightening for us and we hope that you’ve been enjoying it as well!  This week we are heading back to Walla Walla, Washington (a new favorite wine region of ours) where we’ll explore Waterbrook Winery.

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The Story.

In the early 1980s, a handful of visionaries realized the potential of Walla Walla as a winemaking force. Waterbrook’s founders set up the town’s fourth winery in 1984, and in the process fostered a culture of friendship among fellow Walla Walla winemakers and growers.  Today, the town of Walla Walla has flourished– charming, filled with a rich history and booming with success from the fruits of its land. Waterbrook marked 30 years of winemaking in 2014, never straying from its principles of creating fruit-forward, varietally correct wines.  Over the years, Waterbrook has earned more than 100 combined Best Buys and 90+ point scores, and has been recognized for producing wines that exemplify the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley.

Interesting fact: Waterbrook draws it’s name from the Nez Perce Indian dialect for Walla Walla, which means “Running Water”.

The Vineyard.

Waterbrook’s vineyards are comprised of 187 acres sitting on the Northeastern part of the Walla Walla Valley, one of the most diverse wine growing regions in Washington State.  The climate is similar to that of Bordeaux– long and warm sunny days in the summertime are complemented with low rainfall and a climate perfect for ripening.  The temperatures between day and night differ almost 40 degrees, locking in acids for great flavor and balance.

The Waterbrook Estate vineyard enjoyed it’s first harvest in 2012 and continues to expand its plantings.  They currently have Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Chardonnay under vine.  Waterbrook also sources fruit from different vineyards in Washington State and the Columbia Valley to complete their portfolio.

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Winemaker.

Born in San Francisco but raised in Napa Valley, winemaker John Freeman, has found his home at Waterbrook Winery.  After several years in California Wine country, serving as both winemaker and cellar master for a few producers, John became the assistant winemaker at Waterbrook in 2003.  In 2005 he took full control of the operations, carefully managing every aspect of the winemaking process to ensure that all of Waterbrook’s wines are balanced, complex and consistent.  He loves getting know different growers and learning about the land, experimenting in the winery with new techniques, and working with like-minded, passionate people everyday.  A bonus of the job?  Bringing his dog to the office and working in the vineyards throughout summer!

Tasting Room.

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Waterbrook Winery in Walla Walla, WA (www.waterbrook.com)

In 2008, a state-of-the-art winery and tasting room was constructed, creating a destination for wine lovers and simultaneously helping to put Walla Walla wine on the world’s stage.  The tasting room, open daily from 11am-5pm, is the perfect place to celebrate the beauty of Washington State.  With indoor and outdoor tasting options, panoramic views of the grounds, large ponds and picturesque blue mountains, this destination tasting room is calling our name!  In addition, a full-service kitchen is serving up farm-to-table fare from local ingredients.  Enjoy lunch with one of Waterbrook’s award winning varietals and relax all afternoon soaking up the view.

The Wines.

“Waterbrook’s collection of wines are true to varietal character, food friendly and deliver uncompromised quality.”

Waterbrook offers a variety of wines for all palates.  Classified under three different labels–Reserve, Icon and Core– Waterbrook crafts both award winning blends and single varietal wines.  Wines range from $12 a bottle up to $75 and include the White Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, a Rosé of Sangiovese, and Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Sirah and Red Blends.  Virginia wine lovers will be intriqued by their 2014 Al’s Run Viognier (state grape of VA!) which donates a portion of its proceeds to the Pacific Northwest Salmon Center.

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We were fortunate enough to sample the 2014 Founders Red Blend Melange sourced with fruit from Columbia Valley.  Each year, the Melange Founders Blend is the first wine that winemaker John Freeman blends.

  • 2014 Founders Red Blend Melange
    • Comprised of 47% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Grenache, 2% Sangiovese and 1% each of Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise
    • Aged in 20% New American Oak for 11 months
    • Harvested in Sept-October 2013
    • 11,800 cases produced
    • Vintage Background: 2014 was an exception harvest resulting in a record crop level and excellent quality.  All factors needed for success came together in the growing season– cool nights, lots of warm days, and limited rain.  Harvest started in late-August and wrapped up by mid-November.
    • Winemaker notes:  A burst of cherries introduces a beautiful red blend laden with clove spice, mocha, burnt sugar, blueberries, vanilla bean, and ripe red fruits.  Medium bodied but full of big red flavors. Cherry pie and whiskey notes provide a lingering finish.
    • Winos notes:
      • Deep, dark plum in color, with clove spice, vanilla and black cherry on the nose. Low acidity and a smooth round mouth feel, coupled with light tannins make this wine easily drinkable.
      • Where would we want to drink it?  Draw yourself a hot bubble bath, put on some relaxing music and pour yourself a glass after a long week at work.  Another option–a casual weekend family dinner is the perfect place to enjoy this wine, or heck, open it up while you’re prepping your casual family dinner!
      • Recommended food pairing?   While this could be paired with a nice pot roast on any day of the year (we’re drinking this in the middle of summer) it would also be great with a piece of dark chocolate with a  hint of sea salt. Yum yum.

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We love the commitment of Waterbrook to making premium, hand-crafted wines.  Although we’ve only sampled the Melange Founders Red Blend, we believe that their wines are true expressions of the terroir of the Walla Walla Valley.

 

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