As we rode in the van, I tried to figure out which direction we were heading, watching the rolling brown hills outside of Walla Walla roll by. The anticipation was intoxicating. Then I stopped trying to figure it out, and I surrendered to the journey.
I’ve always liked surprise trips. I am a planner and this throws my plans to the wind. It’s freeing. Sometimes Michael will head out to the car, and I will just follow, climb in, let him drive and see where we end up. I relish these trips.
This time there were a few more people involved. Typically this is everyone’s favorite event at the Wine Bloggers Conference. When we picked up our badges for the conference we were given a colored ticket. Mine was a golden yellow. A golden ticket. We gathered in the side lobby of the Marcus Whitman, lining up behind signs whose color matched our ticket. One by one the groups headed out the door. One group I think was in antique cars.
We were one of the last groups. As we headed out we were told to load into either the limo or the two luxury vans. We popped in a van (I’ve been in my share of limos and with a bunch of people never actually found it comfortable, usually just awkward). The van had “Bottleshock” playing on the screen. Conversations bantered around the van and we headed off into the Walla Walla Hills.
At last we seemed to be arriving. The winery as you pull up looks like a big barn. Dark wood and the name Doubleback on the side. As we pulled in and disembarked, we were greeted by a food truck. “Andrae’s Kitchen” was cooking away. This was Andrae of the “gas station” that Thaddeus, of the Minority Wine Report, (Yeah, that’s a shout out to you Thad) had been raving about. You could tell this was all set to be a great evening.
The landscape here was stark and stunning. While we were a chatty bunch, it made me go quiet. The rolling hills with their severe browns and blacks, scorched and sepia tones, demanded a reverence. This evening the sky was washed in grey. The view is wide and it makes you feel very small. One should be silent with nothing but the sound of your own breath, with this view, at least for a moment.
After taking in the hills, I turned to look again at the winery. The building is beautiful but understated. Clean lines and rustic wood blend to create a place that is elegant and welcoming.
Inside large glass garage doors keep the space open to the view. We passed though the room set with tables, were handed a glass of wine and proceeded into the winery itself where we met our hosts. Josh McDaniels the Winemaker and General Manager for Doubleback and Jerry Solomon and Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars
Trays of Grilled flatbread with babaganouj, charred tasso, parsley and picked fresh chili and Tuna tartare, sesame ailo, picked cucumber, wonton chip, with shaved endive paired with Underground Wine Project’s 2017 Mr. Pink Rose and Bledsoe Family Winery: 2017 Elizabeth Chardonnay.
I have to take a moment to tell you a bit about the Underground Wine Project. This is a collaboration between Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars and Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery. These guys have been friends for a while and collaborated to make a 100 cases of a wine called Idle Hands back in 2009. It became a cult favorite and caused the creation of the Underground Wine Project. They now make 4 wines, including the Mr. Pink rosé.
We headed back in to dinner and we were lucky enough to sit with Sleight of Hand Winemaker Trey Busch, as well as Thaddeus of Minority Wine Report, Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, Miki & Tom Joe of The Vineyard Trail and Leeann Froese of The Vineyard Birder, and I’ll admit, I think we were the rowdy table. Regardless, we had fun and enjoyed the wines, and were close enough to the plating table to get the scoop (and some great photos) of Chef Andrae and his team putting together the exceptional dinner that we enjoyed.
Are you ready to drool?
1st course: Smoked pork belly rillette, banana bread pudding, shaved fennel, watercress and maple mustarda. Sounds a little weird? Weirdly and amazingly delicious. Go ahead, get a napkin, and maybe a snack, you are going to get really hungry as you gaze at these photos.
2nd course: This was the pièce de résistance. Ask anyone at the dinner.
Everything was amazing, but this….
Lobster bisque, parsley and sunchoke.
…..lobster roe dried, baked and ground to add that punch. This was a thin milky broth that was so infused with flavor…I was sitting with Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life http://www.thelushlife.xyz/ and we both ate this almost silently, except for the quiet groans of pleasure and with our eyes closed. We savored ever single drop and are still talking about this bowl of heaven.
3rd course: Poached pear and frisee salad, goat cheese, roasted lemon vinaigrette.
This was the perfect contrast to the bisque, a brightness, with a softness that set us up for the …
Entrée: Seared lamb loin, local corn succotash, butternut squash pave.
Succotash, seems like a homey comfort food, and it was, but elevated.
Finally and sadly, it was time for dessert: huckleberry upside down cake with corn and cashew gelato.
Through out the evening, the wine was flowing. Michael and I shared glasses, because dumping one to make room for the next just didn’t feel right. The wines were spectacular. From the Sleight of Hand 2014 Archimage Cab Fran/Merlot to the Doubleback: 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon….I remember looking at the menu card and trying to figure out which wine we were on. Trey said something about the wine listed not being the one that they were pouring. The one problem with a wine dinner is with all the wine, you often lose track. I look forward to returning to revisit all of these wines.
The evening ended, with new friends made, an extraordinary meal and tons of great wine. Mystery Dinner Win!
And we left with tunes! Sleight of Hand Cellars puts out their +Sub Pop music download annually. “Punk Rock Wines for Punk Rock Minds” oh, and the remnants of a bottle of the Doubleback Cab Sav, that we in turn took to share at an after party back at the hotel.
Oh, and I think I neglected our celebrity link. Doubleback winery is owned by former NFL Quarterback Drew Bledsoe. But you will have to wait for the story about that. Watch for additional pieces on Doubleback, Sleight of Hand and Andrae’s Kitchen.
How to find them
Doubleback Winery is located at 3853 Powerline RoadWalla Walla, WA 99362 They are open for tastings by appointment only. This is an allocation winery, so if you want a bottle, you will need to join The List.
Sleight of Hand Cellars has 2 tasting rooms
1959 J B George Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Where they are open Saturday to Thursday from 11-5 and Fridays when they stretch it a little further from 11-6.
In Seattle you can find them at
3861G 1st Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98134
Where they are open Thursday to Sunday from 12-5 and Friday and Saturday from 11-6.
Andrae’s Kitchen can be found at the Gas Station at
707 Rose Street, Walla Walla, WA
They are open daily from 6 am to 8 pm, with the exception of Sundays when they close at 4 pm.
Go to his site and check out the video! http://andraeskitchen.com/
* We attended the Wine Bloggers conference and promised to do 3 posts on the events. Whatever…I will only post about things I enjoyed, so there will be dozens of posts on the things I enjoyed from this trip. Washington is a wine region to visit.
You can look forward to more in depth pieces on the 3 wineries that we featured here in the future!