A little Sleight of Hand with dinner at Doubleback

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.

The Doubleback Winery

The Doubleback Winery

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.

Andrae's Kitchen

Andrae’s Kitchen of the Gas Station fame in Walla Walla

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.

The starkly beautiful hills of Walla Walla as viewed from Doubleback Winery

The starkly beautiful hills of Walla Walla as viewed from Doubleback Winery

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.

Doubleback Dinner with Friends

A table set for 8 with soooo many glasses! Wine would flow in abundance!

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.

Doubleback Dinner with Friends

Doubleback Dinner with Trey Busch winemaker at Sleight of Hand, Thaddeus Buggs of the Minority Wine Report and Leeann Froese of the Vineyard Birder

Are you ready to drool?

Doubleback Dinner Menu

Doubleback Dinner Menu

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.

Smoked pork belly rillette, banana bread pudding, shaved fennel, watercress and maple mustarda.

Smoked pork belly rillette, banana bread pudding, shaved fennel, watercress and maple mustarda.

2nd course: This was the pièce de résistance. Ask anyone at the dinner.

Lobster bisque, parsley and sunchoke

Lobster bisque, parsley and sunchoke

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.

 Poached pear and frisee salad, goat cheese, roasted lemon vinaigrette

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.

Seared lamb loin, local corn succotash, butternut squash pave

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.

Opal Blackberry upside down cake with corn and cashew gelato

Opal Blackberry upside down cake with corn and cashew gelato

The Chefs!

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.

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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.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more great wine country experiences in Washington, Oregon and beyond. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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.
[email protected]
509-525-3334

Sleight of Hand Cellars has 2 tasting rooms

Walla Walla

1959 J B George Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362

(509) 525-3661

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

(206) 582-1878

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/

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* 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.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more great wine country experiences in Washington, Oregon and beyond. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

You can look forward to more in depth pieces on the 3 wineries that we featured here in the future!

WBC18 in Walla Walla the Sweeping Overview

Owen Roe Vineyard Shot

We returned from WBC18 with so much content on Washington Wines and beyond!  Tons of great photos and footage and stories from amazing people and wineries.  We will break it all down and give you the in-depth stories, but the week was so exciting I wanted to give you the sweeping overview (Complete with lots of photos!) of the stories you will see coming soon!

Michael drove to Portland, you can catch a little of his trip on #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log(Day 1) and #WBC18 Crushed Grape Chronicles Travel Log Day 2  We will pick up here where he left off.

So I did make it to the airport in Portland!  While Michael got a couple extra hours of sleep due to our cancelled and re-booked flight, I sadly did not.  Whatever, it’s vacation right?  Sleep is overrated.  We got on our tiny little flight to PASCO the Tri Cities airport that sits between Yakima and Walla Walla and were seated at the back of the plane.  We noticed the plane was pretty empty and inquired about re-seating.  The flight attendant informed us that we were seated to provide ballast.  LOL!

The flight, new friends and Wine!

As it turned out, there were other WBC attendees on the flight, so we made friends!  Jennifer of Beyond the Corkscrew sat with us and we enjoyed complimentary wine from Horizon Air from Sagelands Winery.  They are part of the Precept Wine Portfolio and say Sagelands “embodies Washington State’s wine making legacy by sourcing the finest grapes from the four corners of the Columbia Valley and handcrafting them into wines of outstanding quality and value”.  From what I can gather on their site, they are a larger winery sourcing grapes, but….I appreciated the bits on their winemaker and the vineyards they source from and their soils.  Feel free to use the link and check them out. Michael had the Cabernet, I had the Chardonnay and we toasted with Jennifer to a fine start to what would be a full weekend of wine!

Wine Yakima Valley

We spent a little bit of time at the airport, before our host from Wine Yakima Valley arrived to pick us up.  There was also a Red Mountain Tour leaving from the airport.  I will have a piece or two (or three) on this pre-conference tour.  Barbara with Wine Yakima Valley did a phenomenal job setting this all up.  So you get the overview!  They had snacks for the drive…

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

Yakima Valley Cheese Plate

…it included some local products, a bit of a tussle to get them out of the plastic wrap but…and then we were off for the hour ten minute drive to Owen Roe Winery for Flavor Camp.  Patrick our driver regaled us with stories and details of the area along the way.

Owen Roe Winery

We arrived early at Owen Roe and were greeted with wine, I managed to get a winery tour with Owner David O’Reilly and then Flavor Camp!  Yeah, you’ll have to wait to hear about that.  The evening ended with Dinner with a spectacular view and many Yakima Valley wines, with Winemakers pouring.

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Elephant Mountain Vineyard

The next morning we were up for breakfast and a fly-over seminar, with Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars and Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville to give us the layout of the Yakima Valley so we could connect with the landmarks we were passing as we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.  We met Joe Hattrup, who owns the vineyard., tasted some of the varieties fresh from harvest and then tasted an assortment of wines made from the grapes sourced from this vineyard.  Of course they kept us fed, today with a great Mexican food truck to enjoy with the wine and the astounding views.

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Walla Walla pre-conference wine education

We came in hot to Walla Walla, dashing from the van right into our first session which was with Dr. Loosen USA on riesling.  We had a moment to check in and then off to our second session on the Wines of Uruguay (which was really fascinating and delicious).

Cadaretta

Our dinner that night was at Cadaretta’s glass house.  This trip actually took us across the border into Oregon, as the Walla Walla AVA is a cross border AVA.  The views were amazing, dinner and the wines were delicious and Kris Middleton of Cadaretta was kind enough to take some time to speak with us.  (Yeah…more on that later)

And the conference begins!

The conference…well it’s really fast paced.  The Conference Opening ran right into the Introduction to the Walla Walla Valley (and more stories to come from the 4 women winemakers from name the winemakers with links to wineries who introduced us to the region), then a session on Wine Bloggers vs Wine Influencers which took us into lunch sponsored by Cascade Valley Wine Country

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Agenda Board for Wine Writers Conference

Michael and I then split, Michael did a wine discovery session with Rias Baixas and I did one with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC.  We met up again for the Keynote speaker and then went right into Live Red Wine Blogging.  What is Live Red Wine Blogging you ask?  It’s like speed dating for wine tasting and it’s chaos. You will get the rundown on that later or feel free to jump onto twitter and check out my notes that I did as we went along, the red tasting starts here.

Mystery Dinner

This is by far my favorite part of the conference, you get a colored tag at the top of the conference that is matched up to a group.  You all get in vans, buses, cars, limos….and they drive you somewhere.  You don’t know where you are going until you arrive.  We arrived at Doubleback Winery and were treated to an amazing dinner by Andrae’s Kitchen with wines from Doubleback Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars. The winemakers joined us and spoke (we sat with Trey Busch winemaker for Sleight of Hand).  The atmosphere, food, wine and company were wonderful.

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Parties…

The conference is full of post evening parties, some sponsored by wineries, some just gatherings.  I attended one with Fullerton Wines (thanks Matt) and then another wine filled spectacle by the Drunken Cyclist where everyone brought a bottle to share.

Fullerton Pinot Noir

Fullerton Pinot Noir (they also have another brand called Three Otters)

Conference Day 2

The second day of the conference kicked off with the announcement of next years conference which will be held in New South Wales Australia!  Followed by breakout session on writing, media, video etc…

Lunch in Walla Walla

Lunch this day was sponsored by Visit Walla Walla and you signed up for lunch in a downtown tasting room.  We visited Gard Vintners where we sampled wines, enjoyed a box lunch as well as grapes from the vineyard and apples from the property.

Bubbles or Bodegas

Michael and I split up again, he attended a session with Bodegas LAN of Rioja and I did a tasting a pairing session with Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, who I had an opportunity to chat with as I sat next to her the previous evening at dinner.  She set up a pairing seminar with Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines.  Informative, beautiful and delicious, this was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Cheese Please!

When you think of wine, you can’t help but also think of cheese!  Cheeses of Europe gets this and sponsored a session of cheese pairings hosted by the Cheese Twins Michael and Charlie Kalish (you might know them from Chopped or The Great Foodtruck Race.  Entertained and full of cheese we had a break before Lightning Talks and the Live White and Rosé tasting.

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The evening ended with the final dinner, where we met two winemakers Chris Loeliger of Truth Teller Winery and Tim Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery .  And yes, we look forward to followup conversations with both of these gentlemen and bringing you the stories of their wineries.

The Gorge

We had also set up for a post conference excursion through the Columbia Gorge.  (This is where Michael parking at the Portland Airport comes in).  We traveled to the Columbia Gorge, stopping on the Eastern end at Maryhill Winery where Cassie and Amie had us all set up for a tour, tasting and lunch.  The views here are tremendous and we were really spoiled with the in-depth tour.  We will have plenty of video to share with you on this behind the scenes look.

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After Maryhill were driven west and south to the Oregon side of this AVA for a tasting, tour and dinner at Cathedral Ridge Winery.  This place has spectacular views of Mt. Hood.  We met owner Rob Bell (hmm…is he any relation to me?)

Finally they drove us back to Portland.  Where we picked up “Nuit” our plug-in hybrid Kia Niro and we were off to spend an evening luxuriating at the Hotel Monaco downtown.

The Adventure home

Our adventure continued!  We were up early to head to Voodoo Donuts!

The Oregon Coast and Applegate Valley

Then hit the road to the Oregon Coast.  It was foggy, but we could hear the ocean and explored some lovely seaside towns.

We drove the coast for a bit then headed inland to the Applegate Valley, hoping to catch some vineyard shots before sunset.  While we didn’t catch much, it was quickly made up for by the fabulous YURT we had booked!  Sunset View Yurt is amazing, great views, terrific people, a modern Victrola and a beautiful collection of music. We enjoyed a bottle of Johan Drueskall Pinot Gris which is an orange wine.  We packed this with us especially to enjoy on this evening, giggling over our Johan in a YURT and then soaked in the hot tub under the stars (well, clouds, but it was lovely anyway!).

The Redwoods

Our hosts Kathleen and Richard gave us tips on sites in the Redwoods and we headed southwest again to Jedediah Smith Park to visit the Stout Grove.  Redwood groves are sacred sites, it’s like walking in a Cathedral.  I really think they are Ents (any Tolkien fans out there?). Being among them you are forced to slow down. Their size and age put the universe into a bit better perspective.  After soaking up loads of energy here, we continued to the California Coast where the sun was out!  We traveled a bit of the coast, then back through the Redwood Forest and then finally to the freeway to get to Sacramento for our final evening of our trip.

Redwoods

Redwoods

Tahoe and the drive home

Our last morning had us up before dawn and heading to Lake Tahoe, soaking in the scenery and then on through the outskirts of Yosemite to Mono Lake, through park territory there and finally out into the desert and home to Las Vegas.

It was an epic trip and I can’t wait to get into all the details with you!

We did a little Primer on the area before we left, so feel free to dive into Washington Wines and beyond with #WBC18

So join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our amazing trip into Washington Wines and more!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Disclaimer:  Michael and I attended the WBC (Wine Bloggers Conference) as Citizen Bloggers at a discounted rate.  All opinions on the conference and related events are my own.