‘Wild wine woman of Walla Walla’ dishes on local industry
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Catie MacIntyre Walker, the self-proclaimed “wild wine woman of Walla Walla,” has been in the business for years. Though she’s graduated from the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla, many of her formative experiences as a wine lover have been hands-on: she’s spent time doing the dirtier parts of wine making , digging holes, planting vines and working crush. More recently, she’s written wine columns for the Union Bulletin, served as a judge in wine competitions and written for Tourism Walla Walla. She currently maintains her online store, Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman.
Pio: We all know that wine is big in Walla Walla, but how big is “big”?
Wine Woman: Ha! That’s quite a question: you could almost write a book. For example, there are over 1,800 acres of grapes planted in the Walla Walla American Viticultural Area. There are over 125 bonded wineries in this AVA, and the numbers keep growing, though not all of them are open to the public.
How much wine they distribute? Well, that depends on all of the wineries. No two wineries distribute the same amount, and what they do distribute depends largely on the size of the winery. There are small boutique wineries that sell out every season and others that distribute all over the nation.
Pio: We’ve heard that there are different “districts” of wineries here; is that right?
Wine Woman: That’s right; As you come into Walla Walla heading East on Highway 12, there are about six on the way into town. There’s another “district” in downtown Walla Walla, where you could spend all day tasting through the various winery tasting rooms.
Up near the airport area, several of the old WWII barracks and warehouses are now wineries, and stand alongside several new structures, such as the Port of Walla Walla’s wine “incubators.”
Down south of Walla Walla, near the Oregon Border there are several wineries as well as many of the local vineyards. That’s an area that really gives the tourist a taste of “Wine Country.”
For a guide to these different “districts,” wallawallawine.com provides an excellent map.
Pio: What’s the best way for parents to experience the best of Walla Walla’s famous wine industry in just a night or two?
Wine Woman: Get the parents to downtown Walla Walla on a Friday night! On Fridays, I believe Walla Walla Wine Works on the First Ave. Plaza is open until 8 p.m. Sapolil Winery has music on Friday nights (and sometimes Saturdays) and of course, you can buy wine by the glass or bottle. Because of Sapolil’s Friday night music, I’ve heard that Merchants LTD Deli is staying open late for pizza. They’ve also installed a new bar. And if you want to stop by somewhere for just a slice, Sweet Basil Pizzeria is open until 9 p.m. Another option is Vintage Cellars on Second Ave., which is often lively and has wine for sale by the bottle or glass, as well as a small food menu.
Pio: What are some of the most popular bottles of wine right now and where can people go to get them?
Wine Woman: Just about every winery in Walla Walla offers a red blend … Some of my favorite red blends are from Forgeron Cellars, L’Ecole, Waterbrook, Bergevin Lane and Mannina.
The best way to buy wines is buy them directly from the wineries because you are guaranteed the ability to taste the wines first. But after the wineries close, or if you’re looking for a bigger selection, Super One Foods on 9th St. offers a great selection.
There’s also my little online store, Walla Walla Wine Woman (wallawallawinewoman.com): I have a little wine studio downtown Walla Walla, but the majority of my sales are online. However, I will open up for appointments.
Pio: Where else can parents look to find information about wine and wine-related activities?
Wine Woman: The Walla Walla Wine Alliance has one of the best lists of wine related activities, (wallawallawine.com) and Walla Walla Wine News (wallawallawinenews.com), also keeps a pretty good calendar of events.