For most of my life wine has been a mystery to me. In college my roommates and I chose wine according to whether the label made the under-$10 bottle look refined and expensive, but without the label I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a $2 bottle and a $200 bottle. Not much changed for many years until I made an effort recently to learn more.
My husband and I planned a wine-tasting trip over his birthday weekend last year to Walla Walla, where there are some of the best wineries in Washington state. We bought the book, “Washington Wines and Wineries“, by Paul Gregutt, and used this as our guide.
Paul rated the wineries on a scale of 1-5 stars, and he only included 3, 4, 5 star, as well as “rising stars.” We identified the wineries we wanted to go to and we spent the weekend tasting. We spent Saturday on foot downtown near our hotel visiting four wineries, and Sunday we hired a guide to drive our car for the day to take us to eight wineries, which was a very wise decision. We wrote down the wineries we went to and the wines we tasted (most wineries have a list they can give you), and we took pictures of the bottles of wine we bought as a reference for later.
By the end of the second day we could tell the difference between the wines at the five star wineries and the other wines, and we realized that next time we go back, we will make sure to visit the other five star wineries that we missed on this trip. Our favorite winery that we visited was Bernard Griffin, which got five stars from Paul. Bernard Griffin has a wine club that we are looking forward to joining.
The people at Bernard Griffin told us a funny story when we were there. They have a signature line of wines that they used to call their tulip label because the labels had a picture of tulips on them. These are very good wines that run $10-$15 per bottle. However, their marketing people found that they had to redesign the label because people on the east coast didn’t think the bottle was fancy enough to serve at their dinner parties.
We’ve been enjoying the wines we bought on our tour all winter and we look forward to buying more wine from our favorite wineries. We’re already thinking about our next wine-tasting trip, possibly to the Willamette Valley, Sonoma, Napa Valley, or Monterey.