Saturday, August 14, 2010

Woodward Canyon Winery A Great Place to Start

If you follow my little train wreck of a column you'd know that I've been writing a series of articles over the past few weeks concerning a recent day trip I took to Walla Walla. I thought it would be fitting to end this series with the first winery that I visited.

From my house to Walla Walla is approximately an hour, depending on which state patrol officer I'm visiting with. At about 30 minutes into my ride I have the opportunity to stop at Woodward Canyon winery.

Woodward Canyon reminds me so much of the farmhouses from where I grew up. Large shady trees cover the picket fence and pretty lawn around a quaint farm house that looks like it could tell stories. Winemaker and owner Rick Small spent years building other successful wineries in this region, and when he had the opportunity to make his own he went for the keep it simple and fun. He lets his wines do the performing rather than fancy facilities.

I started with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. It was exactly what I was looking for on a 100 degree day. The nose was bright with minerality, lime, and grass. The taste was both citrus and creamy from the malolactic fermentation. A delightful acidic finish left the mouth feeling crisp.

Next, the staff poured the 2008 Chardonnay. The wine opens on the nose and the palate with ripe apples and pear. The wine crosses the mid-palate with a slight creaminess which turns into vanilla and hazelnut on the finish. A light acidity cleanses the palate. Rick makes his Chardonnays for long term cellaring and I would suspect that you could lay this one down for up to 10 years.

I had not tasted the Nelms Road 2008 Merlot, so I thought I'd give it a try. If you aren't aware, the Nelms label is Small's everyday brand. It is meant to be affordable, however not to be understated at all. The juice is still from top vineyards in the region and still made by a masterful winemaker. The 2008 is no exception, favoring towards the jammy side with flavors and odors of dark tree fruits and vanilla, this wine is among some of my favorites from the region.

Following the Merlot, I tried the 2008 Nelms Cabernet Sauvignon. Leading the way on the nose was notes of cherries and dried dark fruit. The berry flavors mingle and lead the way to notes of cassis, leather, and tobacco. This is a highly complex wine for the low price.

I've had the 2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon before, but when the staff asked I just couldn't resist. This wine offers up a nose of dark berries, cassis, and smoke. The flavors are deep and complex with notes of cherry, cassis, leather, spice box, vanilla, and smoke all swirling around on your tongue. It is an adventure in your mouth with each sip.

Last, I had to have the 2008 Estate Barberra. The nose offers up dark, rich fruits, with the spiciness and tannin that I love so much in Barberras. This wine would be perfect served with a chorizo and chevre pizza, or a nice venison pepper steak.

I highly suggest you start at Woodward Canyon on your Walla Walla adventures. It will help you in forming a great barometer for what the region has to offer in flavor and quality.


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