Category Archives: Washington

I <3 <3 Walla Walla

::don’t let that poo-smeared welcome sign fool you, goodness lies ahead::

I. LOVE. WALLA WALLA. Oh, let me rephrase… I ❤ ❤ WW!!! The place so nice, they named it twice! I think I spent at least three hours trying to convince Alan that Walla Walla is where we should live. Wine, good fresh food, a college community, and the trees – those old old trees. Oh, the East coast in me just purrs at the the sight of those beautiful old trees and homes. And the BACKYARDS?! They are positively divine. The days are hot in the summer, but the cool evenings and those perfect breezes? I DIE.


Before I digress too far into my love affair with Walla Walla I suppose I should get to the wine (since I know my dad is my number one reader, and I wouldn’t want to leave him hanging any longer). On our way into town we tasted at two wineries: Woodward Canyon and L’ecole. The tastings are cheaper here than in Willamette – almost all were $5 for five or six wines. Plus everyone is so friendly they offer to pour you more of whatever you liked. We enjoyed the tastings at both though the tasting room at L’ecole was a bit more interesting to see as it was in an old school building. Highlights at L’ecole for me were the 2010 Syrah and the 2010 Estate Merlot from the Seven Hills Vineyard (cedar, black cherry, baking spices and an earthy mineral finish). The ’09 Apogee was good too. As for Woodward I preferred the non-vintage, though it’s only sold at their tasting room.

Not far from this fine start we headed to downtown Walla Walla, which is a super charming downtown area full of wineries. Unlike many wine regions I’ve been to where the wineries are spread apart down long winding roads through the vine-covered hills, the majority of the can’t miss winemakers have tasting rooms conveniently located within a few blocks of each other in downtown Walla Walla. Perhaps not as scenic, but no DD required! And that’s a huge plus when the wines are so delectable and affordable. In case you couldn’t guess yet, in the battle of Willamette vs. Walla Walla?? Walla Walla for the win! (Let’s see how many times I can say Walla Walla in this post, shall we? It’s so fun, just say it out loud three or four times. You will laugh. Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla Walla. You can’t help sounding like a muppet character (doesn’t one of them say wakka wakka?)).

Downtown Wineries:

Charles Smith. Charles is a rock star. The man has a big head of long curly blond hair, his tasting room is a super funky modern event space, and his wines have cool names like “The Velvet” and “Boom Boom!” Also, his wines taste good! We really enjoyed our tasting here. We went with the “high end” wine tasting, which included a 2010 K Merlot Stoneridge Vineyard (93 pts, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate), two Syrahs we enjoyed (the Milbrandt and MCK), as well as a tasty Viognier that was rated 94 by Robert Parker (2011 CS Viognier). The chill and generous sales guy let us taste some of the wines that weren’t on our tasting list as well, and he trustingly let us leave owing $10 because we said we’d be back . We also met some folks from South Dakota who were super friendly and gave us some good recs for our time there.

Mark Ryan was our next stop where we tasted a number of great wines. We ended up purchasing a bottle of the Suicide Red for our picnic dinner. It was such a unique tasting wine (80% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre). I have only good things to say about the Dissident Red and Wild Eyed reds as well.

Last but not least we tried the Flying Trout/Tero Estates. Wines were pretty good, but I was several tastings in at this point so I unfortunately have no specific rec’s, except to note that we tried another Torrontes which Alan is becoming a big fan of (white wine from Argentina). We also met some new blog followers from Jacksonville and Bozeman! Shout out to new readers!

Also downtown, not just about the wine:

If you like mid-century modern furniture, stop in to the awesome vintage furniture shop called Debouche. Be sure to strike up a conversation with the equally awesome owner. She’s a hoot and a half. I promised when we had a home again that I would return to Debouche to furnish it.

The lunch spot we went to, also downtown and called Olive, was kind of my Coral Tree meets Walla Walla. Jenny, I hope you’re reading this, because if we had gone to law school in Walla Walla, we would have LIVED here. Ample seating, wifi, coffee and tea, delicious food, and the best study aid of all time: wine. Wonderful Walla Wallan wines. Look, did you see there how I turned Walla Walla into an adjective? I love it so much I’ve made an adjective out of it. I’m going to start using it as a noun to identify things I love. Like, “those pants are so Walla Walla. This party rocks – it’s totally Walla Walla!” Coral Tree, for those of you not in the Brentwood know, is a little food spot in Brentwood that my law school study buddy supreme and I spent countless hours studying at. More often than not these study sessions devolved into wine drinking and bonding sessions. Olive’s set up is similar, in that you order at the counter and they bring out your food to you. The menu trumps Coral Tree by far though, with an impressive offering of salads, pizza, sandwiches, coffee and tea drinks and a great beer and wine list. Alan and I split the duck confit salad and an apricot chicken salad sammie. Yum yum.

CarltAnn House
CarltAnn B&B

Our B&B was another highlight in Walla Walla. We stayed at the CarltAnn House, which is a cozy little bed and breakfast (only 3 rooms!) we found on AirBnB. It’s run by an older couple, John and Nathan (though we only met John during our stay). I just adored the place and the neighborhood – old trees lined the roads, herbs and veggies grew in the garden, a great old magnolia tree sat in the backyard housing a chorus of crickets and dragonflies. We stayed in the Anne Belov Room – named after an artist friend  of theirs whose art accents the blue room. It’s one of the three bedrooms on the second floor which share a nice, huge bathroom. We were the only guests the night we stayed. The creaking oak floors, white trim, old wood furniture, ornate old doorknobs and a lovely seating area in the backyard… so beautiful.

It’s also only a block away from the Whitman College campus and a few minutes walk from downtown, so for dinner we walked back and picnic-ed at the B&B with meats and cheese we picked up at Salumiere (great wine/cheese/meat/provisional shop downtown), as well as the bottle of Suicide Red we picked up. We were joined by our host and sat out in the yard chatting for a few hours. Lovely conversation, he’s traveled quite a bit himself. We’re tempted to make a movie about his life, the stories were so beautiful. To give you a sense: he had always wanted to see Ireland and learn to play the fiddle, so he quit his job and went to Ireland and asked around until he found fiddle players that more or less took him in as a fiddle apprentice. Years later, in the US, he met someone who held their fiddle bow in a similar fashion and discovered that they had learned to play from same guy! We told him his life sounds like a screenplay, but he said he was too shy to want it made into a movie. I think the story is too good to not be shared.

Washington: Walla Walla, the town so nice…

August 26, 2013 (Monday, cont’d) – Though it doesn’t feel like wine country, tasting rooms begin to appear on Route 12 at least 14 miles west of Walla Walla.  We stopped first at Woodward Canyon with a quaint tasting room selling cookbooks from Mozza and Smitten Kitchen, among others.  Social media is everywhere these days.  This spot feels like the middle of nowhere but offers 5% off purchase if you check in with Yelp.  We gladly paid $5 to taste six wines.  Next was L’Ecole just a couple hundred yards away.  This is a much larger establishment and also offered six wines for $5.  A packed car facilitated the necessary discipline to forego buying bottles.

Reininger and Three Rivers are nearby and came recommended, but we continued on Route 12 and exited at 2nd Street then turned onto wide Main Street and parked.  Sunny and 80s suited us fine.  Apparently it often breaks 100º in summer and gets quite cold in the winter.  Jenni fell in love with Debouche, a sizeable store selling mid-century and Danish modern furniture and accessories.  She vowed to return when we have a home to decorate.  Though someone had recommended Graze sandwich shop and I had read about Green Spoon, we chose Olive for a late lunch and did not regret it.  It is spacious indoors and there is ample sidewalk seating.  You order at the counter and the menu is tantalizing.  We split a duck confit salad and apricot chicken salad sandwich.  Jenni got a chai latte and I splurged on an iced mocha.  There is WiFi and it is open until 9 pm.

Re-energized to taste, we checked into the CarltAnn House, a proper B&B that we happened to find through airbnb.  It is a pleasant, older house with a few rooms on offer; we chose the spacious and light-filled Anne Belov room (named for the hosts’ artist friend whose work is on the walls).  There is a large shared bath, which works particularly well when you are the only guests.

John (the proprietor, along with his partner, Nathan) gave us a few recommendations, and we walked through the Whitman College campus to Charles Smith on Spokane Street.  This place rocks.  The namesake is a character with long, curly, silver blonde hair.  It is a big industrial space where all the furniture and walls are on wheels, making the room easy to rearrange for private events and their own parties.  Each Thursday is bluegrass and burgers night from 6 pm until close, no cover charge.  We opted for the $10 premium tasting (vs. the $5 standard) and enjoyed the wines and conversation with our pourer and a couple visiting from South Dakota who offered recommendations for our upcoming visit.  We were offered additional or re-tastes free of charge, and permitted to leave without paying after we said we would return to buy a bottle (which means the tasting fee is waived).  A flyer informed us that the 6th annual jazz and wine festival took place the prior weekend.

Around the corner on Main Street, we hit Mark Ryan Winery for a $5 tasting of six wines.  Here, too, the fee is credited against any purchase and additional or re-tastes are graciously offered.  A rather different vibe from the rigid structure of most wineries I have visited.  This is an attractive tasting room and we departed with a delicious bottle of the 2011 Suicide Shift red for $25.  The Marcus Whitman is the most well-known hotel in town, and within the structure is a tasting room for TERO Estates and Flying Trout Wines (part of TERO).  They waive the tasting fee and offer a 10% discount on purchases for hotel guests.  Apparently I like torrontes wines from Argentina (we had bought a couple bottles of the Recuerdo after tasting at Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley in May), a tasty and typically inexpensive white varietal.  Perhaps the cumulative wine deserves an assist, as we struck up conversations with a supremely friendly woman from Vachon Island and couple from Florida.  Making our way home, we stopped at Salumiere Cesario and bought finochiona and creminelli calabrese charcuterie; triple crème, naked goat and Point Reyes blue cheeses; and Raincoast Crisp seed crackers.  They sell La Brea Bakery bread but were out of French baguettes.  Also available is a robust selection of large-bottle specialty ales and impressive array of fancy salts in bulk containers.

True to our word, we grabbed the 2012 K Viognier (from the Columbia Valley AVA) at Charles Smith ($25, but feels like $15 net of the tasting fee), and John set up a lovely spread on the back patio with our picnic items and Suicide Shift red.  Midway through dinner, John joined with another bottle of red and regaled us with his own life stories.  I will not recount all, but his biography boasts multiple sabbaticals, including a trip to Ireland where the fiddle fascinated him and a follow-up trip where he found elder statesmen to teach him the secrets of the strings.  I realized here one of the more compelling benefits of extended travel is that we are so much more open to in-depth conversations with strangers.  John is a lovely man, but had we been on a romantic weekend getaway we might have preferred privacy at dinner.  Instead, Jenni and I are together 24/7 and welcome company!  Not to mention, folks seem to want to talk to us more now that our story has changed.  It is very peaceful here; the sound of crickets dominates.  I found it hilarious when John said “Walla Walla is the town so nice they named it twice” that he had never heard that about New York, nor I about Walla Walla.

We are now big fans of Walla Walla.  It feels tiny, in part because there is so little nearby (the closest major airport is a four-hour drive).  Yet this town of roughly 32,000 is just about the size of Jenni’s and my hometown combined, and sports a Sears (Hometown Store) and Macy’s on Main Street.  I also found myself thinking about the cost of living arbitrage available to those who can earn a living as entrepreneurs or working remotely.  I suppose this is obvious, but home prices and general costs are a function of a place’s desirability based on various lifestyle metrics and the supply of well-paid jobs to support those prices.  In other words, LA is so expensive not just because it is awesome but because there are so many high paying jobs to support the prices.  In Walla Walla, one can buy a 6,500 square foot historic mansion for about $600,000 (vs. maybe $4-6 million in LA), despite that it does not seem to suck here.

August 27, 2013 (Tuesday) – John prepared a gluttonous spread of meats, cheeses, fresh muffins, egg quiche, bread with a few jams, smoked salmon, fruit, tea and coffee.  We fit in another enjoyable conversation then hit Safeway for the usual provisions and were on the road a little after 10:30 am.  We took the most direct route to Bell Bay Campground in Idaho which included scenic roads that were hilly and windy but overall pretty fast-moving.  Route 12 East passes endless rolling hills of (harvested) grain and several elevators.  The first town we bisected was Waitsburg, with its own little brewery.  Next was Dayton which has gas stations, a movie theater, a couple chains and several places to stay.  We took Route 127 out of the valley and crossed the Snake River where there are several barges for grain transport.  Eastern Washington is dry with grain everywhere, while almost immediately we encountered pine trees and forest in Idaho.

Seattle (old notes)

For some years before I started a blog, I took notes on trips.  Sometimes friends ask for these notes to help with trip planning.  To organize everything in one place, I’m adding my old trip notes to my blog.  These were written shorthand and probably not too enjoyable to read but hopefully useful to plan a trip.

I do not have access while traveling to my old photos, but I think through the link below you can see Jenni’s Facebook album from this trip even if you do not have a Facebook account.

We visited Seatlle July 1-5, 2010 and had a great time.  The weather wasn’t so good but the food was outstanding, and Olympic National Park was beautiful.

7/1 – arrive around 9 pm, maybe 15-20 min drive in to city, no traffic; check in to Hotel Andra, then had drink each and split lamb carpaccio at Dahlia Lounge across way, was delish.

7/2 – went to pike place around 8:30 am then had brunch at cafe campagne which was pretty good and then we went back to the market.  After, we went to the Seattle Art Museum which was pretty cool with Cobain exhibit and some sculpture and Warhol exhibit…not a lot of big name artists that I saw.  Left there maybe 1:30 pm or so and walked down to pioneer square and to Salumi (Mario Batali’s family place) with 30 min wait but worth it…we split grilled copa with fontina and hot peppers and agrumi salami which has cardamom.  Then we walked to little park with waterfall in it and back through Pioneer Square and to Purple Café and wine bar where we each got a flight of WA white wines which were not very good ( purple has high ceiling, great menu) then W for drinks and then Zoe for dinner. Was very solid, lots of food and two drinks each (no dessert) for $128 all in. Walked few blocks back through Belltown and seems cool.

7/3 – woke about 6:30 and got to ferry about 7:15 got sandwiches and coffee there, plenty of time for 7:55 ferry to Bainbridge. Cold. 35 min ride then drive across island and over to 101 to Olympic National Park. Go to hurricane ridge about 17 miles in from hwy. Cloudy but clear at times. At top we parked the car around 5200′ and see lots of snow covered mtns across valley. Beautiful. Hike hurricane hill 1.6 miles each way and about 650’ gain. Saw little birds, black tail deer, marmot, goat, black bear in distance, chipmunks. Very pretty spot, chilly but fine when working. Drove back down and headed west again on 101 few minutes to lunch at kokopelli in port angeles . Had Dungeness crab (seems to be from here, crossed Dungeness river) club sandwiches with fries. Drove 101W another 20-30 minutes to lake crescent but pressed for time seemed so just couple pics then about 2+ hour drive back to Bainbridge. Olympic park and peninsula very green and reminiscent to me of Maine or Vermont and of course much lusher than SoCal. Got on 5:30 pm ferry back to Seattle (was about $14 while morning was $21) and nice and sunny but still cold on deck. Water kind of brown, see lots of jellies in the ocean.  That night we had a 8:30 reservation at Crush restaurant in Madison Valley .  I heard about it b/c believe Jason Wilson is the chef and he won a James Beard award.  We got the 6 course tasting menu with paired wines.

Salmon roe with bacon whipped creme fraiche with parsnip base and maple syrup; hamachi crudo with meyer lemon and mint; tagliatelle with morels, peas, truffle and parm; sparkling loire; Italian pinot grigio; chardonnay; salmon with peas etc oregon dundee hills pinot; split foie with cherries and almond financier with muscat; orange and yeast sorbet palate cleanse; cabernet with short rib; port for me and mousse with peanut and some ice cream and j had pinot gris and blueberry thing with mascarpone ice cream. So full and tired!

In Madison Valley area, pretty hilly around there. Reminds of Cambridge . Crush in a little house with wood floors, enter and there’s host stand and some stairs and to right is bar with about 8 seats and open kitchen and a few tables or to left is little room with big window and seating for about 16. J and I had four top, she on bench side and I in a low plastic mod white chair. Service quite good and food great. All in was $394 and about 2.5 hours. Planned to go out but too full and tired.  Excellent meal and worth it.

7/4 – Slept in and drove down and over West Seattle bridge to Salty’s on Alki Beach . Big place and way crowded. All you can eat brunch with crab legs, shrimp, oysters, omelets, mac n cheese, smoked salmon hash, chocolate fountain, waffles, dessert, bloody mary bar, etc. $40++ each. Awesome. Big windows with views of bay and city. Stuffed we drove up to Green Lake . No traffic ever and get around quickly and parking easy. Walked 2.8 miles round lake with lots of peeps and dogs and bikes etc and little pitch n putt course. Drove back to hotel.

Relax in room then down to lobby for comfy chairs in front of window looking on 4th ave with NY times. Hip but cozy lobby with good music. Got glasses of wine. Then ate at Lola which is another Tom Douglas spot in our hotel. Greek, had few apps. Tasty. The man has great menus. Took carafes of house red up to our room and watched fireworks on TV. Yeah, it’s true. Seattle almost canceled all due to budget but had biz sponsor I guess and only did em on Lake Union .

7/5 – morning went back to pike place and pastries and lattes at le panier. Jenni bought a little purse thing for phone etc while biking. We got dungeness crab rolls to go and clam chowder to split at pike place chowder. The chowder was great, the crab rolls OK (too much bread). Walked up 1st Ave to Broad and then went to experience music project at seattle center. Pretty cool, had hendrix exhibit and room where hear artists etc talk and then mary wilson of the supremes dress display and section with lots of rooms where can play instruments etc. Then walked up queen anne rd (fairly steep hill) and over on highland to kerry park with views of city and ate our crab rolls. Weather overcast again so see downtown and bay but never saw mt rainier at all. The area at queen anne and mercer had some cool looking shops/bars and 1st ave in Belltown has a bunch of bars and food etc.

Hotel location was great, think you want to be around there and pike place. Lobby nice and restaurant good, guess worth the $ but of course could go cheaper. Food in city was great..

On plane ride home saw Mt Rainier and several snow capped mtns to the West. Didn’t realize so many. Also interesting how in Olympic there are so many snow capped mtns and even on our hike there was snow in several places on the trail, at just 5500′ or so elevation and in July. Off our trail there were some long hikes with several thousand verts down then back up but some hard to do because of snow.