A winery town where hard work is valued, winemakers are trained like apprentices, and everyone is a bit rough around the edges. That’s a unique place. That’s Walla Walla, and it doesn’t hurt that they make awesome wines.
This place first got my attention when a friend started distributing L’Ecole No 41 wine in Delaware. The winemaker, Marty Clubb was the first self-taught winemaker I had ever met. I was used to the Napa standard: Davis-trained winemakers and uber-stylish winery owners.
I quickly learned his story wasn’t unique, at least in the Columbia Valley of Washington State . This was a place where wineries makes great wine, and people become winemakers by working hard at a winery. It sounds so simple, but it doesn’t happen in many wine regions.
Tamarack Cellars is such a place. Owner Don Coleman learned the trade by working at Waterbrook and Canoe Ridge. In turn he brought on Danny Gordon as winemaker, despite a complete lack of experience. Danny in turn has trained folks like Craig Nelsen of Ensemble Cellars. Say what you will about the cycle of life and all that bizness, but that’s a pretty awesome way to build up a trade.
This bottle is a great place to get introduced to Washington wines. It’s a fun bottle that shows off Danny’s skill as a winemaker. This is what’s known in the trade as a kitchen sink blend: odds and ends of oddball varietals blended into one great bottle of unambiguous fun.
This year, he is using Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, Grenache, and Counoise. Yes, that’s as oddball as it sounds. Round and juicy flavors sporting fresh blackberry and eucalyptus. Lots of cinnamon and allspice in the mix with a fresh grind of black pepper. Drink with friends.