Yep, it’s time – Fall Release weekend in Walla Walla. If you’re like Mary Sue and me, this is one of those weekends that you look forward to each year. The town, the food, the wine, the weather (well, maybe) and all of the good friends … you can’t beat it.
I asked some of my winery buddies what’s up this weekend. In no particular order, here’s what they had to say. If you’re looking for details about times, tasting fees and the like, hit the links for all that.
Charles Smith / K Vintners – If you’re going to get it going, get it going right. Sir Charles kicks it off w/ Blues (Phil Lynch Trio) & BBQ Thursday night. He’s pouring special releases throughout the weekend at the downtown and winery locations.
And word is that Charles and a whole bunch of Valley winemakers will be in full effect at the 31st annual Walla Walla Valley Wine Tasting and Auction Friday night at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. At an event like that, some people may be interested in running their fingers through Charles’ hair, but I’m more interested in bidding on the 18-liter bottle of merlot from Canoe Ridge in the silent auction. Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood in the valley, a worthy cause.
Watermill – One of the valley’s hidden gems is having its Fall Release party from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. Some new releases + the opportunity to pick up fall club shipments. Ask for Ron Brown and give him a noogie for me.
Dunham – Mike and Joanne Dunham are some of the nicest people in the valley, unless of course you are opposing them in a couples match on the golf course. Word is that they’re pulling some library and Lewis Vineyard tastings on Saturday and Sunday. Five bucks tasting fee unless you’re a club member. Stop by – Eric may be showing off the new addition to the family.
Woodward Canyon – Look no further than Lowden if you want the full-meal deal. Sensational wines (‘natch) and Rick will be baking bread in the wood-fired oven outside of the tasting room. It’s worth the price of admission, believe me. Oh, wait – about the wines. A whole bunch on the menu & some killer deals, but the special library pour – 2005 Estate Red magnum – caught my eye. Get some!
FIGGINS – Yep, that’s right … FIGGINS, as in Leonetti. The FIGGY bunch is pouring the orgasmic ’09 Estate Red in the tasting studio Friday and Saturday. But if that ain’t enough, get this – they’re also previewing Chris’ secret project: an ’11 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. That’s right, a Pinot project in the Walla Walla Valley. I am not making this up.
Dusted Valley – You want a party? Then head directly to DVV and do not pass go! This place rocks during Fall Release. Corey & Chad are pouring a ton of great wines (hey, it’s DVV, right?), but the magic is in the grill, the killer buffet, the band and the magician. If you can figure this guy out, let me know. Small entry fee for non-members, but worth it.
aMaurice – Mill Creek Road is one of my favorite spots in the valley, if for no other reason that you get to stop by aMaurice. Anna is pouring current releases through the weekend, but their happy place will be Saturday afternoon with a bonfire party, a band, some light munchies and beautifully styled wines. It’s a wine club gig, but stop by and become a club member if you need to – the ambiance will be worth it.
Canoe Ridge – I’m making a beeline to Canoe Ridge, only because I want to taste ‘Turtle wine.’ This is their secret stash – 120 bottles of 1.5L mags of ’07 Holiday Cuvee, a merlot-dominant library blend with a turtle on the label. When it’s gone, it’s gone. TR manager John Klein promises some other surprises + some drop-dead pricing on mix-&-match cases. Holiday shopping in one quick swipe of the VISA card – gotta love it!
SYZYGY – Who cares if you can’t pronounce it – Zach makes stunning wines. And he’s pouring a bunch of them, including a new release that’s supposed to be for Eclipse Club members only. I’m guessing he’ll hook you up if you ask nicely.
Skylite – Ashley, Cheryl & Co. have it going on all weekend, and it’s all about merlot. A special ’08 release on Friday followed by a special ’05-’08 vertical tasting on Saturday, along with special bottle and case pricing. Need another reason to stop by? How about Big Hiney Red, a fat WW Valley blend, at $120 / case? ‘Nuff said!
DaMa – The DaMa chicks, Dawn & Mary, are getting after it with a red-carpet, Hollywood style party on Saturday night. But try to get there early – as in Thursday night early – for a special jewelry show featuring local WW artist Sally Shafer. Want some wine instead of baubles? It’s 10 percent off all wine sales Thursday night.
Long Shadows – Tasting appointments usually are the order of the day at this stunning winery, but not this weekend. Gilles is pouring a trio of knee-buckling 95-pointers – 08 Sequel, 09 Pedestal, 09 Pirouette. Just make sure you don’t bump into any of the Chihuly glass exhibits when you’re swooning over the wines.
Basel Cellars – Ned Morris & crew are pouring some great juice paired up throughout the weekend with catering from Chef Jake Crenshaw (T.Maccarone’s/ Olive). Wine club members get to swirl library selections in the Basel Cellars’ old-school rock’n roll museum on Saturday. Ned’s doing some v-cool stuff these days, so it’s definitely worth the stop.
Chocolate Shop – Need a sweet-tooth pick-me-up after all that red wine? Stop by Chocolate Shop on Main Street to sample one of the hottest wine brands in the U.S. Grab a mocha at Starbucks and then cross the street for some choco-licious red wine. Guaranteed buzz through the weekend.
Sleight of Hand – No idea how to begin to interpret this, so I’ll just quote Trey Busch directly: “At Sleight of Hand, we will be playing music a little louder than a normal tasting room. Justin Wylie will be performing his puppet show at 2 p.m. Saturday. And a well-planned orgy will commence Saturday night at 10 p.m. Be there or be …. Well, you know.” No idea what he’s talking about, do you? And since when are orgies well-planned?
Our party rolls into the valley Friday night and at some point we’ll stumble into the Southside triangle of Sleight of Hand, Saviah and Balboa. Great wines across the board but the good news? You can walk between all three wineries. I’m particularly interested in Balboa as Tom is rolling out some new wines with new labels (right) and Amy is showing off some of her new artwork in the tasting room. Could be an expensive visit.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Fall Release activities this weekend in the Walla Walla Valley – just the ones that I gathered from a request for information last week. More info is available from the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance or from other bloggers.
Missing the boat on real-time marketing during Fall Release
One final thought: There are a lot of great events planned this weekend, but the marketing for Fall Release somehow seems so, so, so … old-fashioned. I’m wondering if anyone will be trying real-time marketing during Fall Release in this era of social media savvy wine buyers? Seems like a no-brainer opportunity to me.
I’m wondering if anyone will be trying real-time marketing during Fall Release in this era of social media savvy wine buyers?
It might work like this. A winery pays attention to the Twitter and Facebook conversations during Fall Release, then pushes out a “Twitter special” several times during the weekend. Maybe a 20 percent discount on a case from noon-2 p.m. on Saturday or opening a special 3-liter at 3 p.m. or offering a one-time discount on consumers who join the wine club between 3-5 p.m. and mention a special code name.
Sure, you have to pay attention to social media when your tasting room is buzzing, but what an incredible opportunity to create new customer relationships and reinforce your brand in a crowded marketplace. This is marketing / PR that’s fast, inexpensive and measurable. Talk about high-value ROI!
Maybe it will happen this weekend – if so, I’m curious to see what happens.
One last-minute plea to the weekend’s organizers at the WWVWA – create an event hashtag ASAP. Maybe something along the lines of #FallReleaseWW. Of course, if I’ve missed it, my bad – then please publicize it via #wawine.
PS – if you’re headed over for Fall Release this weekend, hit me at @bob_silver. Would love to hear what you’re tasting and enjoying.