Wine from Eastern Washington State: Time Marches on
Aug 3, 2009
My uncle Paul used to tell how Italian immigrant farmers in the Walla Walla Valley of south eastern Washington State used to make good wine for themselves. He came of age during Prohibition when alcoholic beverages were illegal in the US, and young people drank whatever they could get their hands on. The wine, he always said, was so much better than anything else that, long before most Americans discovered the pleasures of wine, he sought it out because the local stuff had given him a hint of what fine wine might be. For years the Christmas card from him and Caroline, his wife, always contained a couple of bills with the instructions to “buy some good wine.”
I’ve often wondered what he would make of the excellent wines now being made around Walla Walla and in the Columbia River Valley. Recently my husband arrived home with a bottle of Gordon Brothers 2003 Syrah. He’d found it at our neighborhood liquor store, the Société des alcools du Québec, which always has a good selection of European and Australian wine but doesn’t often have much from the western US. He’d never heard of the winery but what sold him was the notation on the back that Gordon Brothers’ postal address is in Pasco.
When I was born my parents were living in Pasco: my father was working for the US Army Engineers at Hanford, and my mother had gone home to Walla Walla--about 60 miles away--to have me. It was wartime and what was going on in that corner of the country was the deepest secret. Only when the first atomic bomb was tested in July, 1945, did the world learn what the secret was: plutonium. The problems unleashed by the work done there are still with us, unfortunately.
Time marches on, though, and, happily, some of the paths time takes are more agreeable than those toward war and destruction. The wine we drank was rich, fruity, and great accompaniment to garlic chicken. That it came from near where I was born made it particularly pleasant. Of course, my Dad would have never given house room to garlic chicken--with the exception of baked Walla Walla sweet onions, he hated any dish with either garlic or onions--but the fact that both are staples of ordinary North American cooking now is another bit of progress, I think.
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