New wine event uncorks with Walla Walla, Napa comparisons

The wine appreciation series replaces the former Vintage Walla Walla event.

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You’ve heard the comparison of Walla Walla to Napa Valley? Now you can taste it for yourself.

One of the main events in the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance’s three-day “Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Cabernet Sauvignon” series this week is a panel presentation and wine tasting designed to give attendees a perspective on winemaking in both regions.

The $35-per-person event Friday at 3:30 p.m. follows a free 8:30 a.m. presentation open to the public on cabernet sauvignon. “Wine & Spirits Magazine” wine critic Patrick Comiskey, one of Intowine.com’s top 100 most influential people in the U.S. wine industry, will talk about why the Walla Walla and Napa valley’s are the two premier Cabernet Sauvignon producing wine regions in the United States.

Walla Walla’s own geologist and terroir consultant Dr. Kevin Pogue will explain how the growing conditions affect the wines coming from the two regions.

The two pieces — the free morning discussion and the afternoon tasting — are examples of how the alliance has rethought its headline winery event, said alliance Executive Director Duane Wollmuth.

The new event replaces the former Vintage Walla Walla wine event.

Celebrate will focus each year on one specific type of wine. This year it’s cabernet sauvignon. Next year will be syrah. The year after that will be merlot. And along with the wines, will be winemakers from leading production areas of the world.

“By changing it each year, it will refresh it,” Wollmuth said.

The idea is not only to build a wine attraction in Walla Walla, but to also spread the word far beyond. Nearly a dozen members of the media are expected to attend this year’s event and write about the panel discussions, tasting visits and excursions through Walla Walla, Wollmuth said.

“By doing that, Walla Walla will be put on that world stage,” he said.

Celebrate, running Thursday through Saturday, kicks off with a vintage wine tasting Thursday at the rarely open Corliss Estates tasting room, 511 N. Second Ave. Evenings throughout the event otherwise include sold-out winemaker dinners.

Unlike in years past, the events are being sold a la carte, Wollmuth said. But someone who was inclined to fill the weekend could book three dinners and wine receptions for $290, plus the complimentary panel discussion at Gesa Power House Theatre (tickets are available through the wine alliance) Friday morning.

The 3:30 p.m. panel discussion comparing Napa and Walla Walla will be at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

That panel will be hosted by wine writer and Waitsburg winemaker Paul Gregutt, another person named one of the nation’s 100 most influential people in the wine industry.

Walla Walla representatives will include Jean Francois Pellet, winemaker for Pepper Bridge Winery, Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Rick Small of Woodward Canyon.

Representing Napa Valley will be Phillip Corallo-Titus of Chappellet Winery, Landon Donley of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery and Jeff Ames of Rudius.

“This panel presentation and its focus on a single wine varietal from the same vintage (2009) in the two valleys is indeed special,” Francois Pellet said in a prepared statement. “We want people to compare and contrast these two premier wine regions. This will not be a competition. Both regions have their own unique soil and climatic characteristics, and winemaking styles.”

For a complete list of Celebrate events, visit wallawallawine.com .

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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