Posted on February 16th, 2010
Saved in Other sites of interest
I got in touch with Denise Slattery, from Trio Vintners in Walla Walla, Washington State to question her Irish credentials and talk about her wines.
Firstly, Denise, let’s establish your Irish credentials, your “terroir”, if you don’t mind.
Ok – I like your terroir reference. On my father’s side we are Slattery and Powell and the Slattery’s are from Tipperary. My grandfather (William Patrick Slattery) was born in Emily and my father (Roger Casement Slattery) has a cousin Tom Slattery (Mary is his wife) who still run the dairy farm where he was born.
On my mother’s side we are Reilly and Doyle and they are from Mayo – and I don’t have as much details on them – but I know my older brothers and sister do. I’m the youngest of six.
I have been to Ireland twice. I actually got my Irish citizenship a decade ago because it was open to me and my siblings to do so. It’s kind of a dream to live there someday!
Okay, you’ve passed. Tell me more about your wines
I wish I had our wines in Ireland! That would be so amazing. But we are a small winery here in Washington State and probably not on the radar over there!
But really, Washington State wines rock. On par with anything out of Napa.
I’m interested in making Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Mourvedre, and these are a little off the beaten path even or this region although it all grows beautifully.
Eastern Washington is a perfect climate for wine grapes. Walla Walla has it all (just wish we were a little closer to the sea!).
The industry here really got going in the early 80′s and a few growers and winemakers made their mark and set the standard with the help of expert enologists such as Dr. Walter Clore and André Tchelitscheff .
The growing region to the east of the Cascades – where we are – is dry and sunny – and as it turns out, quite amazing for vinifera [vines].
We have a longer growing season, hotter days (longer daylight hours) than California and much cooler nights – which is critical for maintaining acidity. During the peak of the season the temp can flux as much as 40 degrees. So it could be 100 degrees during the day and drop to 60 and lower at night. As global climate conditions change this is going to matter greatly.
Who started it all in Walla Walla?
The Italian and Swiss emigrants brought the vines to the region in the early part of the 20th century but it was the great thinking and science of the two men above who were able to help put the central part of the Columbia Valley on the map for grape production.
The Columbia River basin provides a climate condition that is unmatched in any other part of the world – coupled with the fact the the soil is alluvial – moved by glacial torrents 12,000 years ago.
It’s quite a geological wonder and as a result – everything grows here. The wine biz got its start on Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Bordeaux varietals - but there’s nothing that can’t do well – given the right aspect and soil conditions.
Of course, deep freezes are a threat and most growers in this valley bury canes as insurance against crop wipe out which happens about every 7 years. But that’s just Walla Walla since we are at the base of the Blue Mountains and cold air can’t move through like it would closer to the Columbia River.
We’re more familiar with Californian wines, how does Walla Walla compare?
I’m from California – and had not heard of Walla Walla myself until we started to look around for opportunities to make wine outside of Napa and Sonoma.
Washington wines are growing in recognition here in the US but it is taking some time and a lot of effort on the part of the Washington State Wine Commission.
There are over 650 wineries in the state of WA with about 100 of them in Walla Walla alone – so there’s quite a lot of wine production here.
There’s lots more to say – and this is just one little blip on the map compared to “old world” wine production but believe me when I say that the quality out of Washington State is so fantastic.
Thanks Denise, and hope to try your wines sometime.