Walla Walla Valley wine industry to celebrate Merlot with stars

By on January 28, 2015
Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine - The World of Syrah will feature more than 60 wineries from the Walla Walla Valley alongside winemakers from California and Australia.

Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine – The World of Merlot will feature more than 60 wineries from the Walla Walla Valley alongside winemakers from California, Bordeaux and Tuscany. (Photo by Richard Duval Images/Courtesy of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance)

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Renowned wine critic Stephen Tanzer and celebrity master sommelier Fred Dame will share their attitudes about Merlot to help kick off the third annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine on June 19.

celebrate-walla-walla-valley-wine-merlot-noMore than 60 winemakers from the Walla Walla Valley and beyond will help the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance spotlight the work done in the Pacific Northwest, Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Tuscany. The weekend begins Thursday, June 18, with Vintage Pour at Dunham Cellars and concludes Saturday, June 20, with winemaker dinners staged throughout the valley.

“The Celebrate event continues to gain momentum every year, and we’re thrilled to have such esteemed individuals serve as keynote speakers this year,” Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, said in a news release. “Stephen Tanzer and Fred Dame are highly respected in the wine community, and we believe they’ll help elevate the Celebrate event to an even higher level.”

Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine focuses on one variety each year as winemakers from around the world and throughout the Walla Walla Valley gather to share insights with each other and the public. The inaugural Celebrate Walla Walla in 2013 featured Cabernet Sauvignon, while last year’s event highlighted Syrah.

Winemaker panel includes Clubb, McClellan, Merfeld

Marty Clubb is the owner of L'Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla Valley wine country.

Marty Clubb, owner of L’Ecole No. 41, will be one of three “hometown” winemakers during an international panel discussion of Merlot on June 19, 2015. (Photo courtesy of L’Ecole No. 41)

On Friday, June 19, Washington wine writer Sean Sullivan will moderate an afternoon panel discussion of six winemakers — three from the Walla Walla Valley and three from outside the Northwest. Tickets to the panel include a technical tasting at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.

The participating winemakers are Marty Clubb, L’Ecole N° 41, Lowden, Wash., Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, Wash.; David “Merf” Merfeld, Northstar Winery, Walla Walla, Wash.; Renée Ary, Duckhorn Vineyards, St. Helena, Calif.; Vincent Lignac, Château Guadet, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France; and Virginie Saverys, Avignonesi Winery, Valiano di Montepulciano, Siena, Tuscany, Italy.

“This year’s panel offers incredible diversity, giving participants a truly unique opportunity to learn about and taste Merlot made by prominent winemakers from around the world,” Wollmuth said.

Tanzer and Dame will serve as keynote speakers for the Friday morning session at the historic Power House Theatre in downtown Walla Walla.

Tanzer began producing the International Wine Cellar in 1985, a bimonthly publication which used the 100-point scale and soon became a competitor to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Washington has been one of Tanzer’s regions of focus. Last fall, he sold the International Wine Cellar and his archive to Vinous.com, owned by former Wine Advocate contributor Antonio Galloni. Tanzer’s role at Vinous is that of editor-in-chief.

Dame’s acclaim includes the status as the first American to pass all three parts of the Master Sommelier examination in one year. He went on to become the first American to have served as President of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Dame was prominently featured in the 2012 documentary Somm.

Immediately after the winemaker panel, the Merlot Wine Tasting and Dinner allows ticket holders the opportunity to meet more than 60 Walla Walla Valley winemakers while sampling Merlot and wines made from white Bordeaux varieties during a dinner at the Reid Center on the campus of Whitman College.

Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine: The World of Merlot will end Saturday evening with winemaker dinners.

Tickets go on sale Feb. 1 at www.wallawallawine.com/celebrate.

Schedule of events

Thursday, June 18

Vintage Pour (Merlot produced prior to 2009), Dunham Cellars, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Friday, June 19

The World of Merlot: Kick-off Event, Gesa Power House Theater, 8:30-10 a.m.

Winemaker Panel Presentations and Tastings, Marcus Whitman Hotel, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Merlot Wine Tasting & Dinner, Reid Center, Whitman College, 6-8:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 20

Winemaker dinners throughout the Walla Walla Valley, 6-9 p.m.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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