Celebrate Walla Walla adds James Beard Award-winning chef

By on May 9, 2015
Seattle restaurateur/author John Sundstrom, who has been featured on the Food Network and the PBS series Chefs A’ Field, is this year's guest chef for Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Merlot. The third annual festival is June 18-20 in downtown Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Valley.

Seattle restaurateur/author John Sundstrom, who has been featured on PBS and the Food Network, is this year’s guest chef for Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Merlot. The third annual festival is June 18-20 in downtown Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Valley. (Photo by Zach Bent/Courtesy of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance)

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Seattle restaurateur and author John Sundstrom, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest in 2007, will serve as guest chef for the third annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine festival.

This year’s focus grape is Merlot, and Sundstrom will team with Andrae Bopp of Andrae’s Kitchen and Jim Cooley of Bon Appetit on the June 19 dinner at Whitman College’s Reid Center.

“We’re thrilled to have John Sundstrom come to town to share his culinary talents, alongside our wonderful local chefs,” Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, said in a news release. “It will be a real treat for attendees.”

Friday’s dinner at Reid Center will be presented in a walk-around format as patrons taste Merlot and Bordeaux-inspired white wines from more than 40 Walla Walla Valley wineries.

“This dinner was very successful last year, as patrons loved being able to mix and mingle with the different wineries and chefs throughout the evening,” Wollmuth said.

Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Merlot begins June 18 at Dunham Cellars with the traditional vintage pouring of wines from 2008 and earlier. It sunsets Saturday, June 20, with a series of winemaker dinners staged throughout the Walla Walla Valley.

Sundstrom, semifinalist for the James Beard Award Outstanding Chef USA in 2014, is a product of the New England Culinary Institute. Soon after, he arrived in Seattle and moved into the position of chef de cuisine in 1993 for Tom Douglas Restaurants’ Dahlia Lounge, where he spent six years.

He made national headlines in 2001 after being named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs while he was the W Seattle’s Earth & Ocean. Two years later, he opened Lark on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Last year, he moved the restaurant to a larger space near Garage billiards hall and launched Bitter/Raw and Slab Sandwiches + Pie.

In 2013, Sundstrom published his first cookbook, Lark: Cooking Against the Grain, which received an IACP Judges Choice Award. Sundstrom has been featured on the Food Network’s Best Of and Food Nation as well as the PBS original series Chefs A’ Field, which was nominated for a James Beard Award.

Dame, Tanzer to serve as keynote speakers

Celebrate Walla Walla continues its tradition of wine industry headliners at the June 19 kickoff session at the historic Power House Theatre in downtown Walla Walla, where wine critic Stephen Tanzer and Master Sommelier Fred Dame will serve as keynote speakers.

Tanzer, editor-in-chief at Vinous.com, launched his International Wine Cellar newsletter in 1985. Dame was the first American to pass all three parts of the Master Sommelier examination in one year. He later became the first American to serve as president of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide.

After the Power House Theatre event, Sean Sullivan, contributing editor to Wine Enthusiast and founder of Washington Wine Report, will moderate the afternoon panel of six winemakers from the Walla Walla Valley, Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Tuscany.

Ticket holders will be able to taste Merlot from each region, and taste Merlot from the six producers. The panel features hometown winemakers Marty Clubb of L’Ecole N° 41, Casey McClellan of Seven Hills Winery and David “Merf” Merfeld of Northstar Winery as well as Renée Ary of Duckhorn Vineyards, Vincent Lignac of Château Guadet and Virginie Saverys of Avignonesi.

Celebrate Walla Walla will wrap up Saturday, June 20 with a series of winemaker dinners around the valley.

Schedule of events

Thursday, June 18
Vintage Pour at Dunham Cellars, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tickets are $75.

Friday, June 19
Kick-off Event at Gesa Power House Theater, 8:30-10:00 a.m. There is no admission charge.
Winemaker Panel Presentations and Tastings at Marcus Whitman Hotel, 3:30-5:30 p.m. Cost is $55.
Merlot Wine Tasting & Dinner, Reid Center at Whitman College, 6-8:30 p.m. Cost is $90.

Saturday, June 20
Winemaker dinners throughout the Walla Walla Valley, 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $125.

Tickets to all events are on sale at www.wallawallawine.com/celebrate.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *