Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How long have you been in Walla Walla?

It’s a question that I hear several times a week in our tasting room and have already heard twice today. The short answer is: “I was born and raised here.” The long answer is: “My ancestors came to Walla Walla in the 1860’s, seven generations of Clark’s have been born in Walla Walla and some of us never left.”

I am pleased to say I am a fifth generation native of Walla Walla. My roots are deep here and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My dad is proud to still be involved in the family ranch that was established in 1862. He’s the family historian and knows more about the people and history of Walla Walla than anyone I know. We joke that anyone else who is native to Walla Walla and who’s history goes back to the 1860’s is probably related to us in some way by blood or by marriage and he has the records to prove it.

I think it was about 6 years ago when I was first asked that question here in the tasting room. “How long have you been here?” It really caught me by surprise. It used to be that anyone who was not a native Walla Wallan was easily recognized as an outsider or a transplant. There was a time when Walla Walla was not so friendly to newcomers. Even people who had lived here and moved away and then came back years later said that it was not easy to break back into the social scene.

I am happy to say that things have changed. I do think the wine industry is a big part of that change. We now have so many newcomers to the valley and so many more options for socializing and making friends that no one should feel like an outsider here. I am adaptable to change and enjoy meeting people from other places and welcoming them into our tasting room. If they like it so well that they decide to stay in Walla Walla I say the more the merrier!

But that being said there will always be a warm feeling and pride in being in that special group of pioneers that settled in this valley and never left.

According to the Walla Walla County Government Website
on November 7, 1859, the county commissioners gave the village Walla Walla its name, designated it as the county seat, and gave to it a town government.
So that means Walla Walla will celebrate its 150th birthday on November 7, 2009. If there isn’t a big celebration in the planning stages right now there should be. Anybody with me?



Saturday, July 4, 2009

What do wine and music have in common? You might be surprised.

“Why can’t I smell pencil shavings or licorice in the wine?” “How can a wine smell like rose petals?” “Who writes these crazy descriptions?”

I get these questions all the time in the tasting room. My explanation is my own simple analogy. Training your nose to smell different aromas in wine can be like training your ears to appreciate music.

It’s akin to listening to a musical concert. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rock concert a classical concert or a jazz concert…the analogy is the same

You can enjoy it for just what it is, or you can really pay attention and listen. The more you concentrate the more you can pick out different melodies, different notes, different instruments, different voices and so much more.

Just as you can train your ears to hear and appreciate music, you can train your nose to smell different aromas in wine.

Right away people seem to get it when I use that comparison. It’s simple and it makes sense.


P.S. Last night I pulled a bottle of 2003 Gewurztraminer out of our library wines. I poured a glass and was engulfed in the bouquet of rose petals and litchi, ripe apricots and sweet spices. This wine was our first release and the beginning of my training…how much I have learned since then and how much more I have yet to learn.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Music and Wine pairing at 'Open Mic Night'

‘Open Mic Night’ host Jesse Campos starts the evening and gets the crowd off to a festive start with several original tunes that are heavily influenced by classical Spanish guitar playing with a good amount of good old rock and roll. Pairing suggestion: A refreshing glass of Ginger/Pomegranate Sangria.

Next up and returning for her second week, we have Natalia Hougen. Natalia is a an accomplished Russian folksinger and guitar player. Natalia has been in Walla Walla for a recent Multi-cultural Folk Festival. She played for us last week and we are excited to have her back!

Natalia plays guitar and sings in Russian with a voice that is like none I have ever heard. Her musical range and plaintive expressive voice gets a standing ovation on her first song. As she continues into the next song the room is silent and transfixed. I see a couple walking past outside through the window. The couple stops to listen as the music drifts down the block. They turn and come back in. The outdoor speakers catch the attention of another passerby. Unable to resist the haunting melodies, they come in for a listen. As Natalia finishes her set the room erupts into applause and another standing ovation. The energy generated by the crowd is almost electric. Pairing suggestion: The long finishing 2005 Merlot hinting of Chocolate, Licorice and and a touch of Sarsaparilla.

Our next guest and regular performer is a classical Guitarist by the name of Cafer. His first piece (title unknown) was written by a French composer is quite beautiful, followed by a classic from a Persian composer entitled ‘Spring’.

Often times at ‘Open Mic Night’ we have wonderful impromptu collaborations, tonight was no exception. Cafer is joined by Natalia for a duet of Russian folk music. The instant spark of two performers calls for another glass of Merlot. As they play, there is a brief appearance of the adorable daughter of Hattie. The five year old starts to dance and lights up the faces of all in the room. Cafer ends his set with a solo performance by an unknown Russian composer titled ‘Romance’. As the song ends “Little Hattie” bows to the audience and blows us a kiss. Priceless.

Cafer receives a standing ovation at the end of his set to the now packed house and standing room only crowd.

It's close to 8:30 as Daergan Guy hits the ‘stage’ (an oriental rug) with the tune called ‘No Name #2’, by the late Elliot Smith. Daergan is a regular performer and local favorite that has been playing music in Walla Walla for the better part of 2 decades. Known for his skilled songwriting abilities, Daergan treats us to some of his original works. The room grows quiet as the entranced crowd hangs on his every word.

After a couple tunes Daergan is joined by a percussionist named Mike and one of our newest regulars here at ‘Open Mic Night’. Mike plays a Djembe drum, reminiscent of something you might hear at a Rainbow gathering or a Phish concert. This folk influenced musical duo pairs nicely with the aromatic Cabernet Franc and it’s nose of Cherry Pipe Tobacco and Vanilla.

For the next set we slow things down a bit with singer and 12-string guitar player Denny Sedam. Denny specializes in classic Country favorites and standards…not that pop country bullshit they try to pass off as ‘country’ music today…this is country music at it’s roots. Denny is a regular at ‘Open Mic Night’ and prefers our Riesling but when I hear his tunes I want to swagger up to the bar and exclaim…”Bartender!...Get me a whiskey!” …sadly we have no whiskey here at Walla Walla Village.

Now we have a group of musicians jamming together for the first time. Ted Willey is on lead guitar, Mike the percussionist, and Dave Barber on vocals. Dave has a powerful blues tone and is a harmonica player extraordinaire! I can’t believe they have never played before as a group. This trio needs a name so they can start booking gigs…they seriously rock the house with their hot bluesy sound. “The Thrill is Gone” (No, not really that’s just the name of the song.) Someone must have turned up the heat because people are spontaneously combusting…or maybe they are just dancing…it’s hard to see through the smoke and flames. I think they may already have some groupies.

Next we have returning musician and Whitman College professor, Pete Crawford on the guitar and his son Kit Crawford on the keyboard…again, Mike was excited to sit in on another set with his Djembe. This is Kit’s first night playing at Walla Walla Village and we’re thrilled to have him with us! Wow. What a great voice Kit has. A quick dedication to a patron by the name of Nate from the Pete Crawford Trio gets the crowd to erupt with hollering applause and dancing as the first few bars are played. For the next song Pete jumps on the keyboard and cuts LOOSE!!! It’s easy to see where Kit gets his musical influence from. I’m in awe of the talent we have here. We are getting towards the end of the evening and what a great way to wind up the night.

It’s Just after 11:00pm and we’re still going…as long as they keep playing we stay open.
We close up the night with an encore performance from classical guitarist Cafer and a final song from the singing duo of Carol and Jesse…a fitting tune called ‘Goodnight Sweetheart (it’s time to go)’.

It’s about 11:45 and it’s time to say good night to our wine drinking, music loving friends from Seattle, Spokane, Amsterdam and Walla Walla. We made many new friends and enjoyed the talent of our amazing musicians.


Next Week we are expecting a special guest from Louisiana. Natalia will be back for a repeat performance. Most times slots are already filled and Jesse and Lance will be playing a 40 minute set later in the evening. If you want a spot to play call Jesse at 509-876-1444 ASAP.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Open Mic Night"

a recap of last night...10 guitars, 1 drum kit, 2 tongue drums,1 djembe drum, 1 cigar box guitar, 1 danish cookie tin slide guitar, 1 banjo, 3 harmonicas, 1 fiddle, 1 Russian vocalist, a German guitarist and a showcase of locally made custom guitars.

If I didn’t know this was Walla Walla I would have thought I was in Seattle or New Orleans or Nashville. In addition to our local talent that blows me away every Thursday, we have had surprise guests that show up from Portland, Montana, Chicago, Arizona, Alabama, Russia, Germany and more.

The music ranges from Folk ballads to Juke Joint Blues to Indie, Pop, Rock, Jazz fusions, and Classical guitar.

“Open Mic Nights” at Walla Walla Village Winery are very intimate jam sessions featuring eclectic music styles in a venue with amazing acoustics. In a period of a few hours you can hear a dozen or more musicians playing solo sets and improv jams.

Limited seating often times leads to sharing a table, chairs and the occasional bottle of wine with new friends. According to some of the guests the bustling ambience is one of the many great things that makes for a fun and memorable evening.

This is a place where musicians can come to hear other talent, jam with friends and meet future band mates. Local scouts can show up and have a preview of the musical talent in hopes of landing that perfect musician for their next special event.

Take time on a Thursday night to stop by Walla Walla Village Winery at 107 South 3rd Street in downtown Walla Walla for “Open Mic Night” hosted by Jesse Campos. The evening begins at 7:00pm and runs through 10:00pm or until the last musician leaves. Interested musicians should contact Jesse Campos at 509.876.1444 or the Walla Walla Village tasting room at 509.525.9463.