Walla Walla – A Totally Incomplete Visitors Guide (by Hubs)

I’m on lunch break on Day 1 of the Wine Bloggers Conference and it dawned on me that many of you reading this blog have probably never been to the host city of Walla Walla.  Having lived for several years in the (somewhat) nearby town of Spokane, Washington, I’ve spent some time in Walla Walla and wanted to share my thoughts.   First things first, Walla Walla is located in the Southern corner of Eastern Washington.   Second things second, Eastern Washington produces some of the toughest people I’ve ever met in my life.  I mean like eight seconds on a bull tough and tractor accident tough.  I would never have survived growing up in Eastern Washington.  So while I’ll go on to describe the charming quaintness of this wine producing region, it’s important to understand that beneath that recently laid veneer lies an amazing community that built this city well before the doctors and lawyers started flying in for weekend tastings (yep, that would be me).

Until wine hit the mainstream consciousness, I imagine that Walla Walla was probably best known for one of three things: (i) Pretty damn cool name; (ii) Sweet Onions; and (iii) Drew Bledsoe.  If you know Bledsoe as the winemaking entrepreneur at Doubleback rather than an NFL quarterback, then you’re likely relatively new to the Walla Walla scene.

I started going to Walla Walla in the mid-90’s on hunting trips with friends to the base of the Blue Mountains.   At that time, you could count on one hand the number of wineries – almost all of which seemed to be located in trailers on grounds near the airport.   Those wineries are still there and I highly recommend touring them on a Schwinn (Noelle was  introduced to Five Star Cellars very early on in her wine education and still swears by their Sangiovese).  I understand that they have even added several breweries and even a distillery out there as well.

So what’s the status of Walla Walla today? Well, imagine if Charlie Daniels and Norah Jones sang a duet. With the proliferation of wine production in the area came the vinophile tourists, which has in turn changed the landscape to include higher end restaurants, a smattering of art galleries, etc. I can guarantee you that you will hear visitors say the line “this is what Napa was like 50 years ago” almost reverentially when you visit. And maybe they’re right – I have no frame of reference. Of course, Napa had the benefit of nearby major cities of San Francisco and Sacramento. As one speaker stated this morning “Walla Walla is on an island – five hours to the closest metropolitan area” (I’m sure Spokane won’t take offense). I can tell you however that you will find an amazing community that embraces both their position as an up-and-coming wine producing region along with its proud farming heritage.

With no further ado, here are a few of my favorite spots in Walla Walla, a list which is so spectacularly incomplete that I was required to change the name of this blog post:

  • Wine Division:   You don’t want Walla Walla wine recommendations from me (you want them from Noelle).  Nonetheless, be sure to check out Gramercy Cellars (our favorite), Sleight of Hand (best party atmosphere, seriously, I really want to share a bottle with these guys),  and L’Ecole (best school house).  Hot PoopMy apologies to Drew Bledsoe – I just haven’t been to Doubleback yet – but I promise I will on this trip.  Honestly, there are so many amazing wineries in the Walla Walla Region that you simply can’t go wrong.  Oh yeah, Rotie Cellars as well!!
  • Non-Wine Division:  Be sure to check out Olive (best informal meal), Hot Poop Records (best business name – ever), Whitman College; Public House 124; and a VRBO House Rental that converted a huge wine barrel into an extra bedroom.   Seriously.  I’ve slept there – it’s awesome (assuming you’re not claustrophobic).
  • No Longer In Business Division:  I admit that it makes no sense whatsoever to tell you about these places that are no longer in business.  But alas, we can always hope for their return:  (i) Salumerie Cesario (Noelle once got kicked out of the cheese closet for making a mockery – true story); and (ii) Chillville – a collection of Airstreams that you could rent for a few nights next to the Airport district tasting rooms.  Of my great regrets in life, not staying at Chillville before it was shuttered is definitely top five (but still pretty distant from my ill-advised bolo tie phase in the early 90’s). Cheese Closet


Anyways, that’s my two cents on Walla Walla which is truly a kick-ass town that I highly recommend visiting to anyone with an interest in wine (or seeing the “Hot Poop” business sign).





Conference Survival Tips (by Hubs)


With more than 20 years of conference going experience under my belt, I feel as though I’ve become a bit of an expert on this particular subject.  At various times over my career I’ve been an attendee, a speaker and even a chairman a time or two.  With the three day Wine Bloggers Conference just around the corner I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned over the years to help you successfully navigate your way around any conference and also avoid the many pitfalls that exist to the unwary.

Let me say at the outset that these survival tips apply only tangentially to the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference.  My conference going experience to date has been almost exclusively dedicated to the tax arena which, as you may surmise, is about as far on the other side of the fun spectrum from wine blogging as exists in the time/space continuum.  That’s right friends, there are entire weeklong conferences dedicated to the subject of taxes, and you can bet that they are just as hot and sultry as you imagine them to be!    As close as I’ve ever been to the fun end of the conference spectrum was speaking at a craft brewers convention a few years ago at which they asked me to present with a pilsner at the lectern.  My presentation was at 9am.

So with that in mind, here are a few lessons that I’ve learned over the past two decades of conference going to help you out…

Find the (better) restroom.  Rookie conference goers will use the restrooms Restroomimmediately outside of the main conference hall.  Don’t be fooled – no need to stand in line for ten minutes for the privilege of sharing the facilities with 200 of your closest friends.   These conference halls (either in a hotel or a dedicated facility) are labyrinths that are designed to host multiple conferences at the same time.  So just walk the hallway toward one of the other large conference rooms that isn’t currently in use and there you will find your very own restroom (just don’t tell anyone where it’s located). (Editor’s Note: spouses are exceptions to this “don’t tell anyone” rule).

Monitor your coffee and sugar intake.  This probably should have been listed as survival tip #1.  Either at the back of the main hall or in the exhibitors hall there will undoubtedly be a tanker sized vat of black coffee next to several trays of Costco chocolate chip cookies.  I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Awesome!”  No.  No it is very much not awesome.  Cookies and coffee are the opioids of the conference world and if you’re not careful you’ll be so hopped up on caffeine and sugar you’ll need a methadone clinic visit of your own to help you come down.  Allow yourself one of each in the morning and the same after lunch.  That’s it.  (Editor’s Note: as this is a wine blogging conference, avoid drinking coffee too close to any actual wine tasting to avoid completely screwing up your palate.  Same goes for brushing your teeth.)

Stretch.   Sitting all day is terrible for you so get up and walk around.  It’s ok to stand at the back of the room during an entire presentation.   You’re not being rude as long as you’re not the guy who shows off his yoga skills by doing a headstand in the main conference room.  FYI:  I actually witnessed a guy waiting at the departure gate at SeaTac Airport go into a full headstand right smack in the middle of everyone waiting for the plane.  I still hate that guy and that was like five years ago. (Editor’s Note: perhaps doing some yoga of your own my dear Hubs would help you with this anger that you’ve been holding onto for so many years.)

Hydrate.  Drink a ton of water – I’m not kidding.  Those conference rooms are where fresh air goes to die and you’ll otherwise dry out by the mid-morning break.  I’m talking Las-Vegas-casino-before-smoking-was-banned level of stale air, just without the lingering waft of desperation mixed with Drakkar Noir.  There’s typically a bunch of water bottles at the back of the room or in the exhibitors hall so load up accordingly.  (Editor’s Note: I completely agree with Hubs here – a rare occurrence.)

SpitbucketBe a good conference neighbor.  This should be self explanatory, but as with most things in life that fall into that category, it unfortunately is not.   Generally clean up your area, if you get a phone call take it outside (we get it, you’re a very busy and important person who owns a cell phone and we are all duly impressed with your station in life), don’t eat a bag and a half of Doritos so loud that we can’t hear the speaker, etc.  You know what, this goes beyond conference etiquette – just generally follow these simple rules in life. (Editor’s Note: another wine blogging conference specific: mind the spit buckets! Don’t go jostling the table too much or slamming your chair into the table behind you and putting your fellow conference goers at risk for dump bucket spillage.  Nobody wants to be Miles.)

Leave the cocktail reception early.  At the end of Day 1 there is always a cocktail reception for the attendees.  Go early and – here comes the really important part –  leave early.  Tomorrow is another full day of presentations and the last thing you need is to be sweating booze while wondering why the hell you decided to karaoke the entire soundtrack of Grease 2.  Also, if invited, politely decline attending the after party at a local bar with your newfound “conference buddies.”  Nothing good ever comes from attending a conference after party.  (Editor’s Note: Ahem… is there something you’d like to share with me?)

OK – that should be enough to get you through.   Godspeed my conference going friends.

Introducing Outwines’ First (and Possibly Last) Ever Guest Blogger . . .


Hello wine world, Hubs here.   In less than a week I will be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington together with Mrs. Outwines.  I mean, I’ll actually be attending the conference itself, like sitting in on lectures and stuff, not just hanging out in the bar at the Marcus Whitman watching college football while waiting for Noelle.  My attendance may seem a little strange due in part to the fact that I don’t know anything about wine and I don’t…well…you know….blog.  Despite these minor impediments, I am looking forward to a terrific weekend in EWA (shorthand for “Eastern Washington” – I married a local girl who also taught me about the nearby nuclear reactor and state penitentiary).  But believe me when I tell you that the wine from this part of the world is absolutely amazing.

When I first asked Noelle if I could “guest blog” on Outwines for the week of the conference she summarily rejected my offer.  I mean, she didn’t even give it a second of thought before “hell no” tumbled out.  What followed was a protracted negotiation between husband and wife that hammered out the most minute details that would ultimately allow me to rent space on Outwines so that I could actually participate as a wine blogger.  The final mutually agreed upon rules of the road – negotiated with such vigor that the Yalta Conference paled in comparison –  are as follows:

Her 5 Rules of the Road:

Rule #1:  Noelle has full editorial control.   This isn’t much of a derivation over our last 20+ years of marriage so I’m not particularly concerned about relenting on this one.  Plus, what the hell else was I going to do?  I don’t have a blog of my own so I had to relent.  That, dear reader, is called leverage.

Rule #2:  I can’t embarrass her or Outwines.  This one may be a bit more difficult as embarrassing Noelle is kinda my calling card.  If I’m a one trick pony, that’s my trick – and if I don’t my saying so, I’m otherworldly great at it.  Nonetheless, I will endeavor not to dilute her personal brand or bring shame upon the House of Outwines in any manner over the course of the next week.  After that, all bets are off.

Rule #3:  I have to be content appropriate.   I actually have to commit to blogging about wine, the craft of blogging, the conference, and our time in Walla Walla.   What she really means is that I can’t use this space to unleash my repressed stand-up comedian chops or provide you with my take on the current state of the world (we are all totally fucked).

CursingRule #4:  I can’t swear too much.   Late entry inserted after she read Rule #3 above.  Kindly disregard – won’t happen again (it totally will).

Rule #5:  I have to commit to learning about wine and blogging.    It is a wine bloggers conference, so this seems like a reasonable request.

His 5 Rules of the Road:

Rule #1:  No Emojis.   Hemingway didn’t use ’em so neither will I.   The fact that emojis didn’t exist during Papa’s time is totally irrelevant.

Rule #2:   Social Media Delivery.   Noelle is required to post on Outwines’ Instagram & Twitter accounts a link to my blog entries (including #WBC18 tags!).  I could see her conveniently “forgetting” to promote my spectacularly insightful content so this is a win for me now that she’s contractually obligated.

Rule #3:  No Outlines.   My wife kicked my ass in law school which I attribute primarily to two things: (i) she’s much smarter than me; and (ii) her unfailing ability to learn subject matter via the outlining format.  She has migrated this ability to the world of wine and this blog as she continues to outline her way through the WSET world.   I have neither the time nor the cerebral ability to do the same.

Rule #4:  I get to write in my voice from my perspective.  I’m an outsider to the worlds of wine and blogging – thus my perspective will be through those dual lenses.   I can (and most certainly will) ask stupid questions – so be it.

Rule #5:  I get to have a beer once in a while – and can even blog about it.  I’ve seen the agenda, tasting schedules, and field trips to various Walla Walla wineries – that’s a lot of wine.   I need to break it up with a Kölsch once in a while, and we’re conveniently staying close to Public House 124, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, that just about puts a bow on my very first blog entry.   The rules have been clearly established and I’m ready for the conference.  Now let’s see if Noelle will let me borrow her laptop…

… Editors Note: Not fucking happening 😉