Showing posts with label Ashley Trout. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ashley Trout. Show all posts

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Three Walla Walla Wineries in a Day

The last of the snowfall was hopefully done as the Blue Mountains looked stunningly beautiful in wintry white. We started heading south with a conscious effort to "pace ourselves" on this big day that had been planned for weeks - three Southside wineries before the winemaker dinner

First stop, Vital Wines, a winery that combines my two passions - wine and healthcare. Started by winemaker Ashley Trout, Vital Wines donates all of its profit to fund a free clinic to those in need, especially the uninsured immigrant vineyard workers in the valley. It was a pleasure to sip wines and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Blues from the tasting room. I left happily with a bottle of the 2016 GSM.

Snow-capped Blues viewed from Vital Winery
Next stop, Rulo, a no-frills winery that is fully operated by Dr. Kurt Schlicker and his wife, Vickie. An MD with a BS in Microbiology from Stanford University, Kurt definitely as both the science and art of winemaking down pat. I always have fun geeking out with Kurt about winemaking during my visits. This visit, he proudly showed me his steel barrels which he used to age his Chardonnay from Sundance vineyard, his version of Chablis, which was pretty tasty.

The gang in Rulo Winery's barrel room with Kurt (in the middle)
The last winery of the day was a blast for wine-loving music buffs, Sleight of Hand Cellars. Inspired  by the song title of winemaker Trey Busch's favorite band, Pearl Jam, the winery features a delicious wine line-up with fun labels. The tasting room in Walla Walla is decorated with vibrant colors, framed posters of the wine labels, shelves of music records, and a turntable for guests to pair their favorite music with their wine. There is even a backroom set up with colorful mid-century sofas, inviting you to kick back and lounge around. My favorite from the last tasting was hands down (no pun intended!) the 2016 Psychedelic, which is their Rocks AVA Syrah.

Chilling out in Sleight of Hand Cellar's backroom
It was the perfect to end the winery tour portion of the weekend. Look for the next post when I will share the most amazing Force Majeure winemaker dinner. Mmmmm....

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Vital Response to SOS

These days it seems like there is a rise of xenophobia, and we are constantly confronted with immigration issues. The wine industry in Washington state and around the country is not immune, as migrant workers play a key role in viniculture. The 2017 harvest saw a drastic shortage of vineyard workers, and the outlook for the upcoming harvest is hardly optimistic.

Vital mission buttons
In this environment of hostility towards immigrants, it is timely that a winery was launched to intentionally do good.

Vital Winery in Walla Walla, led by winemaker Ashley Trout, donates 100% of its profits to fund a free clinic in the valley. The beneficiary, SOS Health Services, is an urgent care facility that provides walk-in healthcare services to underinsured and uninsured individuals. No questions asked!

This endeavor expands access to healthcare services for migrant laborers. This is also how Trout sees as closing the loop and bridging the two communities; the migrant vineyard workers and the wine industry.

The Winemaker

Trout has had several years of winemaking experience under her belt before launching the non-profit Vital label. She started part-time on the production floor at Reininger Winery when she was a student at Whitman College. She has since launched a few labels. In addition to Vital Winery, she also owns Brook and Bull Cellars (previously known as March Cellars).

Trout remembered what it was like being uninsured as many small wineries in Walla Walla could not afford to provide health insurance to all their workers. Today, she sits on the board of SOS Health Services and is keenly aware of its financial challenges. That led her to play an active role in providing the solution.

Working in the healthcare industry myself, I too am passionate about the need to provide access to basic healthcare. So in our last trip to Walla Walla, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out Vital Winery.

The Winery

Vital as well as Brook and Bull labels 
With Trout leading the charge, Vital Winery relies heavily on the donation of raw materials and services needed for wine production. It runs the whole gamut, with winery partners providing fruit, barrels, bottling materials, crushing and hauling services, and even PR. It is truly a community effort.

Co-located with Brook and Bulls Cellars, Vital Winery is one of the scenic Southside wineries. It is situated just north of the state line that separates Washington from Oregon.

The tasting room was spacious, tastefully decorated with minimum frills. It serves both Vital as well as Brook and Bull wines. The outside patio offers a picturesque view of the Blue Mountains as the backdrop for acres and acres of beautiful vineyards and wheat fields as you taste through the line-up.

We tasted the 2016 Vital GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre), which is really dominant on Mouvedre at 45%, followed by Grenache at 36%, and Syrah at 19%. On the nose, it was full of berries, which carried through to the palate. The wine has a rich mouthfeel with bright tannins and a well-balanced acidity. Considering that this was made from donated grapes, it was artfully crafted. At the price point of $28, it is a steal!

2016 Vital GSM
My Verdict: Vital Winery tugs at my heartstrings by making delicious wines while giving back to the community. Such a labor of love and compassion definitely gets a thumbs-up from me. May we all be inspired to be kind and do good. And if you have not tried Vital wines, you must!!