A Great Wash Of Water Over Walla Walla, Wash. - Lightly Toasted: Chronicles of the Friday Night Cocktail Club Blog at Allrecipes.com - 142997

Lightly Toasted: Chronicles of the Friday Night Cocktail Club

a great wash of water over walla walla, wash. 
Dec. 9, 2009 1:56 pm 
Updated: Dec. 10, 2009 9:53 am

 Seventeen-thousand years ago, had you been wandering around in that field where I’m pictured below (beside the enormous “K”), you would almost surely have benefitted from scuba gear, as well as from an unusually large steel umbrella to keep the sizeable stones from raining down upon your head.

Actually, scuba gear and steel umbrellas, as is so often the case, probably would not have done you much good. The incredible force of the water surging into that particular field would’ve spelled curtains for you. It would have spelled curtains for anyone caught up in the relentless ancient floods that rushed into the valley many thousands of years ago.

The deluge (or series of deluges, actually) came from the sudden and dramatic draining of ancient Lake Missoula. As glaciers advanced and retreated during the end of the Ice Age, huge chunks of ice would plug up the entrance to the valley near present-day Missoula, Montana; the melting water would fill the valley (the ancient Lake Missoula) until the pressure became too great, and the dam would burst, sending a wall of water some 500-feet high surging violently toward the sea.

Over and over it happened, the dam bursting and the waters scouring everything in their path, picking up bolders and stones and countless tons of soil, and roiling them along across the open land of eastern Washington, until finally the waters reached a funky little lip along the Columbia River (see my almost completely useless map below), a point where the waters would have had to funnel into a tight space before continuing on to the Pacific Ocean.

Here at the gap, with its forward momentum abruptly stopped, the rushing floodwater crashed into itself, perhaps like something out of the Three Stooges, and great waves were forced back into the Walla Walla Valley, where the water eventually came to rest, momentarily, dropping its load of silt, rocks, and sand before being funneled through the gap to continue its journey to the sea.

To me, one of the many fascinating things about these incredible floods is how they affected the soil of Washington wine country.  It is unlike any place in the world. Out here in Walla Walla, the soils are rocky in one spot, sandy in another. The elevations differ depending on how much sand and silt settled in one spot over another. Cold air settles into pockets here and is rushed away by winds there.

Sand, silt and rocks don’t sound like the ideal situation for growing fruit. But unlike most crops, wine grapes actually like the tough stuff; the grapes don’t want it too cushy -- unlike, it must be said, a lot of us who drink their juice. The roots of the vine stretch out, seeking nutrients deep in the soil. And it is believed that the stress induced by this kind of hard existence results in exceptional wines. At any rate, this is one reason that Walla Walla is a unique spot.

SLS and I were in Walla Walla over the weekend tasting some wines. Some of my favorites were from Tamarack Cellars. They were probably the best value of the wines we tasted. Really consistent quality and fairly priced. I’ll blog some more about them in a bit.  But for the moment, here are some pics from the trip.

my illegible chalkmap of WA, showing the columbia river, the flood route, gap, and walla walla
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Tasting a barrel of Cab at Tamarack Cellars
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holding up a stone at K Vintner, Walla Walla, WA
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The Bunkhouse, Abeja, Walla Walla, WA
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SLS among the vines in walla walla
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'04 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon
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Viogner Vines, Abeja, Walla Walla, WA
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Dec. 9, 2009 8:46 pm
it doesn't seem like here in america we think too much about the soil and the land from which our food and wine are born, but it's all part of the story.
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About Me
My wife and I and our two devilish kittens live on Capitol Hill in Seattle. A few years ago, I got a masters in gastronomy. I'm a food/wine writer. I’m also blogging about cocktails.
My favorite things to cook
We cook fairly simple dishes using fresh local ingredients that we pick up at the Seattle farmers market. My favorite thing is making a nice slow-braised or long-roasted something on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I like cooking with wine (in the dish and in the glass...and in the cook).
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom never liked to cook, but she did well despite herself. Her mother, my omi, was from Munich and made delicious rouladen, sauerbraten and other traditional German and American dishes. Always bins and bins of home-baked cookies at Christmas. Wonderful rye bread. And beer. Opa would say, "Brotzeit ist die beste zeit."
My cooking triumphs
We’ve made the signature timpano dish from The Big Night a couple times. And for Thanksgiving 2007, we made Turducken. My wife and I are always volunteering to cook the big holiday meals with the family. We mix a signature cocktail, and get down to it.
My cooking tragedies
I made Thanksgiving Dinner for myself once when I was snowed-in in Denver. I nearly burned down the neighborhood.
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