As we go into the new year, here are some recent developments in the Walla Walla Valley.

Buty Winery Closing

Yesterday, Nina Busy announced on Facebook that her winery near the airport was closing down. She stated, "I see wine as a bridge into so many layers of story and connection and Buty as a summation of the time, care and sharing many --so that its community and history is created by all of us."  Coming since the closing of other wineries, particularly Tertulia last fall, this is not surprising. We wish Nina all the best for the future. In the meantime, Buty winemaker, Chris Dowsett has been working at Dusted Valley since summer.

Dennis Murphy and Marty Clubb Named Wine's Most Inspiring People

The Wine Industry Advisor has named Dennis Murphy, owner-winemaker of Caprio Cellars one of "Wine's Most Inspiring People" for his leadership, innovation and inspiration. He has been a leader in the community, especially with the Blue Mountain Action Council. Caprio Cellars is known as an outstanding winery whose wines have scored highly in the Review of Washington Wines. One innovation has been the winery's Sunday Supper to go program. We have ordered a Sheperd's pie meal to be picked up along with a bottle of Caprio wine.

Also named one of "Wine's Most Inspiring People" is Marty Cbubb, managing winemaker of L'Ecole No 41. In addition to his career at L'Ecole since 1989, Marty has been instrumental in forming the Walla Walla Valley Wine alliance and has been an advisor to the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology and Viticulture.

Paul Gregutt Leaves Wine Enthusiast and Starts a Digital Publication

Recently, Paul Gregutt announced that he was leaving the Wine Enthusiast Magazine to start his own online publication. He will continue to contribute occasional articles to the Wine Enthusiast. Of his new venture, Paul states " doing so, I gain the kind of journalistic freedom that can never exist in a work-for-hire environment." On Facebook, I commented: "Great idea! It's better to be independent than to be beholden to a publication with its own rules."  The new publication is called Paul G on Wine ( and features wine reviews and in person tastings and interviews.

Echolands Opens a Tasting Room Downtown

Echolands Winery, started by Brad Bergman and Doug Frost in 2018 on Issacs Avenue, has opened a tasting room on 7 West Alder Street in the historic Drumheller Building. The hours of operation are Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Taylor Oswald, an 11 year veteran of Walla Walla winemaking is the winemaker. I have made an appointment to visit the tasting room and will be reviewing the wines in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

Wine Deal of the Month: 2019 Basel Cellars Merlot

Since last summer when the property was sold to Yellowhawk Resort, Basel Cellars has been closing out its wine to focus solely on the new owners' sparkling wines. Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle has purchased the 2019 Basel Cellars Walla Walla Valley Merlot and is selling it for less than half price. At $15.99 a bottle, it's a deal that's not to be missed.

2019 Basel Cellars Merlot, Walla Walla Valley (Esquin - $15.99 - Regular $42) - Sourced from the Double River and Pheasant Run vineyards, this offers a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, rose petals, mulberry, sweet tobacco, cedar, black olive and stick incense. The flavors are ample yet deep and focused, with copious red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cocoa powder and silty minerals. On the back, the wine fills out with pressed fruits, framboise and kirsch liqueurs, roasted pecans, graphite and moderate integrated oak, followed by a lingering, vigorous yet smooth tannin finish that is lifted by balance fruit acids. Almost a 19 point wine. 18.5+/20 points.