On a recent visit to Walla Walla, I spent a most glorious afternoon at Caprio Cellars in the pastoral Southside district of Walla Walla Valley. I have no idea why this incredible tasting experience has been flying under the radar and I hadn’t heard of it until recently. Caprio Cellars should be high up on any Washington wine and food lover’s list of places to visit. Read on to learn why.
Welcome to Caprio Cellars
As we pull up to the gated property, the hubby announces our arrival via intercom as I wonder what could possibly be in store for us. Perhaps this special entry is part of why this estate is such a secret. Then, something fantastic happens.
As we walk across the gravel parking lot toward the tasting room entry, a smiling woman awaits us with two glasses of sparkling wine. Is there any better way to be greeted? Not in my book! So far, so good. Yet, things manage to get even better.
The Caprio Cellars Experience
Our greeter, Emily Kiefer, is the Customer Experience Director at Caprio Cellars. That title alone speaks volumes about the value placed on her role over the typical “Tasting Room Manager” designation. Although we’ve never met before, as we chat it feels as though I have reconnected with an old friend.
Emily walks us around the perimeter of the building in order to let us examine our seating options. Only four groups are scheduled at any given time. Interestingly, appointments have always been the norm here. Furthermore, owner Dennis Murphy says he would rather have 80 people visit in a day and have a great time than have 200 people encounter a so-so experience.
We settle into Adirondack chairs with relaxing views of Walla Walla’s picturesque Blue Mountains on one side, and estate vineyards on the other. Strategically placed out of view of other guests, we feel like the sole visitors. Emily brings us glasses of Caprio Cellars white wine, tells us the story behind the winery, and drops off some cutlery with hints of food to come.
The food that arrives far exceeds our expectations. Chef Ian Williams strives to source local, organic, and sustainable ingredients when possible. The prepared from scratch dishes are not only phenomenal, the wine and food elevate one another.
By the way, guests aren’t charged for those small plates. The philosophy is to offer the warm hospitality that grandma provided. Dennis says that if his Italian grandma knew people were coming and he didn’t offer food, she’d be upset!
The chilled prawns with pasta salad, grilled artichoke, dill, and arugula brought out the lovely fruit characteristics of the 2020 Estate White wine.
That wine was also a delightful match to warm English peas and ricotta with spring onions, Sopressata, pea puree, and basil.
Grandma’s own recipe is used for the Caprio Italian Meatballs that get paired with the 2018 Eleanor Red Blend.
Although all the food was superb, the luscious Brie panna cotta is a favorite forever etched in my memory. The luxurious combination of light melt-in-your-mouth creaminess and rich, slightly earthy flavors is dreamy. Dressed with macerated cherries, spiced pistachios, local honey, and mint, this is the stuff that food dreams are made of.
Estate vineyards in the heart of the Walla Walla Valley, certified sustainable and salmon-safe vineyard management practices, as well as hand-picked fruit are all part of the philosophy here. Additonally, names of the wines and vineyards pay tribute to family.
I was so absorbed in the experience that I didn’t take tasting notes on the wine. However, it was delectable, pairs wonderfully with food, and inspired us to purchase bottles of each wine to bring home. Sadly, the 2020 rosé of Cabernet Franc sold out prior to this visit.
2020 White Blend
175 cases produced
64% Sauvignon Blanc, 36% Semillon
100% Sanitella Vineyard, Walla Walla AVA
700 cases produced
59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc
Aged 18 months, 33% new French oak
700 cases produced
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc
18 months, 35% new French oak
Visit Caprio Cellars
Open since 2019, the Caprio Cellars tasting room is a stop in Walla Walla I highly recommend. Be sure to plan ahead and book a visit. The tasting experience is available Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by reservation only. Learn more on the Caprio Cellars website.
Certified Specialist of Wine Nancy Croisier, founder of VinoSocial, is on a mission to get wineries on social media and a bottle of wine on every table. Her wine education has taken place at Northwest Wine Academy and in the 30+ wine regions she has visited. She partners with some of the top wineries, wine regions, and wine shops on virtual tastings and other projects. She also writes for the Slow Wine Guide.