As the operator of a winery tour company, I have the great job of getting to know every winery in Walla Walla. This means visiting not only the big players but also the smaller boutiques wineries that are not as well known to those outside of this region. This week I will be introducing you to one of those charming places known as Forgeron Cellars.
“Washington Grapes. French Roots.” ~ Forgeron Cellars
Walla Walla, Washington is located at the same latitude and longitude as the famous wine growing regions of France, so it’s not all that surprising that this Washington wine region boasts such great vintages. What may surprise you though is that during a visit to Walla Walla you can experience French winemaking at its best without the need of a passport.
One of my favorite wineries for sampling delicious French style wine is Forgeron Cellars. It is located just three blocks off Main Street and only one block from the famous Marcus Whitman Hotel so it makes for a great addition to a day of exploring the downtown area.
Marie-Eve Gilla (you can call her Meg) is the winemaker and managing partner of Forgeron Cellars and she just happens to have the best French accent you’ve ever heard which in my opinion adds to the whole experience. The winery is located where a former blacksmith shop once stood, hence the name Forgeron which means blacksmith in French, and Meg chose to leave hundreds of horseshoes buried in the foundation for good luck. However I would say their success has a lot more to do with skill and dedication than luck. Also, not so coincidentally, Meg is an avid horse-person who rides 2-3 times per week and most recently won a blue ribbon in a trail challenge competition. Un heureux hasard (a lucky coincidence) as the French would say.
A True Boutique Winery
I really love boutique wineries and Forgeron qualifies as one by producing just 5,000 cases a year which allows for extreme attention to detail in the winemaking process. A process that puts an emphasis on Rhone wines while adding their own special and unique touches. For example, ninety percent of the grapes grown here are red, yet 40% of Forgeron’s wine is white. This is a benefit of Meg’s training in Burgundy and the result is the best Chardonnay in Walla Walla.
When asked about why that varietal is so important to her as a winemaker, Meg said, “Whites don’t lie. You can’t hide them behind oak. They reflect their maker more than any other grape and you can let the wine follow its journey, making it more complex and interesting.”
However, Forgeron certainly did not forget about the reds. Their Cabs, Merlots, Blends, Barbera and Mourvedre are all award winners and rate over 90 points by Wine Advocate. Forgeron also has an Anvil label that, in Meg’s words, is “very red, masculine, powerful and showcases a specific vineyard to show what it can do.” Interestingly, wine lovers also make the trip to Forgeron specifically for their Zinfandel (limited to 200 cases) which is a rare find in Walla Walla. Plus at the time of this writing they are one of the very few wineries that still have Rose available that would go perfectly with your holiday meals…better hurry down and get yours.
When you visit Forgeron Cellars and enter their beautiful tasting room you will likely be met by Anne, the on site manager. Anne is extremely wine savvy, full of interesting local history and super friendly as is the rest of the staff so be sure to take enough time to chat and glean some new wine and Walla Walla knowledge.
I’m confident you will love Forgeron Cellars as I do and may even feel the need to spout “Oo la la!” as you head off for a delicious meal in downtown Walla Walla.
Well that’s Walla Walla Jim signing off for this month. Hope you’ll check back in the new year for a peek at another wonderful Walla Walla wine country winery!