We were hosted at their Walla Walla tasting room in the city centre by Madde Richards (right), head of hospitality and sales who keeps busy overseeing the myriad of details in creating a brand, building distribution and running the marketing operations. Note the Rocks District 'soil' in the picture behind us, and below.
Maddie hails from Dallas and spent time in Chicago before returning West where she enjoys horseback riding and camping with her husband, daughter and their pair of large dogs.
Like many of the Washington State producers, due to the remoteness of the Central Washington and Walla Walla regions, Rotie have a tasting room in Seattle. They also have a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla which is coming of its own as a major wine producing area and is becoming a tourist destination accordingly.
In the Walla Walla AVA, in the southeastern corner of the state, the number of wine producers has grown to over 150 and the total vineyard acreage has grown from 800 acres in 1999, to 1,300 in 2011 and nearly 3,000 in 2017.
We knew going in that Washington State was producing some world class wines sourced from local fruit in both Rhône and Bordeaux varietals and styles. Rotie epitomizes classic Rhône wines in the styles of both the northern and southern Rhône wine regions.
The Rhône is one of the major rivers of Europe flowing from the Swiss Alps to Geneva, then forming the border between Switzerland and France, running west to Lyon in the center of France, then flowing south through Avignon in the Southern Rhone wine region, emptying into the Mediterranean west of Marseille.
The northern Rhône river valley experiences a mid-European climate with harsh winters but warm summers. The southern Rhône region has a more Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot summers. A geologic feature of the region is the large pebble gravelly soil which absorb the heat of the sun during the day and serves to keep the vines warm at night.
|Rocky soil at Chateau Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape|
Before this trip, I did not realize or appreciate how similar the area is to the classic wine appellations of the Rhône. The terroir soil composition in the Rocks District of Milton Freewater, the newest appellation in Washington State that straddles both sides of the Washington Oregon border, is amazingly like that in the Southern Rhône appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape (right).
The name Rotie conjures images of the Northern Rhone wine district Côte-Rôtie where the vineyards are comprised of the steep slopes facing the river with rocky soils that form stone walls.
Rotie are building a winery with a tasting room at the Rock's District estate location. The unique riverbed of cobblestones and pebbles is as much as two hundred feet deep, formed 12,000 to 15,000 years ago from massive floods that swept through the region caused by ruptures in the ice dam that held Montana's glacial Lake Missoula. The Rocks District is a 12-square mile alluvial fan of 3,770 acres.
Sean's academic studies and early work in geology prepared him well to produce authentic wines using natural techniques and methods to reflect the terroir or sense of place that results from the vineyard sites where the grapes are grown. He believes great wine happens mostly in the vineyard, and that his main job is to stay out of nature’s way. The result is Rotie wines that reflect the style that Sean loves to drink — French-style Rhône blends.
NOTE that Rotie are offering LIFETIME price protection on allocated Club wines at the price in effect when joining, and $25 flat rate shipping in the 48 States, as well as complimentary tastings.
We look forward to further explorations in Rotie wines. Watch for them, and pick them up while you can.