My wife and I flew to Walla Walla expressly to attend the Winemaker's Dinner held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel that featured the Abeja Winery.
The seven course meal crafted by chef Bear Ullman was perfectly paired with the wines of Abeja. It was a culinary tour de force I was unprepared for in what I had previously thought was an out of the way, sleepy town in eastern Washington.
The dining room and table were tastefully decorated with white linens, mirrors and candles all under a canopy of corkscrew willow branches and Alstroemeria blossoms. Each place setting had the silverware and stemware to support a seven course meal.
The winemaker John Abbott introduced each course and the wine pairing:
Lobster and Prawn Ceviche with tropical fruits served with '05 Viognier
Ravioli of Smoked Pheasant Confit with Manchego Cheese and Morel Mushrooms on a seared Heirloom Tomato served with a pre-release '04 Merlot (the mushrooms were picked and dried by John)
Kobe Beef Tenderloin Tartare in three different preparations served with '03 Cabernet Sauvignon
Smoked Duck Breast wrapped in Proscuitto and Spinach with Roasted Baby Fennel and Cherry Chutney served with '03 Estate Syrah
An Intermezzo of Grilled Apricot and Honey Sorbet
Rack of Lamb cast in a Hazelnut and Date Persolé served with '02 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
A Medley of Chocolate Delights by Pastry Chef Sarah German served with Walla Walla Roasters Coffee
I have eaten at chef's tables at fine restaurants in much haughtier venues, spending 3 times the money and coming nowhere close to the excellence experienced at this event. The price per person for just the dinner and wine was $125 per person.
However, the Marcus Whitman also offers a weekend package for $599 for a COUPLE that includes the dinner on Saturday night, a room for two on Friday and Saturday nights, a reception with wine and heavy hors d'oeuvres hosted by the winemaker on Friday night, breakfast Saturday (and not the wimpy continental variety either); a private tour and tasting at the winery with the winemaker Saturday afternoon, and breakfast Sunday morning. A real bargain for this kind of high-end treat.
This is not something you can just drop by and catch, there are only a handful scheduled each year. It is definitely worth working your calendar around to attend one. The hotels' website has links with menus for past winemaker's dinners and a calendar of future dinners.
I have included a few pictures, apologizing in advance for starting to eat on a few before remembering to snap a picture (can you blame me?).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Built in 1928 through a community labor of love, The Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center is a downtown Walla Walla landmark where history and luxury intertwine. The property was fully renovated in 2001 and restored to its original grandeur, while adding modern updates to provide a truly luxurious experience for today's traveler. The full grounds include a 127-room hotel with luxury suites, a state-of-the art conference center featuring grand renaissance ballrooms, six on-site wine tasting rooms, and the award-winning The Marc Restaurant - recently named "Restaurant of the Year" by the Washington State Wine Commission - and The Vineyard Lounge. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Marcus Whitman Hotel And Conference Center
- Marcus Whitman Hotel Walla Walla
- Marcus Whitman Walla