By Kirsten Telander
When Woodward Canyon built their Reserve House adjacent to their adorable Little House on the Prairie-esque tasting room, co-owner and General Manager Darcy Fugman-Small indulged me with a tour (her husband Rick is a wine pioneer, baker, and farmer). I promptly let her know, jokingly, that it was my house, but they were welcome to use it for a while. It is, in fact, how I envision my dream home – the one in wine country as opposed to my other properties. There are windows galore, with firehouse-style doors looking out to the neighboring vineyard (my vineyard!) on one side, and gardens on the other. The open floor plan with treated concrete floors serves as the perfect backdrop for original artwork from Woodward Canyon’s “Artist Series” wines. The commercial kitchen is to die for and the place is run entirely on solar power.
But when I found that I couldn’t gain entry to my house on a regular basis – it was designed for tastings of rare and reserve wines by appointment - I told Darcey “how lovely” but thought to myself “that sucks.”
So you can imagine my unbridled delight when during a seated tasting in the Reserve House as part of the Walla Walla Tennis and Wine Camp (my dream camp), I was informed that the Reserve House is now a restaurant, offering lunch Friday through Sunday.
The transition to restaurant isn’t surprising given Rick Small’s background growing up on a farm in the valley, and his attention to wines meant to be paired with food.
For the past five years, the Small’s have been growing produce at their Lazy S Arrow farm at the base of the Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard.
brought my husband Todd along to break it to him that I must eventually live in the Reserve House while sampling some of the farm to table dishes created by Chef Heidi Varney from Walla Walla Community College’s Wine Country Culinary Program. I should note that this is not the culinary program of old. Dan Thiesen was brought on board and training chefs to watch.
We sat on the patio overlooking L’Ecole No. 41‘s vineyard planted in Cabernet Sauvignon, a few clouds floating lazily above the Blue Mountains. For inside dining, there are sophisticated upholstered chairs surrounding communal tables.
A bottle of San Pellegrino and a perfectly chilled Estate Sauvignon set the tone for what felt like a vacation. At one point, I said to Todd, “Can you believe we live here?” Meaning in Walla Walla, not at the Reserve House – I know when to draw the line on manifestation work.
We started with the cold sorrel soup, which was made with Lazy S Arrow sorrel, and followed with the beet salad using beets from the Lazy S Arrow garden layered with potato and fresh chévre. The beets were thinly sliced and stacked, making for a presentation that was as pretty as the dish was delicious.
We finished with the Chef’s Selection – an assortment of meats and cheeses served with marcona almonds, dried apricots, and olives. There was a mild sheep milk cheese – the Lamb Chopper from Cypress Grove, which was buttery in color and flavor, and the Brillat-Savarin Triple Cream – a little slice of heaven. The tartufo and finnochiona meats provided savory, smoky companions. Shari from Guest Services was on hand to suggest wine pairings from the menu. I won’t hesitate to return for some heartier fare – the steak chimichurri sandwich and sausage made with Woodward Canyon Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I also heard praise for the fresh fruit sorbet from accompanying tables.
After lunch, we took a few minutes to wander down the path leading to a pond where barn swallows dipped between the lilies and cattails surrounded by native grasses before heading back to our real house, happy.