UNION BULLETIN – VICKIE HILLHOUSE – They say the way to the heart is through the stomach.
This week, a production crew with a focus on Walla Walla’s wine industry showed the way to the stomach can sometimes be through a camera lens.
Spokane production company North by Northwest brought its crew to town with an intensive focus on wine for an episode of its farm-to-table series “Washington Grown.”
The four-person team toured Seven Hills Winery, College Cellars and Walla Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology & Viticulture, Pepper Bridge Winery and vineyard, and Northstar Winery — all to tell the story of local grapes from vine to wine, and how to pair them with food.
Walla Walla will be featured as one of the 13 episodes in the sixth season. This particular episode will likely premier early next year.
Started in 2013, the programming was developed by Washington agriculture interests with a focus to connect viewers to farms, their practices and ultimately the food. It is funded by Washington Farmers and Ranchers.
With 300 crops, the state has no shortage of material for the show, said cameraman and host Tomás Guzman. He counts the state’s cranberry bogs, lavender farms, and dried Chukar Cherries operation among his memorable stops.
“Pick a corner of the state, and we’ve been there,” Guzman said Wednesday during service at Seven Hills Winery.
“The big take-away for me from the six years of doing this: People get so intimidated by food. Is it a byproduct of the cooking shows we see? Is it something else?”
The show is a demonstration that great ingredients come from all around us, and it doesn’t take much to turn them into great dishes.
Or in the case of Walla Walla — drink wine with them.
Wednesday’s stop at Seven Hills showcased what’s known there as the “Food and Wine Experience.”
On Fridays, the winery offers up to eight participants a 90-minute experience that includes a guided tour through the historical building, a glimpse into the winemaking process that ends with a barrel sample, and a tasting through limited release wines paired with small bites by chef Sarah Mayhew and hosted by wine educator Danielle Christopher.
For this special session of the Food and Wine Experience, Mayhew’s menu included pulled pork with pesto on a savory herbed waffle and chevre cheesecake topped with poached cherries.
“I try to use as many fresh and local ingredients as I can,” Mayhew said. “I want it to be fun but elegant at the same time.”
The $55-per-person event ($45 for wine club members) is a way to add depth to traditional tastings, said Tasting Room and Wine Club Manager Julie Titus.
“As a community, we’re moving in a more elevated direction,” she said. “We want customers who come to have a more special experience, more than a bar tasting experience.”
For this trip, the Washington Grown crew worked with the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and the Washington Wine Commission to coordinate stops that incorporated wine through the perspective of both agriculture and food.
Washington Grown airs on Northwest Cable News three times a week, reaching 6.2 million viewers, plus KSPS and PBS twice a week with viewership of 22,000 households per week. The show is also available online at wagrown.com, YouTube, and Facebook year round. It was also just picked up by PBS in Western Washington.