“Our Grand Meander” Walla Walla – Rulo Winery
We met Kurt and Vicki Schlicker last year on our trip to Walla Walla and were intrigued by their journey into winemaking as well as their incredible wines. Typically a white wine drinker, Julie has become a fan of these restrained, old-world reds thanks to RULO wines!
Kurt got a microbiology degree from Stanford and worked at a winery during summer breaks. After college, he went to med school and became an anesthesiologist, but he never lost his interest in wine-making. Some years ago, Kurt and Vicki settled in Walla Walla and started their winemaking careers “part time.” To make it work, Kurt took all of his vacation days during the harvest season, covering for his partners on every holiday and through the summer. Can you imagine!
Kurt retired from medicine in June and transitioned to full-time in the winery business. Interestingly, the physician side hasn’t disappeared. Kurt told us about his microscope and his lab for watching the fermentations in process. He observes the fermenting must to monitor for the presence of the “good” yeasts, and to make sure the “bad” yeasts are not present. For Kurt, Vicki and Rulo, winemaking is a combination of art and science.
When we arrived at the winery, Vicki was busy at work, moving some equipment with the forklift. The forklifts in these wineries are pretty amazing. They can lift bins full of grapes to amazing heights, flip them over, you name it.
In the middle of our tasting, Kurt took us for a tour of the winery. We heard about the growing season this year and how the harvest has gone to date. (On last year’s tour, Julie discovered a mini-driving range and net set up in the barrel room. Kurt shares her passion for golf!)
Kurt is so enthusiastic! We enjoy just walking around and listening to him describe their experiences in making wine.
We saw several large vats in mid-fermentation. Rulo has some tanks we had not seen before. They have lids that have a pneumatic seal so they can carefully manage that aspect of fermentation.
We tasted a wide variety of wines, mostly from the 2010 and 2011 vintages. 2011 was a really cool vintage throughout the American West. The white wines are unusually lean, crisp, full of energy, perhaps a bit less full than some years. We were excited as these types of white wines are our favorites. We especially loved the Viognier and the Grenache Blanc and picked up a couple of each. Curt shared that they originally moved here to make Syrah, but now they have all these whites. By Curt’s own admission, “It’s nutty isn’t it?”
Their reds are very nice as well. Their Syrca is a Syrah/Cabernet blend and is a great red for easy meals from the grill. Their Syrahs are nice, typically aged in older oak. We tried their WCF blend for the first time. It is a Cabernet/Syrah blend, a bit bigger than their typical wines, and it sees more new oak. It certainly isn’t overly oaky, but it is more rich and full than some of their other wines. We picked up a couple of the Syrah and the WCF blend to try at home.
Rulo doesn’t have a wine club, relying on people ordering what they like. Their artisan wines typically range $15-40 per bottle, which is very reasonable given the care with which they are made. If you’re interested in trying wines from Walla Walla, you should consider giving them a call! Thanks to Vicki and Kurt for more lessons on winemaking and tastings of some of our favorite wines!