“Cheers!” to the Walla Walla Wine Region

Ken Levine has played a big part in some of my own personal “must-see TV” through the years. Among other series, he wrote for “MASH,” “Cheers,” “Frasier” and “Wings.”

Not a bad resumé, eh?

I’m one of those writers who believes that one can learn a lot by reading the work of other writers, so Levine’s blog is a daily “must-read” for me. Topics range from writing for TV (naturally) to baseball (he has been a broadcaster of Major League Baseball games), and from radio (he once was a deejay) to travel (he has published a book detailing his travel adventures).

Not too long ago, Levine penned one of his wonderful travel pieces for his blog, dealing with the Washington town of Walla Walla—which just happens to be one of that state’s important wine regions. And, yes, some wine observations found their way into the post.

With Levine’s permission, we are re-posting the blog here. Why? Well, wouldn’t you want to know what a writer for “MASH,” “Cheers,” “Frasier” and “Wings” has to say about the Walla Wall wine world?

Parental warning: There are a few words in the blog that normally would not be included on this blog, but Levine asked that we re-print the piece in its entirety—no excerpting. So, that is what we have done. There are no F-bombs or anything like that, but you will encounter a derriere reference we normally would not use.

If you’d prefer to read the blog in its pristine state, and to see the accompanying photos, click here. You’ll be taken directly to the “…by Ken Levine” blog site. Otherwise, simply read on… and enjoy!


By Ken Levine

I’ve done many travelogues from major cities like New York, Paris, and London. (You’re welcome to buy the book.) But today comes one from a small town, Walla Walla (along with a lot of photos). I was there to speak at the kick-off banquet for their summer college league team, the Sweets, and visit my good friend Mr. Great Big Radio who moved there when he entered the Witness Protection Program.

First—the flight. New feature at the Alaska terminal in LA—Monet’s California Deli. How can anyone think of French Impressionism without thinking of a pastrami on whole wheat with mustard and sprouts?

Flew first to Seattle (where I’m already forgotten) then took a prop plane to Walla Walla. By “prop” I don’t just mean propellers. I think this might have been the exact plane we used on WINGS. Steven Weber’s lines may still be taped to the flight panel.

Walla Walla is located somewhere in Washington, fifty miles north of Hooterville and thirteen miles west of Pixley. It is known for its onions, wine, and prison. And it’s the home of the Tidy Bowl Man!

The town itself is very charming. Population: 30,000. The Jewish population doubled when I arrived. Now that it boasts 150 wineries Walla2 has gotten very trendy in spots. Picture Carmel with grain elevators.

One winery – Cayuse – is so snooty there’s a waiting list just to get on the mailing list to let you know if you’re maybe eligible to join their wine club. This is not a joke. Unless their Edith Grenache Rose is also the Fountain of Youth, an orgasm with every sip, and can cure eczema, I for one would tell them to stick their waiting list where the grapes don’t grow and make do with the other 149 spectacular vineyards in the area.

Former NFL quarterback, Drew Bledsoe is the owner of one. Doubleback. Everyone is welcome to join his mailing list except Tom Brady.

All of Walla Walla’s historical figures fought for peace, were then brutally slaughtered, and now have statues. TV’s Batman, Adam West hails from the area. If reviews count, Adam deserves a statue too.

The place to go for breakfast is Tommy’s Dutch Lunch. From the outside it looks like the shack where Jeffrey Dahmer stored his victims, but the food is delicious. We sat at a large table and three guys who could easily have been Larry, Daryl, and Daryl just sat right down. “Yeah fellas, don’t be shy. Squeeze in here. They serve biscuits and gravy so this must be Benihana’s.”

Nice touch on the wall behind me – a fly swatter.

City charm extends to the maximum security prison. It looks like a racetrack. They even call it State Penitentiary Grounds. Lovely white picket fences and serene rolling lawns. Alas, “backstretch”, “in the money”, and “pick three” mean very different things.

One must-see attraction is the Museum of Un-Natural History. Founded by Gerry Matthews, America’s beloved Tidy Bowl Man, it’s one of most impressive collection of worthless tchotchkes in the world. Bizarre figurines, surreal kinetic mobiles, questionable art pieces, and junk are arranged in dazzling displays of satire, political statements, and the need for meds. This is like a CT-scan of Terry Gilliam’s brain.

They have a restaurant called Mr. Ed’s. I’m sure business was booming during the horsemeat scare.

I was there during Release Week, which thank goodness didn’t mean all the inmates were set free. It meant the wineries released their spring lines. And Cayuse deleted their waiting list.

Jacobi’s is an Italian restaurant in a train car (Mussolini promises that all entrees will be delivered on time). The night I was there one table of nineteen people all wanted separate checks. Yeah, we’re the cheap ones.

The Walla Walla Sweets banquet was held in the former Lincoln Logs factory, which explained why none of the corners matched. Where are Lincoln Logs made today? China.

There’s nothing like the purity of college league baseball. You sit close to the players, watch them live out their dreams, and what’s a ballgame without a salmon burger?

Eighteen times I drove by Popular Donuts and there was never a single car in the lot. Just how popular can they be?

Ever notice that roads to vineyard tasting rooms are always winding? Customers are asked to sample five wines then negotiate hairpin turns.

I imagine the road to the Cayuse tasting room is unmarked. If you can’t find it in the dark with your lights off you’re not the type of person worthy of sampling their vintage Merlot.

Thanks to Mr. Great Big Radio, Bonnie of Bonnie’s Survival Cookies (kicking Popular Donuts’ ass), Zach, the Walla Walla Sweets, and of course, the Tidy Bowl Man for reminding me again how terrific small town living can be. No traffic. Free parking. Only one Starbucks downtown. And everyone is friendly… well, almost everyone.

Hey, if any of you convicts from the prison are reading this blog, do me a favor and apply for the Cayuse wine club. Say: “Although many of us in cellblock D find your Armada Vineyard Syrah lacking in nuance, some of the murderers enjoy it at mealtime. It especially complements Sloppy Joes.”

Posted in Editor's Journal
Members-only Wine sampler specials delivered straight to your inbox via our Cyber Circle newsletter.

%d bloggers like this: