February 7, 2012 | Touring & Tasting Magazine, Wine Country Travel | Katie Tullsen
The Marcus Whitman Experience - Guest Blogger Dan Weldy
The Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center in Walla Walla, Washington could be called a national treasure. It would be a prominent hotel in any city in America with its recently renovated old world charm and stellar management and staff. The fact that it is located in a small agricultural community that specializes in wine making elevates its status as a destination property.
Originally opened in 1928, the historic hotel was renovated and restored in 2001 by new owner Kyle Mussman with 127 guest rooms and the addition of more then10,000 square feet of conference space. Mussman, who made his fortune building cell phone towers in Washington in the 1980’s, makes his home in the property by residing in one of the apartments on the top floors of the hotel.
A trip to the Marcus Whitman will lead to one conclusion: You will want to return. In the past, getting to Walla Walla may have seemed “easier said than done.” Now it can be done with relative ease. Alaska Airlines is offering some aggressive pricing to the Walla Walla Regional Airport ($200 round trip from LAX on my trip. $250-$350 is often found). It was my first time flying Alaska Airlines. The flight to Seattle and the 30 minute flight over the Cascades on a large double prop plane to Walla Walla were first rate. In addition to complimentary wine on board, Alaska Airlines lets you fly a case of WW wine home free (anywhere you are going on Alaska Airlines).
Speaking of wine….
There are four wine tasting rooms located in the Marcus Whitman each one located adjacent to the lobby with picture window views to the downtown district. These charming boutique wineries offer a nice entrée into the spectacular wine you are about to taste while you are in the area. The Marcus Whitman wineries include Flying Trout &Tero Estates (who share a space), Locati Cellars, Lodmell Cellars, and Don Carlo Vineyard.. These wineries are not household names outside of WW (where everyone knows each other) but that’s not unusual for this region. The Wallas are home to about 120 wineries and many of them would be classified as small. I don’t believe there is a correlation between the size of a winery and the quality of wine. Many gems can be found on the wine trails of Walla Walla with some winemakers choosing to remain small despite their skilled artistry with the prodigious vineyards of the valley that provide some of the best fruit in the world.
The Vineyard Lounge at the Marcus Whitman was the place where I sampled several local wines after a busy day of meetings while also exploring Walla Walla’s wine country. With one of the most extensive wine lists in town, a variety of fun cocktails, and traditional mixed drinks, the Vineyard Lounge provides a warm welcome to guests and locals.
I placed my first order based upon reading a menu that was framed on the wall of the elevator. As I took a ride to my room on 7th floor of the hotel, I spied a Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower paired with Dunham Cellars Reisling. I knew what I wanted when I was seated at the bar: The pairing of the Riesling was a surprise but an excellent choice.
On subsequent visits to the Vineyard Lounge I enjoyed the Long Shadows Sequel (my tasting notes read 91 points) from the WW winery of the renowned Allen Shoup, the former CEO of Chateau St. Michele. My favorite wine on this trip was the Flying Trout Malbec from winemaker Ashley Trout (92 points in my notes). A bottle of the Flying Trout Malbec came home with me selected from the hotel tasting room for $34. That’s a nice bottle of wine to have in our home for a special occasion.
Just for kicks I always check to see which wine is the most expensive on a serious wine list. At the Marc Restaurant and the Vineyard Lounge it was the 2008 Leonettti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon for $134.
Marcus Whitman owner Kyle Mussman has done exceptionally well in recruiting people who are well versed and at ease with the fine art of dining and hospitality.
Plan to stay at least three nights if you would like to truly explore Walla Walla wine country and fully enjoy the national treasure known as the Marcus Whitman Hotel.
The Marc Restaurant is regarded as one of the finests restaurants in the northwest and rightfully so.
The Marc's Bar Manager, Silas Manlove.
The friendly servers offer relaxing dinners at the Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman
Executive Chef Antonio Campolio, Marc Restaurant Manager, Dan McCaffrey, and moi.-- Dan Weldy, Touring & Tasting, National Brand Manager
P.S. For a taste of Walla Walla, try making this signature Marcus Whitman Recipe at home!