Walla Walla & Dusted Valley, The New Wine Frontier

Jan 03, 2020

by Dario Zucconi

Dusted Valley owners: Corey Braunel and Chad Johnson

“Go West, young man” is a phrase 19th-century American author Horace Greenly used to denote America’s expansion westward as the young nation’s “Manifest Destiny.” Greenly saw the fertile farmlands west of the Mississippi River as ideal destinations for people willing to work hard and succeed in developing these rich, abundant and more importantly, available agricultural lands—if only given the opportunity to do so.

Today, over 150 years later, modern day entrepreneurs continue to pioneer open tracts of these great western lands, looking to stake their own claims for a slice of the American dream. Included among those who headed west more recently are two proud farm kids who grew up on the plains of Wisconsin and migrated west together until they landed in a place called Walla Walla, Washington. Their names are Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel and this is what they found and why they stopped in Walla Walla.

Walla Walla

There is a place out West where the sun drenches the valley all day and the moon shines over the Blue Mountains throughout the blissfully quiet night. Life doesn’t revolve around rush hour traffic and corporate lifestyles, but rather the rhythm of the farmlands and vineyards that have come to define the lives of the folks that live there.

There is a spirit of camaraderie to places like Walla Walla where neighbors work together in pursuit of common goals like water distribution and land preservation. It’s a community environment where fathers often mentor sons and successive generations proudly carry on the responsibility of maintaining family holdings, respectfully cultivating and harvesting the fruits of the land they live on.

More recently, Walla Walla has added a new dimension to this bucolic portrait by becoming a popular destination for “foodies” and “wine geeks.” The local farm produce is superior and diverse and there’s a lot of it. Together with wine tourism this now drives a lively Walla Walla restaurant scene that has become nothing short of fantastic, featuring local farm to table menus and innovative beverage lists designed to showcase the local wines. This is today’s Walla Walla, an exciting and vibrant part of the West’s New Wine Frontier.

Dusted Valley Vineyard
Dusted Valley_Walla Walla Tasting Room Sign

Good for Grapes, too!

A mere 200 miles east of Seattle, Walla Walla has emerged as one of the coolest wine regions in the country, but not necessarily in terms of temperature readings. In fact, it’s pretty hot all summer and notably, is about as far north as one can go in the US and still find a true Mediterranean climate. Daytime summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees. But it’s the enabling combination of diurnal temperature ranges bringing cooler nights to go with the warmer days, that allow grapes to thrive in the area’s range of soils, exposures and micro-climates. These features and the diversity they represent make Walla Walla a comfort zone for a wider range of grape varietals than many other growing regions. From hearty Cabernet Sauvignon to fussy Pinot Gris grapes, they all love the growing conditions in Walla Walla. It’s no wonder over 120 wineries have gravitated to the area in just the last few years and established new plantings representing over 3,000 acres—an annual growth rate of 5%.

Interestingly but not entirely unique in the wine world, the Walla Walla AVA is a cross-border region with 57% of it in the state of Washington and the other 43% overlapping south into Oregon. The full range of grapes grown in Walla Walla is extensive but production is dominated by only five (all red) varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Although a lot has happened in a short span of time in Walla Walla, there remains tremendous room for growth. The excitement is swelling and already one “boom” has happened!

Dusted Valley harvest grapes

Dusted Valley and Boomtown

The two friends and brothers-in-law, Chad and Corey from Wisconsin, initially had set out on an adventure without a destination, leaving their families behind in Wisconsin. But as often happens when folks wander around like this, one thing can lead to another and in 2003 something big occurred—Dusted Valley Wines was created. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t accomplished without the necessary wherewithal. Both young farmers came to grape growing with an edge, and the duo was able to successfully apply their agriculture and farming chops to the business of growing wine grapes in Walla Walla.

In the wink of an eye, 16 anniversaries came and went at Dusted Valley, and as time passed, along came a growing understanding of the local soils and conditions. Chad and Corey soon discovered the art of crafting spectacular Washington state wines under their Dusted Valley and Boomtown labels.

Today, having established strong roots in Walla Walla, Chad and Corey are intensely focused on preserving their holdings via the application of sustainable agricultural practices in partnership with their inherent minimalistic winemaking protocols. As a result, their low yield wines offer a strong sense of place while showcasing the excellence of their impressive estate vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, along with selective other premier vineyards throughout the state of Washington.

In homage to the owners’ roots, Dusted Valley Winery works with oak sourced from their native state of Wisconsin along with barrels crafted from the finest French oak. The American White Oak from Wisconsin grows in one of America’s most northern forests. A short growing season produces an extremely tight grain that is unique to oak from this region. It’s this tighter grain that frames Dusted Valley wines, allowing for a more elegant extraction.

More or less a “boutique winery” Dusted Valley produces roughly 6,000 cases of highly acclaimed small production lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay, along with unique Bordeaux and Rhone style blends.

Not to be overlooked, Dusted Valley proudly shares the Walla Walla “good life” with friends and fans at two winery tasting rooms—one at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla and one near Seattle in Woodinville, Washington. If you’re ever in the area, remember Mr. Greeley’s advice upgraded for those seeking brave new wines from uncharted lands and, “Go (North) West, young man.”

Dusted Valley Vineyard
Dusted Valley Tasting Room
Dusted Valley owners in front of Wisconsin Barrels


Boomtown by Dusted Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

The wine of kings and the king of wine. Refined, yet rugged; the wine offers wonderful cherry fruit and balancing acid while giving you the rustic complexity of freshly crushed herbs.

Boomtown By Dusted Valley Pinot Gris 2018

“A pink tinge, as befits this grape, with a wealth of attractive apples and pears on offer. Nicely balanced, fresh and crisp finish. Drink now.” – 91pts, James Suckling

Dusted Valley Stained Tooth Syrah 2016

“The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of raspberry, tar, plum, orange rind, herb and spice. The flavors are lighter in style through the middle, surrounded by firmly wound tannins that soften over time. A lingering finish caps it off. Give it some time to open up and it delivers.” – 91pts Wine Enthusiast

Dusted Valley Petite Sirah Stone Tree Vineyard 2016

“The 2016 Petite Sirah Stone Tree Vineyard is the inkiest of the releases from Dusted Valley and was brought up in a mix of French and American oak, 10% being new. Ripe blueberries, blackberries, crushed rocks, and camphor notes all emerge from this ripe, powerful effort that has loads of fruit and texture, yet stays balanced and lively on the palate…” – 90pts Jeb Dunnuck

Wine Warehouse Portfolio

Wine Warehouse was founded in 1973 by brothers Bob and Jim Myerson who wanted to share their enthusiasm for premium quality wine with the wine trade in Southern California. Today, the company is one of the largest distributors of alcoholic beverages in the United States with branches in Northern and Southern California covering the state. We are dedicated to offering a wide selection of wine, beer, spirits, non alcoholic beverages, and glassware to licensed retailers and restaurateurs in the California market.

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