The group that's headed back through the pasture from the riverside sauna to the roadside ranch house has some well-deserved leisure in mind―to say nothing of roast duck and a nice Syrah.
You might think they're on a country vacation out here in southeastern Washington. But Pierre-Louis Monteillet was milking goats an hour ago (and 10 hours ago). And Joan Monteillet was sliding cheeses out of their molds. At midnight last evening in downtown Walla Walla's old Dacres Hotel, Mike Davis was in the kitchen honing his two-week-old 26 Brix restaurant menu. Next door, his fellow tenant Michael Turner was stripping wood, readying his space to house Bodega Turner wines. And Holly Turner―half of that Bodega Turner project―was bottling at Three Rivers Winery, where, as winemaker, she has helped secure the reputation of Walla Walla winemakers as world-class craftspeople.
The talent and energy of these friends―and that of a bevy of food- and winemakers like them ―have taken hold in this old wheat-farming valley, making it a richer place to eat and drink than most urban centers.
The Reader's Digest version of the Monteillets' story is romantic: Joan's family farmed in the nearby Palouse; Pierre-Louis grew up in Millau, France. They met in Oaxaca, Mexico―she on vacation, he generally roaming. He followed her home, so she married him. Real life is always more complicated than outlines, of course. The details of renovating their four-hipped, century-old ranch house (the setting for their dinner tonight) and birthing their small fromagerie filled 25 years with tedium and pleasure.