We just wrapped up our middle Tennis and Wine Camp with 25 of the of the most amazing participants. This camp sold out in early March. Actually the camp oversold but we were able to convince several participants to move to the first or last camp. It is important for us to keep the numbers small — 24 allows for great court experiences, personalized wine-tastings, and intimate dinners.
Tennis and Wine camp is a unique experience. We strive to mix incredible tennis coaching in a beautiful setting (Whitman College) with fantastic wine and amazing food. Because of the hot summer days the camp starts Thursday afternoon in the Bratton Tennis Center (Click the photo to see more pictures of the Bratton Tennis Center). From 1:30pm – 4:30pm the tennis staff keeps the players moving, grooving and working on their tennis game. The tennis staff is headed by Greg Patton. Coach Patton is known as one of the best clinicians in the nation. Currently the coach at Boise State, Patton has had a hand in shaping American tennis. He spent years working with the USTA coaching Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, and Andy Roddick (among others). Coach Patton also coached World Team Tennis in Boise and St. Louis. Assisting Coach Patton are Whitman coaches Jeff Northam and John Hein. Northam has been at the helm of the Whitman College Men’s team the past 15 years and turned Whitman into one of the top Division III programs in the nation. In 2012, Northam guided his team to a fifth straight NWC title and achieved a high ranking of #8 in the nation. Northam was recently named DIII West Region Coach of the Year. In his short time at Whitman, Coach Hein guided his team to its first NCAA III tournament appearance in 2012, NWC Tournament title, and had two players invited to the NCAA III singles tournament. Prior to taking the helm at Whitman, Hein worked for the Lawn Tennis Association and was a member of the UC Santa Cruz National Championship team. Tom Sawatzki is the camp “cruise director”. A local CPA and avid tennis player, Tom has been involved in the Walla Walla Wine industry for the past 15 years. Because of Tom’s connections in the Walla Walla Valley, he is able to schedule private tastings and dinners with the best and most exclusive wineries in the Valley.
After three hours of tennis everyone takes a 90 minute break to get ready for dinner. Around 6pm the staff picks up the participants in Whitman shuttle vans. One rule of the camp is participants aren’t allowed to drive their own vehicles to any wine events. So let us do the driving.
Our opening dinner this week was at the Figgins Family Estate with Chris and Heidi Figgins. The evening started in the lower Figgins vineyard where Heidi, Amy and Chris shared their 2011 Riesling . After sampling the Riesling, Chris lead a walk through his vineyard talking about biodiversity and his philosophy of grape growing and wine making. We were also joined by Whitman Geology Professor Kevin Pogue who is a world-wide expert on the terroir of wine making. As we walked through the vineyard Dr Pogue explained the unique geologic and climate of the Walla Walla Valley. As the evening wore on and the temperature cooled everyone sat down to a special dinner in the upper vineyard.
During the evening Chris and Heidi Figgins served different wines from their Figgins label and Leonetti label. Incredible opportunity for everyone to be served by the winemaker who provided the wine for the White House State dinner for British Prime Minister Cameron. Dinner was prepared by Graze catering (one of the top caters in the Walla Walla Valley). The main course for the evening was grass feed beef from the Figgins Lostine Cattle Company.
Click on the truck picture to view pictures of the incredible evening.
Special thank you to the Figgins Family for spending three hours with the Tennis and Wine camp. Once dinner and dessert wrapped up we headed back to Walla Walla. Word on the street is many of the camp participants closed down the bar at the Marcus Whitman Hotel (our host hotel).
Even after a late evening everyone arrived at the courts by 8:30am for the start of our daily tennis session. Note – we provide a catered breakfast at the courts from 7:30am – 8:15am for those who opt to stay in the Whitman residence halls.
8:30am – noon tennis, tennis and more tennis plus plenty of stories from Coach Patton. Click the picture for a gallery of tennis pictures.
Catered lunch at noon in the shade near the Whitman outdoor courts. Players lounged in the shade and enjoyed a nice buffet lunch. Need more tennis? Many of the coaches and players stayed on the courts until 1:15pm to hit a few more balls or play a set to put into practice what they learned.
Around 2:15pm the shuttle vans made rounds to pick up for the afternoon tastings. In the shuttle vans we provide local fresh strawberries, cherries, bottled water and other snacks. We spent the afternoon at the following private tastings:
- Dunham Cellars (beautiful wine and tasting room)
- Doubleback (a Drew Bledsoe and Chris Figgins project)
- Seven Hills (one of the oldest Walla Walla wineries in a historic building)
After the afternoon private tastings there was a short break to freshen up for dinner. Participants walked back to the Marcus Whitman (it is in the same parking area as Seven Hills or we dropped people off at their lodging). Quick turn around for the staff as they picked everyone up for dinner at the historic Whitehouse-Crawford restaurant. Another special experience for the camp participants as the Whitehouse-Crawford is known as one of the best restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.
The winemaker for the Friday night dinner was Ashley Trout of Flying Trout Wines. Ashley charmed and entertained with her stories of producing wine in Walla Walla and Argentina. Another special evening of great story telling, amazing food and wine.
Click the picture to open a gallery from the dinner
Later that night
Downtown Walla Walla has a very active night life and many participants headed to Vintage Cellars for an evening of live jazz/blues and dancing. Word is the group once again closed down the bar.
Same format as the previous day. Catered breakfast from 7:30am to 8:15am and tennis from 8:30am to noon. Or later if you want to hit with a coach or play another set.
Saturday Afternoon and Evening
Saturday the group hit three wineries on the west side of town. Since our dinner was also on the west outskirts of town we didn’t return to the hotel/campus between the tastings and dinners. Our tastings on Saturday included some of the oldest wineries in the Walla Walla Valley:
- L’Ecole (who had us in their private downstairs area)
- Waterbrook (perhaps the best outdoor set up of all area wineries)
- Reininger (beautiful tasting area)
The group was lucky enough to spend Saturday evening with Rick and Darcey Small of Woodward Canyon. Woodward Canyon and Leonetti were the first two wineries in the Walla Walla Valley and Rick has had a major influence on area wine makers. Much of the dinner was provided by the Woodward Canyon garden and prepared by Chef Gene of The Green Spoon. One unique aspect to the Saturday dinner is it doubles as a cooking school as well as a dinner. Chef Gene had several camp participants help in preparation of the dinner. It was a delightful evening with the Small’s and Chef Gene.
Click the photo below .. some fun pictures in Rick and Darcey’s private cellar
Later Saturday Night
After getting shuttled back to the hotel the group again went out — this time to the Sapolil’s tasting room in downtown.
As with the past days we provided an early breakfast at the courts with tennis starting at 8:30am. Unlike past days the camp finished with a mini-tournament. Congratulations to the “Leaping Leonettis” for their victory in the camp ending tournament!
As camp wrapped up we provided catered box lunches so people could get back to hotels to check-out and head home.
The Tennis and Wine Camps are an amazing and memorable experience — three outstanding dinners with local winemakers, two afternoons of private wine tastings, and over 14 hours of court-time with nationally renowned tennis coaches.