It’s hard to find a prettier wine town than Walla Walla, the capital of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. With its restored turn-of-the-century brick buildings, well-stocked wine tasting rooms and upscale restaurants, the city of 30,000 makes an ideal base for exploring the region’s wine country, which includes some of our state’s best-known red wine producers. It’s hard to keep up with the spectacular growth here; with gorgeous new tasting rooms—such as the one at Canoe Ridge—opening up, and appealing new restaurants adding to the culinary mix, this “mini Napa” is fast becoming the de facto wine-touring destination in the Northwest.
Tasting rooms are popping up all over downtown Walla Walla, making it easy to sample the region’s wine. Winemaker Serge Laville, who studied enology in France, showcases the gorgeous fruit from Spring Valley Vineyard in all his wines, yielding rich, silky reds that epitomize the Walla Walla style (18 N Second Ave.; 509.525.1506; springvalleyvineyard.com). Don’t let the amazing industrial design of the Charles Smith Wines tasting room (35 S Spokane St.; 509.526.5230; charlessmithwines.com) distract you from the wines; the product is just as outstanding as the packaging. Deep, rich reds predominate at the Seven Hills Winery tasting room (212 N Third Ave.; 509.529.7198; sevenhillswinery.com). Sample stylish Merlot at Canoe Ridge’s newly refurbished tasting room (1102 W Cherry St.; 509.527.0885; canoeridgevineyard.com). Taste wine from the family that put Walla Walla on the map with Leonetti many years ago at the new Figgins tasting room (2900 Melrose St.; 509.522.7098; figginsfamily.com).
Where to Eat
Start your day of wine touring with a textbook-perfect latte and scrumptious huevos con chorizo ($11.50) at Bacon & Eggs, a lively new restaurant across from Whitman College (503 E Main St.; 509.876.4553; baconandeggswallawalla.com). Stop at Brassiere Four to enjoy a salade niçoise ($13.75) for lunch (4 E Main St.; 509.529.2011; brasseriefour.com). With its intimate room and sensuous cuisine, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (125 W Alder St.; 509.525.2112; saffronmediterraneankitchen.com) makes a great destination for dinner; try the saffron malloreddus pasta heaped with albacore tuna, tomato, olives, fennel seed and green onion ($23). For dessert, visit the Colville Street Patisserie, where the chocolate caramel tart ($6) makes pastry lovers swoon (40 S Colville; 509.301.7289; colvillestreetpatisserie.com).
Where to Stay
The city’s tallest building, the 13-story Marcus Whitman Hotel makes a great base for exploring tasting rooms and outlying wine country. Recently renovated, the hotel gleams with lovingly restored fixtures and furniture, and sports four brand-new tasting rooms, where you can sample wines from local boutique wineries, including Lodmell Cellars, Tero Estates and Flying Trout. Its three restaurants—The Marc, Vineyard Lounge, Chef’s Table—provide a nice variety and allow you to sample the region’s wine (6 W Rose St.; 866.826.9422; marcuswhitmanhotel.com). For a cozier home base, and a sumptuous dinner, visit the Fat Duck Inn (527 Catherine St.; 888.526.8718; fatduckinn.com), which opened in 2006 and features five-course tasting menus ($95; one seating a night) paired with outstanding local wines. Sleep surrounded by grape vines at Girasol Vineyard and Inn, an idyllic retreat within walking distance of Northstar and Pepper Bridge wineries (504 Basel Lane; 509.956.9743; casagirasol.com).
For a sweet small-town jaunt, make the 20-minute drive to the teeny town of Waitsburg, population 1,217. After a winding ramble through flowing wheatfields, you’ll arrive at the Jimgermanbar (named after the relocated Seattleite Jim German; 119 Main St.; 509.337.6001; jimgermanbar.com) for a classic martini and some serious ambiance, including stuffed deer heads, beautifully milled wood tables, and convivial conversations of farmers, ranchers, winemakers and hipsters. Sidle over to the Whoopemup Hollow Café (120 Main St.; 509.337.9000; whoopemuphollowcafe.com) for a plate of goat cheese ravioli made with delicious curds ($21) from Monteillet Fromagerie, just up the road outside of Dayton (109 Ward Road; 509.382.1917 or 509.876.1429; monteilletcheese.com).
Spend the night at Three Maples Cottage or The Tea House (waitsburgcottages.com), a pair of sweet, fully furnished guest cottages owned by Seattle Times wine writer Paul Gregutt and his wife, Karen Stanton Gregutt, who offer custom wine-tasting events and guidance on local wineries and restaurants.
Must-try Walla Walla Wines
Spring Valley Vineyard 2009 Uriah, $50
Charles Smith 2011 Kung Fu Girl Riesling, $12
Seven Hills Vineyard 2009 Cabernet, $36
Canoe Ridge 2009 Merlot, $22
Figgins 2009 Bordeaux Blend, $85