Walla Walla, Washinton – Wine Tasting
There are different wine regions worldwide that are sought after by all oenophiles alike. Living in the Southwest I have been interested in my close neighbors and New World wines coming from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Willamette, Paso Robles and more. After a trip to Oregon last year my palate became more interested in the Pacific Northwest. Traveling further North this time around I explored the wine region of Walla Walla, Washington.
Depending on the styles of wine you like and traveling you enjoy, there are plenty of wine destinations to fulfill your needs. If however you enjoy a laid back atmosphere, small production and exlcusivity, quality and love in your wine, zero crowds and a wallet friendly experience then continue reading this post.
Walla Walla is a small agricultural town that moves at a relaxing pace. Crowds are limited and the tastings room are plenty. You can sip your flights of wine at your leisure and connect with the locals. Oh, and the average tasting fee’s are under $20 and some even include a tour and barrel tasting. If you have ever been to Napa then you already understand how amazing that is. But why Walla Walla you ask? And if it’s as great as I claim, why is it not more popular? Small production and scalability. There are many vineyards in the area but the wineries are producing anywhere from 150 cases to 10,000+ cases annually depending on their size, interest, and type of wine. Some of the local wineries are word of mouth only and require appointments to even step foot inside their facilities. The more popular ones require a 2 year waiting list before you even get on their mailing list to receive wine offers. But if you’re patient and plan accordingly you can get your hands on some award winning bottles. These smaller production wineries are still earning 90+ point wines and you can pick them up on average for $30-40 a bottle. What’s even better was finding a beautiful Chenin Blanc for only $15 dollars from L’ecole.
If you’re interested in trying new wines and hanging with locals without any judgement or snooty members, then add this to your bucket list. This is one of the friendliest wine towns I’ve visited and is easily accessible. Below I’ve broken down my experience, advice, and recommendations to make your travel even easier.
- Allocate one day to one region of wineries (Airport area, Southside and Oregon border, East and West, and Downtown tasting rooms).
- Get a car or hire transportation.
- Check hours and availability in advance. The tastings rooms/wineries have limited hours and some require appointments so you need to call and schedule beforehand. Most can accommodate walk-ins. Save on your driving time by grouping the wineries you want to visit.
- Share a wine flight. Seriously, it’s going to be a long day.
- Take tasting notes and document your favorites. Some will have printed out tasting notes you can take.
- Ask about the wine clubs and memberships.
- Bring snacks, plan a lunch destination and/or picnic, or ask the winery if they offer cheese plates.
- Tour at least one facility if possible and ask if they do barrel tastings then compare the wine to an older vintage.
- If you’re limited on time then make use of the Downtown tasting rooms that are all walking distance from each other.
- If you fly Alaska Airlines you can check a case of wine for free per person (I feel foolish for not doing this so please learn from my mistakes). Note: If you can’t fly in to Walla Walla the Pasco airport is only a 45 minute drive away.
Wineries I visited:
- Woodward Canyon
- Long Shadows (appointment only)
- Pepper Bridge
- Garrison Creek Celllars (appointment only)
- Hess & Russel Creek
- Seven Hills
- Beresan and Balboa
- Charles Smith/K Vintners
- Mark Ryan
- Dunham Cellars
My Overall Favorites:
- Barrel tasting at Garrison Creek Cellars and the view of Les Collines vineyards.
- L’ecole wine tasting and the old school house it is in with a great library.
- Every single wine tasted at Beresan/Balboa. The staff was fun to hang out with and did I mention how much I enjoyed their wine?
- Charles Smith wine tasting in Downtown. This rock and roll wine maker is unique and fabulous like his wines are.
- Driving through all the farms on the outskirts of town.
- Visiting Palouse falls.
- Dining at Passatempo restaurant in Downtown. The burrata cheese appetizer with focaccia is heavenly and the bolognese pasta will send your tastebuds in to overdrive.
- The weather, warm days and cool nights are my sweet spot.
Is there more than just wine?
Yes. If you need a break from all the wine tasting there are still plenty of activities in the area! The Downtown scene is filled with great restaurants, shopping, and a farmers market on Saturdays. You can explore the well known Marcus-Whitman hotel or drive out of town for a scenic view of the rolling gold hills. If you’re looking for more adventure you can check out the Palouse Falls (an hour drive one way) for some photo ops and hiking.