Wine & Travel

Snooth User: anchca

Walla Walla Weekend

Posted by anchca, May 10, 2012.

Planning a trip to Walla Walla this summer. Any recommendations for wineries to visit, restaurants to try, other things to see etc?


Reply by EMark, May 10, 2012.

It's been too many years since I have been to Walla Walla, but it is a great destination--amazingly courteous and helpful.   Since it has been so long since I have been there (3-4 years), I do not have any specific recommendations.  (I know the restaurant that I liked, Brix 26, has closed.)  I just wanted to assure you that you will have a great trip.

Reply by Lucha Vino, May 11, 2012.

Here is a link to a topic with good information on Walla Walla and (as a bonus) Lake Chelan

Walla Walla has exploded in recent years.  I have not been able to get over there yet.  I hear you need to plan several days to get the full experience.  It gets really hot in July - like 100+ so you might want to check out the weather patterns to figure out when it will be most comfortable for you to be treking between the wineries and tasting rooms etc.

Reply by dmcker, May 11, 2012.

Autumn and spring (in that order) are my favorite seasons there. Prefer the mountains (the Wallowas, or back towards the Cascades, as in the Lake Chelan Lucha mentions), or even up towards Pend d'Oreille on the lake during summer. But then I only actually lived in Walla Walla for a year, so if any natives appear here, it'd be good to hear what they have to say.

Before launching into some winery reccs I have some questions:

  1. what types of wines do you most like to drink?
  2. what wines from there have you had and liked?
  3. how many days do you have to spend?

Just remembered the Walla Walla Sweet Onion festival is in July!  ;-)    Back before wine, those ridiculously sweet onions (beat vidalias, hands down, and might as well eat 'em like an apple as cook with them; only thing close I've found is the best Mauis, though some in Japan come in 3rd), and wheat, were the major claims to fame for the area. Now the vineyards are encroaching on the wheat fields.

Some images for illustration: the Walla Walla AVA, a 'Sweet', some wheatfields and vines, the Wallowas and Pend d'Oreille, in that order...






Reply by smithdaj54, May 11, 2012.

Love me some Walla Walla, if you have time, check out Horse Heaven Hills/Prosser area too a little West.

Some of my favorites (but you can't go wrong there):

  • Fort Walla Walla
  • Basel Cellars
  • Five Star Cellars (try the Petit Verdot - Cab Franc!)
  • Cougar Crest
  • Ash Hollow
  • Zerba (actually across the river in Oregon)

Hope you have a great trip and let us know what you tried!

Reply by zufrieden, May 11, 2012.

Reminds me of a Sylvester the Cat (Warners) cartoon, actually:  "I'm from the Acme Vacuum Cleaner Company from Walla Walla WA."  Also, having visited Walla Walla more than once, I can say the water really is sweeter elsewhere - to coin a phrase overheard in a cafe in Winthrop WA..

If this is too opaque for our Eastern friends, I suggest you reference a map.

I would recommend visiting the Leonetti Winery first, but then go up to the more picturesque Lake Chelan district and sample the wines of that developing wine region.



Reply by dmcker, May 11, 2012.

Hey Zuf, I always thought Winthrop was just a town for Canadian tourists....  ;-)

Reply by zufrieden, May 11, 2012.


And it is strange to think that Canucks would want to visit such an ersatz Western town, but there you have it! Guilty as charged!

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 12, 2012.

I just tried (and purchased!) a bottle of the Five Star Cellars 2006 Stellar, a Bordeaux-like blend.  Very nice.

Reply by anchca, May 15, 2012.

Thank you all so much for the information, links and suggestions. Keep it comin!

Zufrieden, I don't think we'll have time to make it up to the Lake Chelan area but I would like to get there someday! I have heard great things about the area and it looks beautiful. We are only going to have 2-3 days and it will take us about 4-5 hours to drive to Walla Walla. I don't think we'll be wanting to add any more time in the car this trip.

Dmcker, I like all different types of wines. I live in the Willamette Valley so when I get out tasting here we try a lot of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris. We also like Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc among others. We enjoy trying new types of wine and blends as well. I have had, and enjoyed, some wines from Northstar, Dunham, Pepperbridge and Syzygy from the Walla Walla area. We have 2 full days in August. Wish we had more...

Reply by anchca, May 16, 2012.

Zufrieden- I checked on Leonetti but they are not open to the public. Their website says they aren't open by appointment but only open to mailing list members one weekend a year. I went ahead and put myself on the waiting list for the mailing list but it sounds like they are 3-4 years out... Maybe we'll get back that way in a few years and be able to try their wines. Have you been?

Reply by dmcker, May 16, 2012.

Historically the best producers in the Walla Walla area have been Leonetti and Woodward Canyon. I haven't been to either winery but have drunk *a lot* of their wines. I even talked to WC about bringing their wines to Japan approx. 20 years ago, but they had no extra capacity at that time.

A lot of new makers of interest in recent years, in addition to those. Cayuse would top my list. I'll get back to you with some others, but you can start by looking at this forum thread from a couple of years ago. And here's an old Wine Spectator article on Walla Walla from 2009 that mentions the Leonetti and Woodward Canyon history. You'd think WS would be due for an updated article about now....

Reply by dmcker, May 16, 2012.

As you've noted, some of the wineries mentioned so far (e.g. Leonetti and Cayuse) are pretty restrictive about allowing access, whether for tastings or direct purchase or what have you. One thing I recommend is you view your WallaWalla visit as part of a longer-term process, something that makes particular sense for you considering your northern Oregon location. Get to know the winemakers you do visit (I tend to visit fewer places but dive in more deeply than most seem to do on their visits to whatever wine region), also the staff at any restaurant you visit and like, whether that's the manager or waitstaff or owner or chef or whomever. In wine country most all of them tend to have a connection or three to the wineries and can sometimes provide backdoor entrance whether to the winery itself, the winemaker or a local merchant with an in, or somebody else. Naturally, you should cultivate these relationships with respect, and grow them over time. Next time you visit the area, you just might get in to places that supposedly aren't open to the public.

Finally, you can start early by talking to an online merchant with specialty connections like the Walla Walla Wine Woman. Even if she can't initially help you in ways like above, you can start tasting wines ahead of time and discover wineries that your palate tells you you really want to visit. There are a couple of other good online merchants I've used for access to wines from WA and OR, too, including the Walla Walla area but spreading to other regions as well. The Oregon Pinot Noir Club (they cover WA, a bit, as well) and especially Avalon Wine are great places to start.


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