A Walla Walla itinerary that packs in — but paces — lots of wine tasting.
Walla Walla is the heart of Washington wine country. Once known as the home of our state penitentiary (still true), the city has blossomed into a thriving tourist destination, ready to wine and dine you on a weekend getaway.
Here’s how to spend your time, packing in wine tastings from all the region has to offer, without toppling over early.
L’ecole No. 41
Start with L’Ecole No. 41 on your way into town. Set in the circa-1915 Frenchtown School, L’Ecole is of of the state’s classic wineries. Enjoy a tasting in a former classroom, then release your inner child as you ring the schoolhouse bell out front and take flight on the swings out back.
The winery not only embodies history, it’s making it — L’Ecole’s 2014 Ferguson won best Bordeaux Blend in the world at the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Bacon & Eggs
Fuel up, sober up and kick-start your day-drinking at the best breakfast spot in town. The aptly named Bacon & Eggs serves up locavore scratch breakfast and lunch. Try the migas — eggs with fried tortillas, green chilies and fresh pico de gallo — to prep for a day of tasting.
Inventive cocktails like the Trade Winds (bourbon shaken with fresh lemon juice and maple syrup on the rocks) and the French Toast Shot (Irish whiskey, butterscotch schnapps and a side of OJ) can act as hair of the dog if you overdid it at L’ecole.
Amavi Cellars Winery & Tasting Room
Don’t miss Amavi Vineyards’ sweeping views on expansive decks overlooking its 100-percent sustainable estate vineyards and the Blue Mountains. Tour the vineyards, or just sit back and sip a bright, sweet 2014 Semillon. The tasting room has fun gifts, like a T-shirt spoofing the old Oregon Trail game that says, “Congratulations! You have made it to the Walla Walla Valley. Trade supplies for wine?”
A visit to Dunham is a must for wine connoisseurs — a taste of the heralded 2012 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII is all you need to know why. But the tasting room itself is also worth the trip. A Christmas tree made entirely of empty wine bottles makes a perfect photo op, and Maysy the dog — “cover girl” of Dunham’s Four Legged White label — greets you at the door. And you can remember her by taking home a “Walla Walla Winery Dogs” coffee-table book by Barbara Whatley.
Henry Earl Estates
A favorite downtown tasting spot in the historic 1879 Kennedy Building, Henry Earl has atmosphere in spades, with a wooden bar, brick walls, chandeliers, and vintage touches and décor. It offers two tasting rooms in one, with the Russell Creek Winery also pouring.
Henry Earl is well known for the 2010 Homesteader, and the Russell Creek Sangiovese was also a standout. Feeling a little peckish after three wineries? The tasting room serves small plates, including a Cabernet cake to satisfy your afternoon sweets craving.
Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen
It’s probably time to eat, yes? You came to Walla Walla for the wine, but you’ll stay for the cuisine at Saffron, an intimate restaurant where inventive flavor combinations complement your wine.
Try the octopus appetizer with local sunchokes and preserved Seville orange, and opt for a table outside, if you can get one. Reservations are a must in the summer months.
Not ready for the night to end? While most tasting rooms on East Main Street close early, Sapolil stays up late with live music and dancing in a fun, decidedly unstuffy atmosphere to keep you going strong and make your Walla Walla weekend last.