It’s not convenient from anywhere. A 4.5-hour drive from Seattle, Washington, and a 3.5-hour drive from Portland, Oregon — Walla Walla isn’t a pop-over destination (Unless, of course, you’re catching a Seattle to Walla Walla flight.) But the renowned Walla Walla wineries are well worth the trek.
Nestled in the southeastern corner of Washington State, Walla Walla wine country spans nearly 3,000 acres and stretches into the northeasternmost tip of Oregon. Originally a small wheat farming community, it’s grown into a world-class wince destination. Located at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the valley experiences large temperature swings from day to night, a pivotal element in helping the fruit ripen while balancing acidity.
Walla Walla Wine History
While it’s believed that vines were first cultivated in Walla Walla in the 1850s, the region’s modern-day wine industry began in the 1970s. It started in the garage of Rick Small, founder of Woodward Canyon winery.
Rick and childhood friend Gary Figgins, founder of Leonetti Cellars, began conducting ecological experiments (studying wine and winemaking). By February of 1984, the region was officially recognized by the federal government when the Walla Walla Valley was designated as an American Viticultural Area (AVA).
12 Walla Walla Wineries Not to Miss
The heart of Washington wine production, Walla Walla has no shortage of wineries. Listed, in no particular order, are some of the best Walla Walla vintners not to miss.
1. L’Ecole No. 41
A third-generation family-owned winery, L’Ecole No. 41 was founded in 1983. It was the third winery established in the Walla Walla Valley and has become one of the most prominent wine producers in the region.
In fact, it’s won countless awards from: Winer & Spirits Magazines, Decanter World Wine, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Winer Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, Food & Wine, Wine Press Northwest, and more.
L’Ecole No. 41 sources grapes from five different vineyards, including their own Estate Ferguson Vineyard and Estate Seven Hills Vineyard. Wine tastings can be booked at their historic 1915 Schoolhouse. It is located in Frenchtown, a small community just west of Walla Walla’s downtown core.
While the school closed in 1974, founders Baker and Jean Ferguson used the French word for “school” to name their winery. Today, the tasting room is situated within one of the two classrooms — where remnants of the original school house remain including original chalkboards, light fixtures, fir floors, and moldings. In the winery’s cellar, you will also find a children’s water fountain and a restored mural originally hand-painted by the pupils.
In downtown Walla Walla, you’ll also find the L’Ecole Heritage Wine Bar within the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel. And soon to be opened is L’Ecole Woodinville — a tasting room in Woodinville’s Wine Walk Row.
2. Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard
The second oldest winery in Walla Walla Valley, Rick Small and his wife, Darcey Fugman-Small founded Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard in 1981. But the Smalls were no strangers to Walla Walla’s fertile soil. Rick’s family had been farming in the Walla Walla Valley for five generations on his mother’s side and three generations on his father’s side.
In fact, the winery was named after the very ground his family cultivated and continues to cultivate today — Woodward Canyon. Located just 13 miles west of Walla Walla’s downtown core on Highway 12, the 41-acre vineyard rests within the family’s 320-acre farmstead.
It arguably produces the best cabs in the region, with their Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon being the first Washington wine named to Wine Spectator’s Top 10 list. Additionally, their Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon has earned 46 90+ point scores since the 1992 vintage was released.
The tasting room is housed within a restored 1870s farmhouse featuring an enchanting garden and picnic area. Pets are welcome on the porch and backyard garden.
3. Pepper Bridge Winery
While Pepper Bridge Winery doesn’t rank among one of the oldest Walla Walla wineries (it was founded in 1988), it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. The three-level winery is set into the crest of a hillside overlooking the vineyard and the Blue Mountains in the distance. (A second tasting room can be found in Woodinville, just outside of Seattle’s downtown core.)
Sustainable farming sets this winery apart, as it is a certified Sustainable and Vegan winery. Among the innovative techniques it employs is Washington State’s first state-of-the-art, gravity-flow facility – including subterranean caves. The approach allows the winery to treat the grapes gently and prevents shearing the seeds, which introduces bitter tannins. The result is elegant textures and profiles that accentuate the natural flavor of the grapes.
4. Leonetti Cellar & TOIL Oregon
Founded in 1977 by Gary and Nancy Figgins, Leonetti Cellar is Walla Walla Valley’s oldest commercial winery. However, the Figgins roots date back to the family’s original farmstead established in 1906 by Gary’s grandparents, Francesco and Rosa Leonetti.
Francesco immigrated from Serra Pedace, a small town close to Calabria in southern Italy. Rumor has it, Francesco experiments with bubbling fermentation on the farm’s dirt floor basement. However, it was Gary (Francesco’s great-grandson) who put the Leonetti name on the map.
Planting the first Cabernet Sauvignon and Reisling cuttings on the family farm, he started by producing a small batch of wine. But on December 14, 1982, Leonetti Cellar put Walla Walla Valley on the map as a premier wine-growing region when they were named the best in the nation. The prestigious designation was a result of a blind tasting in California by Winestate magazine’s Wine and Spirits Buiding Guide — one of the nation’s most prestigious wine industry publications at the time.
Today, Leonetti Cellar is operated by Gary and Nancy’s children, Chris and Amy. Building upon their ancestor’s roots, the sibling duo continues to produce sought-after wines. They have now expanded into three additional wine ventures (Figgins Walla Walla Valley, Leonetti Cellar, and TOIL Oregon) all under the Figgins Family Wine Estates name.
While Figgins Walla Walla Valley and Leonetti Cellar do not have tasting rooms, you can sample the TOIL Oregon pours at their Walla Walla tasting room.
5. Foundry Vineyards
Wine knows no borders, spanning artworks throughout the centuries in all corners of the world. The confluence of the two mediums is undeniable. It’s a fact that Mark and Patty Anderson fully embody at their Walla Walla winery — Foundry Vineyards.
The Wine+Art destination flew relatively under the radar until it was spotlighted by New York Times writer Alex V. Cipolle in his October 20, 2021 article ‘In Washington, a Beloved Birthplace for artistic Giants.’ The piece details the type of pieces you’ll find being created and on display,
…all sorts of artistic behemoths rise: a 36-foot-high Venus de Milo by Jim Dine; a squad of liberated caryatids by Wangechi Mutu; the two-ton head of a forest spirit by Yoshitomo Nara; the playful pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama.
Furthermore, it’s referred to as, “a chocolate factory for artists where pretty much anything you can think of can be made.”
Tastings are offered at their Walla Walla tasting room, where you are welcome to bring your own picnic lunch to enjoy in the sculpture garden. Alternatively, you can visit their Seattle tasting room, located south of Pioneer Square.
6. Armstrong Family Winery
First-generation winemakers, the Armstrongs are Chicago transplants who followed their passion for wine to the West Coast. They have tasting rooms in both downtown Walla Walla and Woodinville.
7. Spring Valley Vineyards
The Spring Valley Vineyards tasting room is located in Walla Walla’s downtown corridor. The vineyard itself is located in Spring Valley, 2.5 hours northeast of Walla Walla. The first grapes were planted at the vineyard in 1993 and the first vintage was produced in 1999, making this one of the newest vineyards in the region. Yet don’t let their age fool you, the flavor profiles are rich and complex.
8. Eternal Wines
With a focus on single-vineyard varietals, Eternal Wines utilizes only grapes from premium vineyards. In addition to making great wine, they know how to host one heck of a party. Every Thursday night they host their Thursday Night Lights Concert and Food Truck. This fun event features live music paired with a different food truck and your chance to sample Eternal Wines on site.
9. K Vinters
Love Syrah? Then you won’t want to skip K Vinters. It is part of the Charles Smith family of iconic wine brands (aka House of Smith). A former rock band manager, Smith is one of just four Washington winemakers to receive a perfect 100-point score (awarded for the K Vinters 2006 Royal City Syrah). Even more impressive, he released his fist Walla Walla Syrah vintage in just 2001!
The K Vinters Winery & Tasting Room is located on historic farmland originally homesteaded in 1853. Tucked at the base of the Blue Mountains, it features an adjacent farmhouse built in 1872. Farmstead tastings are available Friday and Saturday. Alternatively, the Jet City tasting room in Seattle and the downtown Walla Walla tasting room are open Wednesday through Sunday.
10. Caprio Cellars
Embodying a pay-it-forward mentality, Caprio Cellars not only gives 10% of its net profits to charity, it provides complimentary food and wine to tasting guests. What’s more, the tasting room provides sweeping views of Walla Walla Valley, a spacious outdoor space — and delicious wines. It’s a dynamic five-fold approach that’s quickly made this relatively new winery a success.
11. Dunham Cellars
A family-owned winery, Dunham Cellars was founded in 1995. Over the years, they’ve distinguished themselves by their beloved Three Legged Red Wine — named after one of the winery’s dogs. The winery’s tasting room is open daily and offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
12. Walla Walla Vintners
One of Walla Walla’s most dependable wineries for great pours and an exquisite tasting room experience, Walla Walla Vintners was founded in 1995. Through it changed ownership in 2017, it continues to produce luscious Bordeaux- and Rhône- style reds, plus exquisite rosés.
Walla Walla Getaway
Sipping, Eating & Chipping Through Walla Walla
By Rick Turner | Photos by Sara Satterlee
Someone much less clever once said of New York, that it was a city “so nice, they named it twice.” But those of us who spend our time between the nether regions of Parallels 46 and 47 understand that there is really only one city that accurately fits that description.
Walla Walla (a town so nice … you know the rest) is tucked away in the southeast corner of Washington, where the state meets with Idaho and Oregon to serve up a hardcore Northwest vibe with a little something for everyone ….continue reading
What’s the Walla Walla Weather Like?
On average, Walla Walla gets 188 sunny days per year, with the peak of summer sunshine coming in July and August (as one would expect). Summer temps hit a high or roughly 90 degrees, meaning visitors aren’t normally exposed to excruciating heat indexes. And while the region gets an average of 9 inches of snow with a low of 29 degrees in January, the gentle valley slopes offer an elegant backdrop year-round.
Plus, Walla Walla averages just 19 inches of rain per year, compared to 37 average inches in Seattle. So if you want to escape the drizzle and you love wine, this is a prime destination.
Seattle to Walla Walla Flights
Getting to Walla Walla isn’t a cakewalk. In fact, it can be quite the 4.5-hour road trip. Alternative travel options include:
Nonstop Alaska Air Flight
This roughly one-hour flight requires Passengers to:
- Find transportation to the airport or park at an airport parking lot and shuttle to check-in.
- Navigate the check-in terminal
- Pass through airport security
- Wait at the gate within Seattle Tacoma International Airport
Walla Walla Charter Flight
Your one-hour flight departing from either Boeing Field or Paine Field includes:
- East onsite parking
- Simple, personalized check-in
- An intimate waiting room experience
More Unique Charter Flight Destinations
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It’s a place where the WiFi is new, the cell reception spotty, and the days move slow. A place that feels as though it’s been plucked from time and preserved from the bustle.
Surrounded by 12,000-foot mountains, the sleepy town of Ketchum, Idaho, is the birthplace of American ski resorts — Sun Valley.
This quaint destination has yet to be taken over by skyscrapers. It’s the world-renowned ski slopes and fresh, dry powder that are the main draws.