This was on our way into town, so this is where we started. Take the airport exit and find yourself in an old airport complex that has become home to at least 15 wineries. One is in the old firehouse and of course one of the wines is called Firehouse red. This is a good place to start in Walla Walla and then make your way into town for the night.
The picture is of the dog called port that lives at Dunham cellars winery. He was attacked by another dog as a pup and rescued by the winery and nursed back to life. They actually sell a blend called 3 legged red that has ports story on the label. I was honored and pleased to meet port. Port refers to the front port side leg that is missing.
This is where you should end up tasting wine because you can walk all over this fairly small city and the downtown wineries are are clustered in the old downtown. At Morrison winery we met the owner who plays the stand up bass while waiting for tourists to straggle in. He was one of the first 3 vintners to move to Walla Walla, there are over 90 now, and he introduced the syrah grape to the valley. Today, this area is becoming famous for its wonderful syrahs. I would say visit as many downtown locations as you can but definately do not miss Morrison.
These are some really nice wineries out this way. My favorite winery that I have probably EVER been to was L'Ecole which I had to visit because we actually sell their wine in our restaurant. It is an old schoolhouse that has been restored beautifully. Unbelievably beautiful. The wines are good also.
There is even one in Oregon that was not yet opened when we went by it but it looked interesting and I would do it on our next trip. Zerba winery. But into Washington again there are many wineries south of town and these are not the airport complex or the in town storefronts. They are deluxe. Peoples beautiful homes, surrounded by vineyards and having tasting rooms. Again, by the time you get to town, it is time to park and walk. The wineries are all fairly close in proximity.
In 1800's, Walla Walla became the largest city in the Washington Territory. It experienced substantial growth during the gold rush era, then later in the latter 1800s, through the turn of the century and into the early part of the 20th century. During this time, many large homes and mansions were built in Walla Walla's mansion district to the southeast of downtown. Many of the mansions, which are former homes of Walla Walla wheat barons, have been restored.
The Chamber of Commerce has a walking tour brochure with the location and some details of these beautiful homes. Most are on Palouse Street and a few more are on Catherine Street.
Stop by the Chamber on 29 East Sumach street for the guide. The hotels and B&Bs should carry the guide as well.
See my travelogue for more photos of the mansions on the tour.
Fort Walla Walla isn't really a Fort. It's a museum of the history of Walla Walla. It's actually a good little museum with a lot of artifacts and antiques from Walla Walla going back about 200 years. The amount of care and attention to detail is quite impressive. It also contained a "village" - small buildings from an era long past - preserved and moved to this location. Visitors will definitely get a good idea of life in Walla Walla from its birth in the mid 1800's to the beginning of its second century in the mid 1900's.
Being a farming community, one would not be surprised that many of the exhibits center around farming. There is even a barbed wire exhibit. I've never seen a barbed wire exhibit before. I also had no idea that several patents were granted on different kinds of barbed wire. Up until now, I always considered barbed wire as being a nuisance that prevented me from exploring a part of the world on a hike.
After leaving the drunken SUV revelers at Walla Walla Vintners, we went next door to aMaurice cellars. What a calming change of pace! The winemaker, Anna, was pouring the wine, and she was delightful. We learned much about their wines and her experience as we were sampling aMaurice's wonderful selection. The wines were excellent. We noticed later that they were available at the best Walla Walla restaurants.
Pepper Bridge Winery is just south of Walla Walla - not quite in Oregon. Its reds are very good and have won a lot of awards. The winery itself is in a scenic location with rolling hills covered by vineyards. Exactly what you would expect to find in the wine country.
The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is a moving memorial of the life of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman from the time they established a mission in 1836 to the time they were killed by the Cayuse tribe members in 1847. They arrived with what they considered good intentions - help improve the lives of the natives and help settlers moving west along the Oregon Trail. In 1836, the first year the Whitmans established their home here, there were 25 settlers passing through. By 1847, the number reached 5000 in one year.
Along with the settlers came diseases, for which the native Cayuse had no natural immunities. In the last year, a measles outbreak killed many of them including children. The Cayuse couldn't understand why the settlers seemed to fight off the disease, but the measles killed their children. Certain that the Whitmans were poisoning the Cayuse, tribe members murdered the Whitmans on Novemer 29, 1847.
The Mission has an indoor museum and an outdoor exhibit. All the original mission buildings are gone, but you can walk along a pathway, see the outlines of the buildings in the ground and read short descriptions of the key events. The memorial to the Whitmans is located on a hill which can be visited by a short walk and climb.
First things first. As soon as we got into town, we hit a winery. We drove all the way to the east side, against the hills, to visit Walla Walla Vintners. I had heard excellent things about their wines so I was eager to sample them. Not to mention we had just spent 5 hours on the plane and 1 hours on the road to get there.
What should have been a pleasant experience was not. I had heard that the tasting rooms were low key and empty. We might be the only tasters. Not so, not at the precise moment we arrived at WWV. The place was bedlam - full of drunken noisy revelers who arrived in huge SUVs. I could hardly hear a thing. We just wanted to taste our wine and get out.
It was great wine, but a less than pleasant tasting room. Might have been bad timing. This is worth a visit because the surroundings are so beautiful. I just wish we had been there before or after the drunken SUV crowd.
Zerba has received quite a few accolades, so we dropped in for a taste (or two). The accolades were well earned. The wines were very good and Zerba makes a number of varietals. We met the owner and she let us taste most of what they had. They soon will be opening up their cute little log cabin tasting room. Look for it just south of the border.
The tasting rooms at the wineries in Walla Walla run the gamut in terms of money that is put into them. Some are simple huts, while some like Basel Cellars are elaborate estates exuding great wealth. Whether or not you are into wines, just visiting this winery is a trip. It is located in a former mansion of a wireless telecommunications executive. The grounds are gorgeous with sweeping views from the tasting room. The wines are good, too!
The winery is housed in an old schoolhouse built in 1915. Their FREE tastings are generous (several whites and reds). The staff is very pleasant, welcoming and knowledgable. The school house facility is beautiful and interesting. And, if you forget to bring your reading glasses, they have basket for customers to use. See the lovely photo below : )
In additon to their excellent Cabs, each year they produce a wine which used to be called "School House Red", but due to some confusion with a winery in California having a wine with the same name, L'ecole hs renamed their wine "Recess Red". This wine is made from a blend of the hard press fractions of each of the vineyard lots and varietels and the wines not selected for premium bottlings. It sells for less than $20 and is quite popular and delicious. It sells out in the Seattle wine stores, but you can get it from the web site or at the winery.
Another unique feature that ties in with the school house theme is that the top of the tasting counter is made out of chalkboard, and chalk is provided for tasters to draw pictures, etc. See 3rd photo for a lovely drawing made by my friend, Coop.
On the 2006 tasting trip, Pepper Bridge was our first winery visit. February is a slow month (except for the Valentine's Wine & Chocolate event the wineries host), so some of the wineries weren't open, and the ones that were open were not crowded. We were the only visitors to Pepper Bridge while we were there and the nice lady pouring the wine (main picture) was full of information about the winery, the wine maker and the owners. It was a very nice place to start. They also have a lovely view out the back with lavendar bushes, vineyards, and the Cascade Mts. in the background. (2nd picture)
While it's fun to visit the wineries in the rural areas around Walla Walla, if you're not up for all the driving, several wineries have tasting rooms in town.
Amavi has good wines, and there's a good story about the building. It's located at 635 N. 13th Avenue.
Canoe Ridge is nearby, located at 1102 W. Cherry Street. Good wine, and they have free bite-sized Scharffen-Berger chocolates in various varieties.
Whittman Cellars is just down the street from Canoe Ridge - it's an easy walk between the 3. The people were extremely friendly and the wine was delicious - so much so that several of us joined their wine club. I hope that didn't have to do with the fact that it was our last winery, and we were more than a little sauced.
The other in-town winery we visited was Fogeron Cellars, which was good, interesting, and had friendly service. I think everyone bought at Fogeron. It's located at 33 West Birch St. - a little further away from the 1st 3.
Those are only 4 of the in-town wineries in Walla Walla. There are 12 more!