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Your Travel Guide to the Best Walla Walla Wineries, Restaurants, and Shops

Eritage Resort

Planning a trip to Walla Walla? If you’re a wine-lover, you’ll find yourself returning there whenever you get the chance. Walla Walla wineries have made the town famous as “unofficial capital of Washington wine country” and made the name synonymous with luxurious vintages, scenic vineyards, and a friendly community. In short: it’s a delightful stay.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to wine, dine and play in Walla Walla. I’ve curated a list of my favorite viticultural and culinary adventures to make planning your next trip effortless. Want to make planning even easier? Download a Meraki Travels packing list for free so you don’t forget any essentials!

Getting to Know Walla Walla, WA

Originally regarded as a rural, agricultural community primarily known for its wheat and onion crops, Walla Walla is fast becoming a thriving wine destination. The region began its foray into the wine industry around 1984 with three main, top-shelf wineries putting it on the map: Leonetti Cellar, Woodward Canyon, and L’Ecole No. 41.

Today, Walla Walla is a bustling and active town boasting a rich wine and culinary scene, not to mention its parks, trails, shopping centers, restaurants, and a growing number of other activities for families and groups of all kinds. 

The town has come a long way since first becoming an AVA (American Viticultural Area, for the uninitiated) in 1984. With over 140 wineries now calling this high-desert landscape home, there is a vintage for every taste and palette. Walla Walla has become a household name among wine enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, and a favorite destination for travelers hoping to enjoy a classic wine.

And when you are not sipping or noshing on delectable bites, you may wish to soak up some local art, window shop along the main street, or get out and experience the scenic beauty of the region. So here are my recommendations for how to enjoy a stay in “The Friendliest Town in the United States.”

Best Places to Stay in Walla Walla

If you’re planning a trip to Walla Walla, you’ll want to look into Eritage Resort or Monteillet Fromagerie & Gite for your lodgings. Trust me.

Indulge in Luxury at Eritage Resort

Driving through rolling hillsides with only vineyard after vineyard in sight, you might wonder if you’re lost.

But then, a little off in the distance, it comes into sight. Like a mirage in the vines, you see Eritage.

Nestled amongst 300 acres of vineyard, Eritage Resort feels like an oasis, yet is only minutes from downtown Walla Walla. There are 10 main suites along with 10 private cabins, each opening onto their own patio or deck from which you experience awesome views of the Blue Mountains (a famous feature of Walla Walla and the surrounding region) and the expanse of rolling farmland below.

Just outside each patio door is access to a pristine and inviting man-made lake, perfect for a little paddleboarding or simply sitting by the edge, sipping a local wine variety while the sun sets beyond the grove.

With dusk approaching, move indoors for a spectacular dining experience at Eritage’s world-class restaurant where Chef Sierra Grden creates delectable farm-to-table cuisine.

And after a solid night’s rest, return to the dining area for a full complimentary breakfast of all your favorites: fresh fruit, homemade granola, pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns, and plenty of fresh coffee, a breakfast of champions to fortify a full day of exploring Walla Walla.

Try Out the Agricultural Life at Monteillet Fromagerie & Gite

For a rather unique homestay, treat yourself to a weekend stay at Monteillet Fromagerie’s The Gite (French for “a holiday home to rent”). On this 32-acre farm and homestead near the Touchet River in Dayton, WA, you will find a vibrant combination of work and life synthesized into a natural lightness of being. 

Joan and Pierre-Louis Monteillet are the masterminds, chefs, and pioneers to this farming ecosystem centered around their artisanal cheesemaking operation. They craft their cheeses all by hand, using a base mixture of goat and sheep milk to create a rich, creamy spread with a slight sharp undertone.

Everything about the farm is quintessentially French, including the 50 french Alpine Goats and 50 Lacaune Sheep the Monteillet’s raise for their milk. The guest house or Gite is no exception. A stay in this three- bedroom holiday house offers guests a chance to learn what an agrarian lifestyle is all about. 

From farm life to gardening to classes in cheese making, besides these cheeses capture the terroir of this region as much as the varietals of wine from the nearby vineyards. They pair pretty nicely too.

Choosing a Natural Wine Experience

The sheer abundance of Walla Walla wineries can make choosing one an overwhelming decision. During our stay, we visited three vintners in Walla Walla, specializing in what is known as “natural wines.” What is natural wine? In a nutshell, it is the production of wine using simple or traditional methods of winemaking. No preservatives or fillers or additives are necessary.

In the US alone, there might be up to 76 winemaking additives allowed including preservatives, fermentation enhancers, flavor and color enhancers, or defoaming agents. Some people may have allergic responses to these additives such as a headache or a flushed feeling after drinking a glass. Being among those who experience this after a glass of red wine, I came eager to try a Malbec or Grenache in its natural wine state.

In addition to using no fillers in the winemaking process, natural vintners adhere to sustainable farming practices. Many use integrated pest control methods instead of spraying their vines with herbicides. In addition, they may use organic growing principles such as fertilizing with organic compost and allowing some of the natural fauna to remain as a cover crop. 

This latter practice helps maintain the integrity of the soil resulting in less erosion as well as retaining moisture (using less water), which with current climate variables, proves useful, sustainable, and just plain smart. Many of these softer practices not only tread a little lighter upon the earth, but also lower the carbon footprint of the vineyards that use them.

L’Ecole No. 41

Our day began at L’Ecole No. 41, the third-oldest of the Walla Walla wineries. Their reputation for producing reliable, superior-quality wines is well known in this valley and beyond. They began integrating sustainable practices in the early 2000s, earning titles of both a Certified Sustainable vineyard and Certified Salmon-Safe. These well-earned marks can be found on their bottle’s back labels.

Our tasting commenced with a glass of a newer variety, Luminesce, produced exclusively from their Seven Hills Estate Vineyard. This proved my favorite as a white Bordeaux blend. It holds a crisp, lovely citrus note, yet is still full-bodied with a warm spiciness. A very refreshing wine for the morning or, as I imagined it, on a warm summer evening.

Ciera Roop, our guide for the morning and the hospitality manager at L’Ecole, educated us on everything from the history of the schoolhouse (now tasting room) to L’Ecole’s philosophy on winemaking, “to achieve clean, stylistically expressive, and well-balanced wines,” and she did it with a very fun, easy, and friendly air, making us feel right at home.

Isenhower Cellars

Founded in 1999 by Brett and Denise Isenhower, Isenhower Cellars was the 18th winery to be established in the Walla Walla Valley and one of the first to incorporate what Brett termed “minimalist winemaking” practices.

Both Brett and Denise hail from a background and education in Pharmacology. Just chatting with Brett will prove a fascinating lesson in chemistry. Only these days it is all about the chemical components, reactions, biodiversity, and subtler notes of winemaking, a passion he followed after years of working as a Pharmacist. Clearly a modern-day alchemist.

And for Brett, the magic behind the alchemy begins quite naturally, on the vines. With the minimalist winemaking philosophy, only light intervention is used to produce wines with a very deep richness and character. And Brett is hands-on, overseeing each portion of the process from handpicking the fruit right down to the old-fashioned method of pressing the grapes; the foot stomping.

His methods are natural and simple, “the way wine was meant to be,” says Isenhower. From hand-harvesting to sustainable fertilizers and pest control he comments, “what is old is new again and in the long run, it is better for the earth and us.”

Isenhower reds are aged in 100% French Oak barrels for a very superior taste with their whites being aged in Acacia barrels. Their unique and extensive varieties can be found via their website as well as their two tasting rooms, the original located in Walla Walla with a secondary tasting room west of the Cascade Mountains in Woodinville, WA. As Isenhower says, “our wines are well made and represent the terroir it comes from, each vineyard produces a completely different flavor and varietal.”

I found Isenhower wines exceptional and have plans to sample each variety they produce. Currently, I attest to the Rara Avis Grenache pairing nicely with a homemade stew and the A Bloc Malbec rounding out an evening in front of the fire.

Foundry Vineyards

With locations in both Walla Walla and the historic Pioneer Square area of Seattle, the Foundry tasting rooms bring together art, wine, and contemporary design.

Back in 1998, the founders, Mark and Patty Anderson, planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines on their property in the Walla Walla Valley. They soon discovered that creating art and making wine are both similar creative processes and combined the two.Thus the Foundry Vineyards was born.

There is a distinct aesthetic to their winery and tasting rooms, from the art-inspired labels and the gallery-like atmosphere of the tasting rooms to the modern feel of the more contemporary sculpture garden.

Using low-intervention methods, their wines express the unique flavors of Walla Walla’s high desert climate. Their focus is to “reflect the spirit of artistic expression in each wine and to continue to be creative with each vintage.”

Where to Savor Dinner

Walla Walla may be known for its viniculture, winning America’s Best Wine Region by US Today for two consecutive years in 2022 (and achieving finalist status for five years as of 2023), but coming up as a close second is it’s food culture. Literally a foodie dream.

A stroll through downtown Walla Walla carries you past French patisseries with that heavenly scent of fresh croissants loaded with buttery goodness, American diners serving all the classics from breakfast to dinner, classic lunch cafes or fine dining, and even gourmet street tacos are all the rave. There is something fresh and fun to be found to feed even the pickiest member of your group or to pair with your new favorite Walla Walla wine!

Breakfast:

Maple Counter Cafe

Looking for a hearty, delicious breakfast at the hottest place in town? Look no further than the Maple Counter Cafe. Owners, Kory and Rachel Nagler, are the third generation of restaurateurs in their family incorporating many of their family recipes into the menu, including their famously light and airy pancakes. This treasured batter has its start in a sourdough barrel, which is an old-fashioned way of nurturing yeast and it makes a fine pancake, too.

Colville Street Patisserie (Bonus Item!)

A local secret is to head to Colville Street Patisserie for an espresso and croissant in the morning, perhaps a gelato during your afternoon stroll, while window shopping in town, or a delectable French pastry any time of day that suits you.

Lunch

Walla Walla Bread Company

For a sandwich made from artisan loaves of bread(baked that morning) and a bowl of homemade tomato soup, head to the town’s artisan bakery, Walla Walla Bread Company! Meeting friends for lunch? Perhaps one of their homemade pizzas, directly from their oven to your table will do the trick. Using locally sourced ingredients, Chef’s Coral and Michele Pompei combine the flavors of Walla Walla with Coral’s international experience as a master baker.

Brasserie Four (Bonus Item!)

A bustling, casual dining experience on Main Street can be found at Brasserie Four, a quintessential French brasserie which will have you believing you are in Paris, with the menu to match.

Dinner

TMACS

Dine in elegance with the farm-to-table culinary excellence at TMACS, located in center of downtown Walla Walla. Using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, Chef Jose Meza creates a changing menu, highlighting the bounty of this region. His culinary choices are as artistic to the eye as they are delicious to taste. 

Add in the one-of-a-kind craft bar with crafted extracts and mixers and dinner is complete. Prepare to languor in this upscale dining experience, because the mood is intimate with time just slipping away unnoticed.

AK’s Mercado (Bonus Item!)

At AK’s Mercado, a gourmet street taco is going to be a favorite anytime of day. Now located in the heart of downtown Walla Walla, this hugely popular restaurant began briefly as a food truck before branching out to serving its notable taco’s from behind a gas station counter. 

Chef Andrae Bopp graduated from The French Culinary Institute, working his way up some prestigious ladders in New York before eventually meandering westward. Some of his wanderings took him to places such as Oaxaca and the American South, both of which influenced the flavors he likes to share in his dishes. Ak’s Mercado serves breakfast, too, including (on Sundays only) Chef Bopp’s infamous beignets.

Where To Shop and Play

Downtown Walla Walla Shopping and Activities

Enjoy a boutique shopping experience strolling the streets of Walla Walla, up one side street then down another. Along with many shops catering to wine and wine accessories, there are antique shops, book shops, and art galleries worth popping into for that rare find.

Combine Art Collective

A locally-focused art gallery, the Combine Art Collective began as the combined project of six art-loving (and artists themselves) Walla Walla women. Currently, they feature 15 local artists from around the Walla Walla area, with rotating shows bringing in periodic guest artists. 

The white walls in this airy gallery frame styles and mediums of all genres from fabric arts to oil paintings to outdoor clay sculptures. There are whimsical glass garden pieces as well as jewelry for wearable art. Treat yourself to an immersion in aesthetic wonder with these women artisans.

Heritage Square Park

Finding more art in Walla Walla is as easy as walking down the street. Enjoy a promenade through Heritage Square Park right off of Main Street, and be sure to check out the Windows on the Past art installation. This mural is composed of both historic as well as contemporary photos representing ethnic and cultural groups, as well as life in Walla Walla spanning the hundred years from 1850-1950. A fascinating trip back into history.

Whitman College Outdoor Sculpture Walk

For a self-guided walking tour and art exhibition, head to the Whitman College Outdoor Sculpture Walk. Here, you can leisurely experience the beauty of 21 art pieces while getting outside and a few steps in too! Located inside the Whitman college campus, many of the pieces were designed and commissioned by graduates and alumni of the College.

Frog Hollow Farms

Before heading out of town, stop by Frog Hollow Farms and grab some of those farm-fresh local ingredients everyone has been talking about. For Frog Hollow is the connector of all the restaurants and resorts in town and where they source their delicious produce. So make that heirloom tomato marinara which pairs so well with the Merlot you bought during your wine tastings. 

At Frog Hollow, their specialty is heirloom tomatoes and you will find a variety worth taking home and savoring. They also grow a bounty of squashes, greens, and almost any root vegetable you would want on your table. No Walla Walla dinner is complete without the cornucopia found at Frog Hollow. Pick some up as a tasty souvenir.

Want to Learn More About Walla Walla?

There are many self-guided walking tours and plenty of other activities throughout the town of Walla Walla, depending on your interests. To find specific details on a tour or a day hike in the Blue Mountains head to Visit Walla Walla. A town so nice, they named it twice.

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