Walla Walla Weekend: Guide to the best Wineries & More

Paige sipping Force Majeure Syrah in Walla Walla winery

Nestled on the border of Washington and Oregon wine country, Walla Walla is a charming town that offers visitors the perfect weekend getaway. With its rolling hills and abundance of wineries, Walla Walla is a wine (and food!) lover’s paradise. 

In this blog post, we will explore some of the best wineries in Walla Walla. Where to eat, drink, stay and more! So if you’re looking for a relaxing weekend escape, be sure to add Walla Walla wineries to your list!

Fast Facts About Walla Walla Wine

Primary Grapes: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. You won’t find a lot of white varieties here – 95% of the harvest are red grapes!

Climate: Continental with Mediterranean influences

Things to Look for: Terroir-driven Syrah from the Rocks District of Milton Freewater. This small  sub-AVA is completely enclosed within Walla Walla and produces some of the most unique, terroir-driven wines in the world. The AVA’s boundaries are based on the area’s unique rocky soil composition, which imparts distinctive, undeniable earthy flavors into the wines. 

Unique Fact: The Walla Walla Valley AVA has the highest concentration of wineries in Washington State. It also is considered a “cross border” AVA because it straddles the Washington & Oregon state border. Good wine doesn’t care about state lines!

Walla Walla Sub-AVAs: The Rocks of Milton-Freewater

How many wineries are in Walla Walla: There are nearly 3,000 acres of vineyards and more than 120 wineries, many of which are family-owned.

At first glance, Walla Walla may seem like just another snug, cozy little town. But hidden beneath its unassuming smalltown exterior is a charm that’s just waiting to emerge and take you by surprise. 

I first became really aware of Walla Walla’s incredible wineries two years ago when I was invited on a virtual “trip” to the region. At that time, I was blown away by the wines’ expressive qualities and unique nuances and complexities. I knew wholeheartedly that it was a region I wanted to see in person, so I could better understand the terroir and people who created these wines. 

Home to some of the most terroir-driven wines in the U.S, the Walla Walla Valley has also been an agricultural hub for more than a century. Today, it still abounds with crisp apples, juicy strawberries, tender asparagus, sumptuous sweet onions, and a cornucopia of other vibrant produce – not to mention WINE. Nearly 3,000 acres of prime vineyards and more than 120 remarkable wineries are just the most recent expression of a rich farming heritage. 

While here, you can still feel the agricultural roots and hometown vibes in everything they do. This place is a community – a community ready to welcome you in.

Best Walla Walla wineries - Rotie Cellars

How to Get to Walla Walla

Walla Walla has a convenient, but small, airport that a handful of airlines fly directly into. For our trip, we flew in from Seattle via Alaska Airlines. 

Alternatively, you can fly into the Tri-Cities airport (Pasco) and drive the hour to Walla Walla. Cabs are available for this, but are expensive. Renting a car would be more ideal, as you’ll want it for getting around the region anyways. While there are plenty of tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla, getting out into the vineyards makes for a more complete experience!

If you’re starting off in Seattle or Portland, you could also consider driving, although it’s a bit of a trek – approximately 4 to 4.5 hours via car. 

More recommendations on getting to Walla Walla.

Washington Wine AVA Map, including Walla Walla
Image courtesy of WashingtonWine.org

Walla Walla Terroir & Sub-AVA

Soil is important in all wine growing regions, but especially in Walla Walla. 

Here, cobblestone river gravels and dark basalt stones soak up the warmth of the sun and moderate vineyard temperatures. Loess, a fine silt layered over flood sentiments, rests atop coarser layers of sand and gravel deposited by catastrophic, glacial floods that swept through the region 15,0000 years ago. 

Vine roots must grow deep to soak up nutrients, and thus develop vibrant, aromatic flavors. Basalt provides soil rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that fuel remarkable flavors.

The Rocks - what the vineyard terroir looks like in Walla Walla
Hands holding rocks from the vineyards in the rocks district of Walla Walla

The Rocks District of Milton Freewater

Encompassed wholly within the Walla Walla Valley is the sub-AVA of the Rocks District of Milton Freewater. Here, soil is crucial to the wines – the region produces some of the most terroir-driven, distinctive wines in the world. They’re immediately recognizable for their earthy sort of “funk” present in the wines. 

I kept finding myself describing these unique aromas as “muddy horse hoofs” (don’t ask me when I last smelled or tasted those though!) Others referred to it as “earthy minerality”, “forest floor” and “mud”. Whatever it is – as soon as you try a wine from this region, you’re sure to recognize what I’m talking about. If you want to taste terroir, this is the place to go. 

The vineyards here are special: large rocks as big as your fist create a unique growing environment for the vines. These rocks provide drainage, temperature moderation, and impart distinctive sensory characteristics to the grape. We talk about terroir all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it as profoundly as I have in the wines from this region. 

It helps that the boundaries of this region are so tightly drawn around primarily one single soil type – the only AVA in the US to do so. 

Best Wineries in Walla Walla

Let’s dive into it! Hopefully by now you’re starting to understand how special Walla Walla is and why you need to book a trip there ASAP. Keep reading for the best wineries in Walla Walla and plan your full visit!

Kelly and JJ Menozzi of Aluve cellars in Walla Walla

Aluvé Cellars

Aluvé Cellars is owned and operated by Kelly and JJ Menozzi, who moved to Walla Walla a decade ago after serving 23 years as Air Force pilots. They’re an absolutely adorable couple who have integrated themselves into the Walla Walla winemaking community and done well to establish themselves as one of the best Walla Walla wineries. 

Their name “Aluvé” comes from a combination of their two passions: flying for our country and sharing great wine. It’s a fanciful combination of the Italian words meaning Winged Grape. 

Paige holding meatballs at Caprio wine tasting
Meatballs and Wine - food pairing menu at Caprio Cellars
Chef Ian Williams at Caprio Cellars in Walla Walla Washington

Caprio Cellars

Caprio Cellars was my biggest surprise during the trip – and the winery I can’t stop raving about. Rooted in family and tradition, their goal is to make visitors feel welcomed in and at home. The details here are above and beyond… and the FOOD. The FOOD!!

Ian Williams, a Walla Walla native, is head chef at Caprio Cellars. Here, he puts together exquisite and flavorful combinations that perfectly pair with the wines. Each bite, each sip leaves you coming back for more. His cooking style makes you think of comforting, home cooked meals, but with the quality and flavor components of a five-star chef. In his own words: “Cook with your morals. Cook with your senses. Cook with the seasons.” 

Paige in the Rotie Cellars tasting room in the Rocks district, Walla Walla
Rotie Cellars wine tasting in Walla Walla

Rotie Cellars (The Rocks District)

Overlooking panoramic vineyard views of the Rocks District, the Rotie Cellars tasting room is urban-chic and blends in perfectly with the large cobblestone rocks that the region is known for. 

Here, owner & winemaker Sean Boyd crafts traditional Rhone Blends with Washington State fruit. The wines are beautifully balanced and elegant, finesse-driven, and mouthcoating wines that leave you wanting more. I was especially impressed with the Grenache, which had a more delicate display of the typical Rocks District characteristics. 

The brand new Force Majeure tasting room in the Rocks District, Walla Walla, Oregon
Paige sipping Force Majeure Syrah in Walla Walla winery

Force Majeure (The Rocks District)

Two years ago when we first went into lockdown, I was invited on an Oregon/Washington cross border trip… virtually. One of the wines that stood out most from that virtual experience was the Force Majeure SJR Vineyards Syrah. ⁣

Black olives, leafy herbs, and bloody blue fruits. It’s a distinctive Syrah that speaks to the unique terroir of the Rocks district of Walla Walla. ⁣

Having the chance to actually see this so-called “soil” in real life — two years after first trying this wine — was incredible. The vineyards in this region are so special: large cobblestone rocks as big as your fist create a unique growing environment for the vines. ⁣

The team just finished a beautiful tasting room. Learn more about visiting Force Majeure here. 

Steve Robertson of Delmas Cellars in the Rocks District

Delmas (The Rocks District)

Delmas is owned and operated by the Robertson family – Steve Robertson, in particular, played a crucial role in the establishment of the Rocks District AVA and ensuring that the boundaries of the AVA (96%) are dictated by a single soil series (Freewater Series) and a single landform (alluvial fan). Hearing his take on the region and why it’s so special was an incredible experience. 

To get a feel for yourself, you can schedule a tour by appointment to explore the SJR vineyard and sample their world class wines.  

The Walls tasting room in Walla Walla
Image courtesy of The Walls
Bottle of Pasxa wine on dinner table

The Walls Vineyards and Pasxa Wines (Downtown Walla Walla)

During our trip, we enjoyed wine from The Walls Vineyards and Pasxa during a winemaker dinner downtown Walla Walla – meaning, we didn’t actually get out to visit their tasting room irl (but photos of it look gorgeous!) and no matter where you enjoy sipping it… the team’s goal is to produce wines that tell the story of their roots, showing the true place from which they come.

For a little more context, The Walls Vineyard is the primary, broader brand, with Pasxa being the more refined sister brand. Both labels produce delicious, elegant wines – great taste without the formality. 

L'Ecole Merlot wine label closeup
Paige in front of L'Ecole's iconic schoolhouse-turned-winery in Walla Walla

L’Ecole No 41 

L’Ecole No 41’s schoolhouse-turned-winery is iconic. After having starred at it on countless wine labels at home while dreaming of traveling to Washington wine country, it was such a treat to be able to see it in real life. 

L’Ecole is a third-generation family-owned winery and one of the more well-known, well-distributed wineries in the area. They’re also one of the most award-winning wineries, known for their high quality, artisan wines crafted from their estate vineyards and long-term relationships with vintners all over Walla Walla. You can learn more about L’Ecole here. 

Woodward Canyon winery tasting room

Woodward Canyon

Woodward Canyon was the second winery established in Walla Walla; founders Rick and Darcey Small played a crucial role in obtaining federal approval of the Walla Walla Valley Appellation in 1984. 

Today, it’s still a family-led winery with roots that run deep into the land that they’ve farmed for over four generations. The winery produces premium, age-worthy cabernet sauvignons, Bordeaux-style blends and merlots as well as chardonnays.

Learn more about Woodward Canyon here.

Popcorn and wine tasting at Browne Family Vineyards in downtown Walla Walla
Browne Family Vineyards wine tasting lineup - bottles of what we tasted

Browne Family Vineyards (Downtown Walla Walla)

Located in the heart of downtown, the Browne Family Vineyards Walla Walla tasting room is a charming escape that brings the vineyards to you. Browne is a family-owned winery inspired by the founder’s grandfather, William Bitner Browne, a World War II & Korean War veteran. 

Here, we enjoyed a lineup of wines from the overarching Precept brand, and learned more about the care and passion that goes into crafting these wines in the vineyards. 

Wine flights were paired with a delicious blend of caramel and cheesy popcorn – YUM! 

Ducleaux Cellars Jordyn Wine Bottle

Ducleaux Cellars (The Rocks District)

Ducleaux Cellars is a tiny, boutique “garagiste” winemaking husband/wife duo crafting incredible wines with incredible stories (and one of the few Walla Walla women winemakers!) 

Toby and Chris originally met on Match.com, and eventually merged their two families. Each wine in their collection is named for something in their life, most often relating to their children. Perhaps the wine named “Love and Chaos” describes it best of all. 

Ashley Trout holding a bottle of Brook & Bull wine
Brook & Bull Wine on a table with flowers and a cat in the background

Brook & Bull Cellars 

Brook & Bull was founded by Ashley Trout, an incredible winemaker who has been pivotal in the Walla Walla wine scene. Her second label, Vital, is a non-profit that supports Walla Walla Valley vineyard and winery workers with access to affordable health care. 

Her heart, soul, talent, and passion can be tasted in every bottle. And as a photographer, I’m obsessed with her labels – the cherry on top of an incredible wine. 

Alton Winery - one of the best wineries in Walla Walla
Image via Alton Wines

Alton Wines 

Owned by Joe & Ashley Woodworth, Alton wines is a small, down-to-earth project in Walla Walla. Their main requirement when hiring for their team? They have to be someone you’d enjoy having a glass of wine and hanging out with. 

I’ve heard numerous reviews from wine loving friends of how much they love the welcoming nature and approachability of Alton wines. When I met Joe at our winemaker dinner, I immediately understood the warmth and friendliness they were all referring to! 

Incredible wines, incredible hospitality, incredibly gorgeous tasting room. Learn more here. 

SMAK wine rose bottle

SMAK

SMAK was a winery that I first heard of from Vinebase’s Most Loved Winery Campaigns – and it’s clear why the wine community loves her wines! 

SMAK is a women-owned winery in Walla Walla that exclusively focuses on rosé. Fiona Mak crafts one for every season, for every mood. There’s always a reason to drink rosé! Her labels are just as beautiful as the wine inside, featuring stunning seasonal depictions of women and fashion. Learn more about her and her wines here. 

Doubleback

Doubleback offers some of the most spectacular views of Walla Walla. Nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains, it’s a stunning view of vineyards that go on and on for miles. The winery is most known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and offers reservation-only tasting experiences. Learn more about visiting Doubleback here.

Yellowhawk reception area with deer horn chandelier

Yellowhawk Resort

A beautiful 84-acre hilltop retreat in Walla Walla, Yellowhawk is also home to one of the newer wineries in the area by the same name. Here, George Anne Robertson (an incredible female winemaker) crafts delicious sparkling wines. 

Visit for an afternoon in their tasting room, or consider booking their luxurious rustic lodging, which they’re working on expanding into a full resort. I can’t wait to see what it becomes in the next few years!

Best Restaurants in Walla Walla

While I came to Walla Walla for the wine, the thing that I was most blown away with and surprised by was their food scene! I can’t express enough how astounded I was by the incredible, world-class dining options downtown Walla Walla. Here are the best, must-eat restaurants in Walla Walla. 

Chef at Passatiempo in downtown Walla Walla restaurant
Cacio e pepe with panchetta at Passatiempo in downtown best Walla Walla restaurant

Passatempo Taverna

Rustic, handmade pasta and pizza in the heart of downtown Walla Walla. While here, I think we sampled just about everything on the menu – and it was all absolutely outstanding! I was especially a fan of their spring beet salad and carbonara. YUM! Check out the Passatempo taverna website here.

AK’s Mercado in downtown Walla Walla

Andrae Bopp is a classically-trained French chef who recently expanded from a gas station (not a typo!) to a full service restaurant. Here you’ll find a plethora of tacos and smoked meats. Be sure to try the brisket! Learn more about AK’s Mercado here.

Hattaway’s on Alder

Inspired by the local ingredients of the Pacific Northwest, Hattaway’s brings the cooking traditions of the Southeast and rural America to downtown Walla Walla. The menu is interesting and full of unexpected surprises (Duck fried rice? YUM!) Be sure to also try their cucumber salad, which numerous people raved about on our trip. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating. 

Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen 

Located in a historic downtown building, Saffron is a mediterranean inspired kitchen with plenty of wine-perfect food options. It came highly recommended by numerous locals. Everything is packed with flavor. Learn more and view Saffron’s menu here. 

Walla Walla Winery Map

To make it easy to schedule out your own Walla Walla wine tasting itinerary, I’ve put all the best Walla Walla wineries and restaurants below in a Walla Walla winery map!

Common Questions About Wineries in Walla Walla

How many wineries are in Walla Walla?
The Walla Walla winery region offers 120 wineries, and consists of 2,900 acres of grapes!

Walla Walla wineries you can stay at?
Some of the best vineyard lodging in Walla Walla consists of:

Best time to visit Walla Walla wineries?
One of the most popular times to visit Walla Walla wineries is during their Fall Release Weekend in early November.

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1 Comment

  1. Dan
    August 13, 2022 / 10:58 am

    The food scene is great in WW. Saffron is amazing, and the WW Bread Company put me in a food coma!!

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