If you’ve ever been wine tasting, you know that an excellent bottle is a delight in and of itself. In Walla Walla, however, the real magic lies in the stories behind each glass— and you don’t have to be an expert sommelier to appreciate them. Here, you can taste wines made possible by ancient floods and 15-million-year-old basalt bedrock, then step outside to take in this unique geography firsthand. You can also share a drink with the folks that shepherd grapes from vine to bottle, the final product a reflection of their passion and creativity.

Wine is more than a beverage in Walla Walla. Rather, it’s a tangible (and delicious) manifestation of the region’s history, geography, and community. For those who aren’t yet in the know, the Walla Walla Valley AVA is home to over 120 wineries— a.k.a. the highest concentration in the state of Washington. The area is known for its big, bold reds, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot being the top three varietals planted. It’s also notable for its unique terroir; between the warm climate and diverse, nutrient-rich soils, the conditions here are a winemaker’s dream.

But wine isn’t the only reason to visit: This town of just 30,000 is also known for its stellar dining scene, friendly locals, and smalltown charms. The result is a community where winemakers are as approachable as they are knowledgeable, and if you show up with curiosity and compassion, you’re sure to be welcomed with open arms.

Walla Walla is a five- to six-hour drive from the North Sound, so a long weekend is the perfect amount of time to experience what this area has to offer. Not sure where to begin? We’re happy to suggest a few agenda items.


• Tour the grounds of Abeja, a winery/inn located on the grounds of a historic 38-acre farmstead. Nestled in the Blue Mountain foothills just east of Walla Walla, Abeja (Spanish for “bee”) is notable for both its idyllic scenery and outstanding wines. We loved everything we tried, but the bold, balanced 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon and crisp 2021 Beekeeper’s White were our two standouts.

• Visit the Rasa Vineyards tasting room, one of Downtown Walla Walla’s most buzzed-about new spots. They’re memorable not just for their award-winning bottles but the stories behind them; for example, the 2018 Plus One was
named in homage to a common back-and-forth (“I love you, plus one”) between Winemaker Pinto Naravane and his daughter Karly.

• Combine traditional fine art with the art of winemaking at Woodward Canyon. Located in the Westside District, Woodward is the second oldest winery in Walla Walla, and its claim to fame lies in both its biodynamic, age-worthy wines as well as its flagship “Artist’s Series.” The latter series’ label changes each year to spotlight the work of a different West Coast artist.

• Plan your trip around one of Walla Walla’s many unique, wine-centric community events. Taste exclusive new bottles at Fall Release Weekend in November; learn about each of the Big Three (Cab, Syrah, and Merlot) at the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine series in the summer; or even combine wine, art, and heavy metal at the annual Blood of Gods Merrymaking.

• Enjoy a decadent, French-inspired meal at Brasserie Four, one of Walla Walla’s finest dining destinations– and also one that’s designed with locals in mind. In addition to a formidable wine list, they have an excellent cocktail menu and some of the best oysters east of the Cascades.

• Satisfy your sweet tooth at Pine Cone Creamery, a local ice cream shop offering up artisan flavors ranging from Honey Lavender to Thai Iced Tea and Vegan Chai.

• Grab a morning pick-me-up at Carte Coffee, a food-truck-turned-coffeeshop offering up some of the finest brews downtown. We started our day with a “Vegan Surprise” (a latte combining soy and oat milks) paired with a delicious yogurt and chia parfait.

• Walla Walla’s sunny weather and small-town hospitality can feel reminiscent of the American South— which is why a restaurant like Hattaway’s on Alder makes perfect sense here. At Hattaway’s, classic PNW ingredients meet rural cooking traditions and a healthy dose of Southern hospitality.


• Hike the 20+ miles of trails surrounding Bennington Lake, or if the weather permits, beat the heat by taking a dip. This spot is also home to a variety of wildlife, making it a bird watcher’s paradise.

• Take a self-guided walk across Whitman College, where you’ll find 21 one-of-a-kind sculptures dispersed across campus.

• Wander Downtown Walla Walla’s 30+ tasting rooms, impressive dining scene, and local boutiques. Some of our favorite shops include Bright’s Candies, Walla Walla Clothing Co., and 35th+Butter, and you also won’t want to miss the Downtown Walla Walla Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

• Mingle with an eclectic crowd of locals and off-duty winemakers at the Green Lantern Tavern, a lively hangout that boasts 27 taps, simple yet satisfying food, and unbeatable ambiance.

Where to stay:

The Marcus Whitman Hotel is one of the region’s most historic— and impressive— hotels. Originally constructed in 1928, the building has played host to a range of politicians, presidents, and celebrities through the years, though its amenities have more than kept up with the time. The recently-remodeled decor pays homage to history while also celebrating the future, and guests can enjoy amenities ranging from a fitness center to on-site dining, pet-friendly rooms, and state-of-the-art conference rooms. Best of all, the downtown district is just steps away.

Bonus— editor’s top pick:

For a glimpse at the future of Washington wine, the Airport District should be No.1 on your agenda. Get an up-close look at the industry’s up-and-coming major players by visiting the Airport Incubator, where new winemakers can start (and grow) their business in a low-cost location for up to six years. Each tenant has a signature style, from Eternal Wines’ expertise on peppery Carmeneres, to itä wine’s focus on the soft terroir of the Eastern foothills, and
Hoquetus Wine Co.’s artsy atmosphere and focus on sustainability. Here and throughout the rest of the Airport District, you’ll find some wineries with bottles available through retail and restaurants. Others, however, can only be tasted via a wine club membership— or a trip to the tasting room itself.