Planning a visit to Walla Walla Valley? Consider these tips and useful bits of advice to get the most out of your wine country adventure.
Travelling to Walla Walla Valley
People don't just stumble into Walla Walla Valley. You have to make an effort to get there. That's why it's so unique.
If you enjoy road tripping, it's worth driving from Portland or Seattle. If you do, you'll get to see the drastic landscape change from lush, northwest mountains to arid rolling hills in Eastern Washington.
Here are a few tips on travel within the area:
- Expect to Drive Make sure you have a designated driver or hire a touring service.
- Getting Around It's easy. It only takes about 30 minutes to drive from one side of Walla Walla Valley to the other.
- Laid-Back Vibe Despite the fact that several of Washington's highest rated wineries are here, Walla Walla Valley has a pragmatic, outdoorsy farm country vibe.
Some tasting tips for the wise.
Basic Tasting Etiquette: Follow the 4-step tasting method where you look, smell, taste and take notes. It's pretty common to see experienced tasters use a spitoon while tasting and pour remaning tastes into a dump bucket before moving on. If you're sensitive to alcohol try this out, it's a great way to stay sharp.
What To Wear: Walla Walla Valley is all about comfort. If you're going to a winery be sure to wear closed toed shoes with grip because working winery floor get slippery. And please, no perfume or strong smelling lotions. These ruin the aromatic experience.
Make Reservations: If you're traveling to wineries outside of the Downtown and Airport districts be sure to call ahead and let them know. Definitely make reservations for parties of 6 or more.
Hydration is Key: It's smart to bring a water bottle with you while tasting and stay hydrated. Wineries are happy to refill them.
Note About Pets: Walla Walla Valley ordinances do not allow pets into tasting rooms. Many wineries have shaded outdoor areas with water for leashed pets. Call ahead to be sure.
Plan your own wine tasting adventure
This guide is meant to be used as a framework to plan your own tasting adventure upon. You'll still need to pick out your favorite wineries to visit–and for that you can use the winery guide.
With that in mind, here's what we'd do on a wine tasting adventure in Walla Walla Valley.
Cruise the six winery districts to get a lay of the land.
For every wine region, the best way to get perspective is to actually go out and get it. And for the wine traveler this usually involves driving the region to see where the vineyards sit and other geographic features.
Lucky for us, Walla Walla Valley is small, and you can do this perspective-getting in about an hour. Here's what you might try:
- Drive up Mill Creek and gawk at vineyards until you realize you're deep into the Blue Mountains.
- Navigate the dirt roads north of Walla Walla Valley (that google maps swears are real) until you stumble across massive vineyards like Eritage and Spring Valley Vineyards… surrounded by wheat fields as far as the eye can see. (No matter how you angle your phone, nothing seems to capture what it feels like here.)
- Drool as you pass the big name wineries with fancy tasting rooms and restaurants in the Southside winery district. Then, keep driving towards the Oregon border.
- Make a random right-hand turn into The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (on the Oregon side) and screech to a halt as soon as you see a vineyard festooned with perfect round cobblestones. Toto, are we in France?
Park your car and see Walla Walla downtown on foot.
Before 6pm from Thursdays through Sundays "the strip" in Walla Walla is popping. Many of the wineries have tasting rooms here and it's easy to walk in, have a glass, and then keep going.
Ask about half-pours if you plan to go to many. Don't ruin yourself, the adventure has only just begun!
Schedule four appointments for a full day of learning.
Now that you're well acquainted with Walla Walla Valley, it's time to dig deeper.
A myriad of amazing tasting experiences await. Many wineries offer winery tours, tastings in the vineyard, and other fascinating educational experiences that explore Washington's unique winemaking climate.
If we were crafting your wine visits, here's what we'd consider:
- A vineyard visit to a Rocks District or unofficial "South Fork" or "North Fork" vineyard areas. These vineyards are mostly basalt-based, and very unlike the rest of Walla Walla Valley (and the rest of the world, for that matter.)
- A winery with a great tasting room and lunch menu to help split up your day. (Hopefully with amazing views.)
- At least one winery tour to learn more about how wines are made in Walla Walla Valley. We'd look for one led by a winemaking assistant or winemaker.
- Make sure the vehicle is stocked with a cooler and ice-packs in it so that wine purchases don't get cooked.
Pack out as much wine as you can manage.
Find something great? Get it. It's not common to find Walla Walla Valley wines outside of Washington State. Bring a few bottles to share with your pals back home.
If you're international, make sure you acknowledge your home country's wine tariff rules and fees.