Your itinerary for winning wine and don’t-miss dining
written by Ryn Pfeuffer
For the third year, Walla Walla was named the “Best Wine Region” in America by USA Today (2022). Situated in southeastern Washington, this charming town of roughly 34,000 residents is a quick forty-minute flight from Seattle or a scenic four-hour drive from Portland or Seattle.
Its location at the base of the Blue Mountains acts as a rain shadow, so its dry, fertile soil lends itself especially well to growing grapes, as well as a variety of other crops. Beyond being home to more than 120 wineries, the town supports three colleges—Whitman College, Walla Walla University, and Walla Walla Community College. The result is a vibrant, culturally diverse scene filled with bookstores, art galleries, farm-to-table food and outdoor concerts. (If you happen to visit in the summer, sit under the stars and soak up a musical at the amphitheater.)
COZY STAYS • BEERS ON THE PATIO • POLENTA CROQUETTES
If comfort and convenience are key, check into the Finch. This eighty-room hotel on the sunrise side of Main Street is the perfect launching point for downtown shops, restaurants, Whitman College, and wine-tasting rooms. Expect clean, spacious, and, most importantly, quiet rooms that accommodate your four-legged friend. Two cruiser bikes are free for guests to use. Don’t miss the outdoor firepit, wine tastings, and s’mores in the evening.
If you don’t mind a quick drive, the Inn at Abeja is a beautifully restored 100-year-old farmstead in a pastoral setting just eight minutes outside downtown. The 38-acre estate is home to Abeja winery and many eclectic overnight lodging options. Whether you seek a room, suite, or private cottage, staying here is the quintessential wine country experience. Seasonally, the Kitchen at Abeja offers five- and seven-course tasting menus Thursday through Saturday.
After you’ve settled into your vacation digs, meander to Burwood Brewing. On Wednesdays through Sundays, rotating food trucks serve tasty bites for hungry beer enthusiasts. In addition, “The Backyard,” a large outdoor patio and grassy area dotted with Adirondack chairs is dog-friendly, so you can sip a pint, and soak up a sunset over the Palouse Hills with your pup. If you like American lagers, try The Antidote. Launched early in the pandemic, it’s a light and easy sipper.
Kick off your getaway with the tasting menu at the chef’s counter at Kinglet. Chef Maximillian Petty’s dishes highlight the best of region and season. Think polenta croquettes, octopus on a bed of cassoulet, and a delicate rockfish crudo. If you don’t want to commit to a multicourse meal, the menu is divided into bites, small plates, entrées, and desserts for a la carte ordering.
COFFEE • FARMERS MARKET • WINE TASTING
Ease into the day with a lavender mocha or cup of Walla Walla Roastery Coffee available on drip at Carte Coffee. Partners and coffee lovers, Joshua Huh and Ryan Vigil’s new brick-and-mortar digs also serve as an excellent spot for a quick caffeine fix, a coffee date or to camp out with your laptop. Bonus: There’s super-fast wifi and an outlet at every seat.
In its twenty-seventh year, the Downtown Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It runs indoors at the Showroom on Colville during winter and picks back up at Fourth Avenue and Main Street in the spring. Expect roughly forty vendors selling everything from locally grown produce to lavender products.
If you came to Walla Walla, you probably have wine on your mind. Spend an afternoon checking out tasting rooms on the southside. Here are a few of our favorites:
With five generations of experience, the wines at Valdemar Estates are only equaled by its stunning Insta-worthy aesthetic. So, book a reservation in the sleek, industrial tasting room and sip a flight of Spanish or Washington wines. (The Spanish varietals are grown in La Rioja, Spain.) Small plates are a knockout, too. Don’t miss the croquetas, stuffed piquillo peppers, or Galician octopus.
If you’re looking for a casual, laid-back, dog-friendly place with solid wines, enjoy a curated flight at Balboa Winery. Their rich and silky grenache is a favorite. Reservations are recommended for all guests, including club members.
Next, head to Patterson Cellars’ new vineyard and tasting room. They offer a few different tasting experiences, including a mimosa flight featuring Patterson Cellar’s Forbidden Bubbles (orange, guava, pineapple) and a croissant from Walla Walla Bread Company. Beyond brunch, the grounds are exquisite for soaking up the sunshine or playing lawn games. Food and wine pairing experiences are available on Saturday and Sunday by reservation only.
Finish up the day at Dusted Valley. Whether you opt for a signature tasting at the Old Milton Highway tasting room or a winemaker select tasting at the winery, you’ll enjoy sustainably crafted wines.
Head back to the hotel for a quick disco nap before making your reservation at Hattaway’s on Alder. Southern hospitality reigns supreme at this exceptional find housed in an old sawmill. Try the crispy fried chicken bathed in “Backyard Sauce” or the more refined aged ribeye and pork ragu with sage spaetzle and expect thoughtfully constructed flavors.
If you need a break from wine, grab a nightcap at Big House Brew Pub.
PASTRIES • MODERN CRAFTS • TACOS
There’s no better way to start the morning than with the blueberry cobbler French toast from Maple Counter Café. The breakfast menu is vast (ditto for the portions) and makes fun references to the people and places that form the café culture. Expect a wait to get seated—it’s 100 percent worth it.
If you want to grab a bite to go, hit up Walla Walla Bread Company. The salted caramel pecan roll is divine. For something savory, try the salmon tartine. Go early if you want the full pastry selection.
Afterward, meander to Kim Nemeth’s modern arts and craft studio (The Cotton Wool) in the downtown Walla Walla plaza to see her stunning woven pieces.
Before you leave town, grab a quick bite on the outdoor patio at AK’s Mercado. Centrally located on Main Street, chef Andrae Bopp features tacos, smoked meats, and a variety of street foods. The short rib tacos and goat birria (Thursdays only) should not be missed.
WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON
Big House Brew Pub
Hattaway’s on Alder
Maple Counter Café
Valdemar Estates Winery
Walla Walla Bread Company
The Inn at Abeja
Downtown Farmers Market