Wine Country Wanderlust - The Ideal Romantic Walla Walla Getaway in 2020
When you hear the phrase “wine country”, you may think of a touristy region in California that’s overrun to bursting for years, but we think of the charming corner of Washington known for its superior wines, exceptional food, a thriving arts scene and best of all, some of the most friendly hometown-loving people. Meet Walla Walla wine country.
Our state is becoming known for its captivating wines in a relatively new craft for this part of the country, which is ideal to produce some righteously unique grapes and as a result, wine. Recently Walla Walla has been named America’s Best Wine Region in 2020 by USA Today following a month-long nationwide public vote, and when you visit, it’s easy to see why.
How to Get to Walla Walla Wine Country
My husband and I rarely get to leave Spokane together (as we both often travel solo for business). This time we wanted to have a little road trip and make the most of it; he was to be the guest principal bassist for the Walla Walla Symphony, and I wanted to be sure to tag along. That meant more free time for me during his rehearsals, so I knew that I would need to fill those gaps with exciting activities that would keep me in vacation mode. We didn’t bother packing any snacks for the trip, though, because it’s only 3 hours away from Spokane. We got up early, had coffee together and hit the road with the intention of getting some Andrae’s Kitchen tacos for lunch.
Planning Ahead to Visit Walla Walla Wine Country
For those savvy travelers who are cautious about infection control, the processes and procedures that have been implemented by local businesses in Walla Walla wine country are top notch. During our visit, we noticed a nearly unanimous implementation of mask wearing, rigorous cleaning, and social-distancing that even made my exceptionally nervous husband completely at ease.
Due to the reduced capacity in virtually every location you plan on visiting, be sure to make your reservations well in advance. Tasting rooms at some of the premium wineries are some of the first to go, so map out your favorites beforehand.
I’ve only been to the city one other time myself, so I was eager to dig further into local favorites and some new and yet undiscovered places that would capture the imagination of visitors like me. One of the best resources for my trip was the amazing crew at Discover Walla Walla, who gave me the inside scoop on the best places to check out during our weekend visit. They had so many helpful suggestions and team member Lindsey was quick to connect me with a dynamic list of local hotspots.
One thing we learned quickly was to leave our expectations at the door because they filled this town with pleasant surprises around every corner.
Where to Stay in Walla Walla
After driving straight through with no stops from Spokane, nothing sounded better than actually having time to stretch out on a big fluffy bed for a while and setting up our “home base”. For this trip, we picked a new micro-hotel called The Wesley, which has already developed a reputation as one of the best destinations for visitors to call home away from home in the city.
After seeing The Wesley online while scouring my hotel options, I couldn’t get over the romantic details in the Victorian architecture on the exterior and the fabulously Instagram-able and funky modern interior with every last flourish carefully curated to inspire. The best part - it’s in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of dozens of eateries, tasting rooms, shops, and attractions that you’ll be able to stroll to with ease.
The Wesley is one of the most beautiful modern hotels I’ve stayed in and is full of thoughtful, creative accents to make you smile from the usefulness of the common spaces to the unique amenities that make even the most seasoned traveler feel right at home.
Our arrival at The Wesley was seamless - they sent a code via email for the front door, and the owners left our room open with the keys hanging on the hook inside. Easy. They were available via email and text for questions, which we didn’t need because the information they provided via the digital welcome packet was so thorough.
It was just like having our own apartment in the city, complete with areas for community use: living rooms, a kitchenette with a full-size refrigerator and dishwasher, a pair of large outdoor hot tubs, a karaoke room, a fire pit in the front yard. It is modern hospitality at its finest. They’re adding additional features all the time, including a second hot tub, sun loungers, a gas grill and a “cowboy pool” for summer, so check back for updated details on their website when you book. You will find something hip and unconventional that they’ve added to the mix.
If the Wesley is booked, or if you have a more private retreat in mind - the Van Gogh Garden Suite at the Inn at Blackberry Creek is another great destination and has a completely different feel. Entry and exit are completely private through the side door, and check-in is seamless with a code provided via email that changes with each guest.
We never saw another guest in the entire time we stayed in this suite, and we liked it that way. Premium linens, satellite television, a well-appointed sitting room, a view of the garden and the absolutely enormous trees surrounding this stately historic home make for a true departure from the daily grind.
The suite has its own private hot tub on the patio, and is a classic B&B with thoughtful extras throughout your stay. We appreciated the date night basket upon our arrival, which came with their signature blackberry cheesecake and snacks that are perfect for staying in and enjoying with a bottle of local wine from your forays into town.
I especially liked getting to relax with a book in the hot tub with my cheesecake nearby. Before bed, though, be sure to make your selections for breakfast the next day and send them up to the front office. They have a selection of options for your quiche, which you’ll later discover is a really important task. Each one is unique, and equally fluffy, creamy and rich. You’ll find yourself craving them after your visit, like I am right now.
When you awake in the morning, you have an espresso maker with all of the bells and whistles to get your day started on the right foot. It even grinds your coffee just before brewing! They also have creamer for your perfect cup in the refrigerator, and a few extras like water and sodas, too. You have access to pots, pans, knives, plates, silverware and more in case you feel like heading to the Farmer’s Market or a local store to make dinner in as well. They really thought of everything.
Another worthwhile destination is Eritage Resort, which stood out to us as one of the most luxurious options for staying in Walla Walla. Everything that a guest sees and touches at this expertly-designed getaway in the heart of a vineyard is designed to elevate your experience to more than just a place to sleep. We were utterly spoiled by the staff and the environment here.
The brand new bungalows on Lake Sienna have a deck that overlooks the water and the vineyard, and it is the best place to put your feet up after a long, arduous day wine tasting. Their nightly turndown service is a sweet touch includes a special treat from the on-site restaurant (we especially loved the chocolates). Our bungalow suite had a fireplace that provided a relaxing ambiance as the sun went down. Tuck into your premium linens and enjoy a glorious night of sleep as you hear the frogs in the lake lull you into a solid evening of rest.
Wines Worth Trying in Walla Walla Wine Country
I had read that Rotie Cellars is a top Rhone-style winemaker in the region, and I was excited to find out why. Thanks to Discover Walla Walla, they invited me to be the first member of the press to access this gorgeous estate vineyard and was ecstatic to get a sneak-peek of what a sunset happy hour could look like.
The wines at Rotie are unique and highly sought after around the globe. In the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater in the Walla Walla Valley in northeastern Oregon, the AVA (wine region) derives its name from the rocky soils that underlie a region just north of the small town of Milton-Freewater, and it’s just a few minutes from downtown Walla Walla. It’s one of the most distinctive AVAs in the world for its signature funky earthiness from the minerals in the rocky soil. Trust me, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to try the wines from this area, so plan to make a detour to one of the many reputable vineyards in this area and get a sense of the terroir as you taste.
At Rotie, they craft Northern and Southern red and white blends, Grenache Blanc, Little G, Homage, Stonewall Rose, Tannat (which is a 100% Tannat varietal - a must-try) and a mix of special releases for specific times of the year. No matter when you visit, you’ll find some winners to take home and drink right away and options to cellar to develop for a distant special occasion that will take you right back to these dreamy rolling hills filled with vines and rocky soil.
The design is lots of concrete with floor-to-ceiling windows taking advantage of the views in the estate vineyard. The building is always cool on the lower level thanks to the concrete, and the architect chose darker colors to simulate going from the cool darkness and ascending into the warm light. Upstairs it has a panoramic view of the surrounding vineyards and mountains with outdoor patio spaces and a luxurious feel in every finish. They sprinkle recycled fir on the walls throughout the space, and it fills the air with the scent of freshly-cut wood and provides a cozy backdrop for the vines beyond.
Another Walla Walla wine legend, Dunham Cellars is a must-experience winery. In the Airport District and situated inside of an old WWII era hanger, the knowledgeable team fills it with as many stories as glasses of wine that they pour here daily. I was excited to get to take a personal tour through the winery and learn about the process from vine to bottle. Whether you are a seasoned wine aficionado or a casual sipper, getting to see the process in real life is a great way to better appreciate what is in your glass.