Walla Walla is an exciting community with a solid connection to education, agriculture, and wine. I was one of the four guests on a FAM tour following the Tri-Cities Washington Tbex conference. Both our hosts, Daylan Gibbard from Visit Walla Walla and Guy Glaeser of InquisiTours, curated a two and half-day deep to savor Walla Walla Wine Country and the surrounding areas.
Starting off with a Pop!
We hiked up to the Twin Sisters rock overlook to see the Wallula Gap National Natural Treasure overlooking the Columbia River. The gap is a natural gap in the Columbia River. The vista was spectacular. We popped a cork of bubbly to celebrate the beginning of our journey through the region. As we drove toward Walla Walla, Guy had us thoroughly immersed in the history of the area.
Wine lover’s paradise
Previous trips had introduced me to Washington wine, but I was ready for more wine tasting after spending time in the Tri-Cities. Walla Walla is an enormous wine region boasting some 120 vineyards in the immediate area. It is indeed a wine lover’s paradise.
This lovely winery served as our introduction to Walla Walla’s wine culture. After a glass of wine, our small group toured the production facility. We even had a taste of the wine direct from the tank. Hospitality will overwhelm you here, not to mention the wide range of wines enjoy.
That’s not something you do on every wine tour. The bright afternoon and scrumptious lunch prepared us for our introduction to Walla Walla’s wine industry.
It was a busy Friday afternoon in downtown Walla Walla when we stopped in at Bergevin Lane for a quick wine tasting and charcuterie board. The place was alive with female volleyball players in town for a match. Meeting Annette Bergevin was a treat. She is the 7th generation of winemakers. Her family history in the Walla Walla wine valley goes back to the early 1900s. This small tasting room is well worth a visit.
Castillo de Feliciana
We ended our visit to Walla Walla at Castillo de Feliciana. The spectacular views from the terrace will make you believe you are in Spain, but it’s really Oregon. It was the perfect end to a brilliant day learning about Walla Walla’s wine. The family-style dinner was apropos for this family-run winery. The food was delicious and simple. Winemaker Christopher Castillo, his wife Emily, and his father, Sam Castillo, shared the table. The wine was exceptional, and sharing stories around the table made for an outstanding evening.
Walla Walla Food
Marcus Whitman Hotel Chef’s Table
Dinner at the Marc was my first experience at a Chef’s table. Chef Grant Hinderliter prepared us a delightful meal. We witnessed how a kitchen performs during dinner service as a well-orchestrated concert. Chef gave us the details of each dish and where the local ingredients were sourced. Smoking the salmon appetizer created a smoky haze for the table, and the flavor it imparted to the salmon was incredible. Chef also brought out the nitrogen to freeze the sorbet. The cheesecake for dessert was delicious. Local wine made the dinner even more special. If you have an opportunity to experience a Chef’s table, do it, it is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Lunch….at the Airport?
Walla Walla’s Runway District is more than just an airport. The Runway District is designed and sponsored by the city for new small businesses, including restaurants, wine tasting rooms, craft beer, and even a brandy distillery. It served as a military base back in the 1940s. We had the pleasure of meeting Chris Wollum, the master distiller at Walla Walla Brandy. The distillery is housed in the old Officer’s club of the former military base.
During our lunch at Runway Market, we had the pleasure of meeting Alyssa Neumann from Blue Mountain Land Trust and Gwen Dildine from Outside Walla Walla. They both promote outdoor Washington. The Blue Mountain Land Trust is a conservation organization that encompasses eleven counties that is about the size of West Virginia. Outside Walla Walla promotes many outdoor adventures for locals and visitors.
Bacon and Eggs
On our final day, we made our way to breakfast at Bacon and Eggs on Main street. Of course, I had to try ’em along with a biscuit. Everyone enjoyed their hardy meals. The banana bread was a treat. It was a busy spot on a Sunday morning, but the name says it all.
As we finished our Walla Walla wine adventure, our guide, Guy, arranged an al fresco light lunch for our quartet of travelers on a lovely Sunday afternoon at the Sacajawea State Park. It was a glorious day beside the Columbia River.
Education and Arts and Crafts in Walla Walla
We walked off our Waterbrook lunch, touring the grounds of Whitman College to learn about the school and view some of the unique art installations on the campus. The sculptures are located throughout the campus of the school.
Arts and Crafts
A tour of Arts and Crafts in downtown Walla Walla included the Combine Art Collective at the Showroom on Colville and Cotton Wool. Artisans are a mainstay of the downtown community. At the Combine Art Collective, we met one of the artists featured in the small gallery. The combine shares space with other stores and eateries.
We met weaver Kim Nemeth at The Cotton Wool. Kim’s beautiful woven creations were on display. There we also met woodworker Zac Merten and admired his uniquely intricate wood creations.
I found an art installation on the 2nd floor of the Marcus Whitman hotel. A series of paintings tells the story of the Whitman Mission experience.
Outdoor Walla Walla
Early Saturday morning, we joined Andy Zissermann of Kickstand Tours for an electric bike ride to Pioneer Park for breakfast with Fat Rolls, a local bakery. Melissa Stroe’s quiche, scones, and cinnamon rolls were delicious and just what was needed on a crisp morning after burning some calories. We peddled around the park, the small aviary, and back through town. The ride changed my mind about electric bikes. I might just be inclined to purchase one when I get home.
We hopped off the bikes and back in the van to drive to Bennington Lake for a birding walk with Dr. Bruce Braga, a member of the local Audubon society and a keen birder. Bennington is a 50-acre manmade lake just outside of Walla Walla. Mid-morning found us sharing the lake with boaters, hikers, and birds. Barga spotted several species for us, including an owl’s nest. Interesting that the area flooded in 2020. We could still see the flood water marks some 20 feet up in the trees. That must have been a sight.
Frog Hollow Farm
We stopped at Frog Hallow Farm and headed back to Kennewick for Sunday afternoon departures. The farm is known for its Heirloom tomatoes, and on this Sunday morning, it was busy with customers. I found the tomato plants in the greenhouse. The small staff was preparing for the upcoming yearly plant sale, which is always a huge success.
Fort Walla Walla Museum
Fort Walla Walla Museum sits adjacent to the National Cemetery and VA hospital. Groover Snell gave us a tour of the museum and pioneer village. The Lewis and Clark expedition plays a significant role in the area’s story, as does the area’s agriculture. The museum is much larger than expected, with five sizable galleries. The pioneer settlement buildings tell visitors a wealth of stories.
The Oregon Trial at the Whitman Mission
The Oregon Trail ran through the Walla Walla Valley and ended in Oregon City, Oregon. The Whitman Mission National Historic Site tells the story of Marcus Whitman and his contribution to the success of the Oregon Trail.
The Sacajawea State Park relates the story of Sacajawea and her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition. The truth circles that have been created in the area relate information about the Lewis and Clark era and are a unique feature of the park.
Two and half days is not enough time to see all that Walla Walla has to offer visitors. Its wealth of viniculture deserves time to be savored like good wine. InquisTours provided our group with an in-depth look into Walla Walla wine culture. They have many customizable tours available in the Northwest. Want to learn about more wine destinations, search wine at Roadrunner Journeys.com.