Top Wineries in Walla Walla
Walla Walla is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets. Named by USA Today as the Friendliest Small Town in America! In 2018, Travel & Leisure added Walla Walla to the list of 50 Places to Travel.
Located in the southeastern Washington valley, locals and newcomers love it here where there’s an average of 300 days of sunshine, over 300 species of birds, 140 wineries to visit, and dozens of trails to hike and bike.
The picturesque Blue Mountains with rolling hills, red barns, horses and the big skies surrounding this valley are breathtaking. Locals reach out and welcome you at every turn. Walking the historic Main Street takes you back in time. You feel a more relaxed pace of life.
We decided to find out for ourselves why there is so much buzz about this town. After three days in Walla Walla, we discovered the top wineries and places to stay and dine.
Here’s our list of favorites! Can’t wait to return and explore more of this beautiful region.
TOP WINERIES OF WALLA WALLA
Top Wineries in Walla Walla
The name Walla Walla means “many waters” which come from the rivers and aquifers that result in a bounty of agriculture produce.
Gary Figgins started planting grape vines at his family homestead in 1974 and established Leonetti Cellar as the first winery in this area, followed by Woodward Canyon in 1981, then L’Ecole No. 41 in 1983. Soon after, Walla Walla was designated as one of the first official wine appellations (AVA’s) in the Pacific Northwest.
By the early 2000’s, there were about 30 wineries, and today over 140 wineries.
Many winemakers believe “…the well-draining soils, long hours of sunshine, and cool evenings produce grapes of the highest quality.”
The top wineries are known for premium red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. However, many wineries in the area are branching out and producing a range of wines.
Our growing list of favorites below…
Good to note: be sure to check their websites for wine tasting times and events, since some of these wineries are private, by appointment only or don’t offer wine tastings.
Their elegant and balanced wines, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, come from their sustainably farmed Walla Walla Estate Vineyards.
We had a tour with Winemaker Jean-François Pellet who is a third-generation wine grower and has a passion for making world-class wine. Now, he is a partner at Pepper Bridge Winery, and shared with us, “Pepper Bridge Winery represents the pioneering spirit of the Walla Walla Valley. Owned and operated by three families – the McKibbens, the Goffs and the Pellets, the winery is a leader in quality winemaking, innovative technology and vineyard development. For over twenty years their hard work and dedication to the Walla Walla Valley has helped define it as one of the great wine regions of the world.”
is a small winery and family owned. The name Amavi signifies love (amor) and life (vita) through their wines, which are 100% estate, 100% Certified Sustainable, and 100% Walla Walla Valley. Their focus is to improve the land, and build up the soil’s health through sustainable farming on their estate vineyards: Les Collines, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Octave, Goff, and Summit View.
Don’t Miss! The Amavi wine tasting room extends to a terrace with sweeping views of the valley – very picturesque!
Ken and Ginger Harrison restored a century-old farmstead, working winery and estate vineyard located in the rolling foothills of Walla Walla’s Blue Mountains.
We met with Daniel Wampler, Head Winemaker who shared the story of Abeja which translates in Spanish to “bee”. He said “the name was chosen for its simple beauty and its reminder of times past when farming implied a respect for the environment and a close connection to the earth.” The 38-acre setting is idyllic with well-tended gardens, winding creeks, and scenic views.
Known for their excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Abeja wines are produced from Heather Hill and Mill Creek Vineyards as well as from the Columbia Valley.
Amy Figgins greeted us as we arrived to Leonetti Cellar at the family’s private winery. She told us the story of her family’s roots and how Leonetti became Walla Walla’s first commercial winery.
Amy is the great-granddaughter of Francesco and Rosa Leonetti who immigrated to the U.S.A. from Cosenza, Italy in the early 1900’s. The Leonettis moved to Walla Walla, bought 20-acres of land and transformed it into a bountiful farm. Fast forward to 1974, her father Gary Figgins, grandson of Franceso and Rosa, unloaded his ’67 Chevy pickup with a few hundred cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling bare root grapes that he planted on the Leonetti farm.
Amy shares “Building off the inspiration he gleaned from his grandfather’s bubbling fermentations in the dirt floor basement, the only logical thing to do to honor his family’s roots would be to name the winery Leonetti Cellar.”
Their wine mailing list is full, and many wait years to get on this list. Click here to get on the waiting list.
While on a backpacking trip in the Cascade Mountains, Nina Buty sketched out on a napkin her vision for Buty Winery. She founded Buty Winery in 2000, and has made exceptional wines from this blueprint — a Washington blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and a Sémillon-based blend that would include both Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
Nina draws upon her background in art and geology and plays a key role in developing Buty’s wines. She guides the Buty style during the evaluation and blending process for each new vintage. She works closely with Winemaker Chris Dowsett to create masterful blends and exceptional wines.
“Buty is a small, family winery,” says Nina. “My children play in the vineyards, and our growers and customers have become our friends. There is a wonderful flow and rhythm between life and work. With so few hard edges between the two, I try to be very aware of the interconnectedness of all the elements that contribute to Buty. All of the decisions that shape Buty are very intentional. Whether we are farming organically, creating wines using natural winemaking, or making decisions about pricing, we strive for balance and a sense of service and fairness.”
In 1995, Walla Walla Vintners was created by pioneering winemakers, Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson. It was the eighth winery in Walla Walla Valley, and within 20 years, Walla Walla Vintners became known for their traditionally crafted, elegant and age worthy wines. In 2016, the winery was honored as the “Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.”
A year later, Myles and Gordy retired and welcomed Scott Haladay as the new owner. Scott and Winemaker William vonMetzger are maintaining the traditions of a family run winery. The winery is located on a beautiful plateau below the Blue Mountains, a perfect setting for a tasting or two.
The 300-acre estate vineyard, Garrison Creek Cellars is owned and operated by the Murr family.
The property is in a pastoral setting with a high-tech winery located in a 60-ft rustic barn with massive Douglas-fir beams. Their gravity flow winery produces handcrafted wines in small lots. Each year Garrison Creek produces fewer than 1000 cases, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Visit their vineyards, winery and tasting room and you’ll be charmed!
Billo and Pinto Naravane quit their jobs in the tech industry and pursued their dream to produce ultra-premium, terroir-specific wines. In 2007, they founded Rasa Vineyards and made two wines: the 2007 Principia Reserve Syrah received a perfect rating from Review of WA Wines, and the 2007 QED received 94 points from Wine Spectator. They continue to produce world-class wines.
Each wine has a story with its own designer label and name. Don’t Miss! Ask Laurence Davidson, Tasting Room & Customer Relations Manager to tell you about Billo and Pinto’s story, and lead you through each tasting. He does a fabulous job!
Mark Ryan McNeilly is self-taught in the craft of wine making, and founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999.
His first vintages (Long Haul and Dead Horse) were crushed and pressed in friend’s garages, barrel aged in Seattle warehouses. In 2003, he settled in Woodinville and since then his winery has grown, earning acclaim from wine-lovers and critics.
His goal? Team with Winemaker Mike Macmorran and make delicious wines that represent the vineyard, making every vintage better than the last.
We met Muriel Kenyon of Otis Kenyon Wine, a family owned winery with deep historical ties dating back to the 1900’s in the Walla Walla Valley. They handcraft limited quantities of elegantly structured and affordable Bordeaux and Rhone varietal wines from their estate and other proven Walla Walla Valley vineyards.
Visit the tasting room and ask to hear the fascinating story of James Otis Kenyon, grandfather of Muriel, and how Otis Kenyon Wine came to be.
Sean Boyd is the Owner and Winemaker of Rôtie Cellars. He says, “the whole point of Rôtie Cellars is to make traditional Rhone Blends with Washington State fruit.”
Madeleine Richards told us at the tasting room, “After working his first harvest at Waters Winery in 2004, Sean learned the profession in multiple positions before stepping out on his own in 2007. The non-traditional background turned out to be a perfect fit—he’s a winemaker who really knows his soils. His philosophical approach is Old World and natural, and his fingerprints are on every step of the winemaking process. He believes great wine happens mostly in the vineyard, and that his main job is to stay out of nature’s way.”
For a not so ordinary wine tasting, you’ll want to visit El Corazon. Irreverent, fun and extraordinary experience! Megan, Tasting Room Manager, shared with us the story behind the wine, “In 2006, Spencer Sievers started his wine career buying 1,200 lbs of grapes and fermenting them in his apartment in Northwest Portland. With some experimentation and a passion for making terroir driven, fruit forward, vineyard and varietal specific wines, the El Corazon style was born. The next year, he moved back to Walla Walla. On his way to Kansas after El Corazon’s first crush, it hit Spencer (randomly, driving through a tunnel) to follow his heart. He picked up the phone and said to Raul, “El Corazon!” Raul said “Jefe, it’s 2AM, call me tomorrow,” and hung up. The next day, it all began.”
WHERE TO STAY?
Here are some great places to stay as you visit Top Wineries in Walla Walla Washington!
The Inn at Blackberry Creek is charming! Once a Victorian Farmhouse built in 1906, the Inn has been restored to its original beauty.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed with complimentary freshly baked cookies, snacks, tea, cider, cocoa.
We felt at home and enjoyed afternoons with a cup of tea in the parlor, playing backgammon in the upstairs alcove, and reading on the front porch.
There are three private guest rooms located inside the Inn (one with a private hot tub), and one private suite with separate entrance and a private hot tub for two. Each room has a king-sized bed with comforters, luxury linens, and decorative antique furnishings. There are modern conveniences in each room with mini-refrigerators and a flat screen TV, DVD/VCR.
Morning at the Inn at Blackberry Creek begins with the smell of fresh baked pastries. Fresh ground crème coffee and a hearty breakfast served menu style is served.
The two acres property is lovingly manicured with a rolling front lawn, tall shady trees, gardens and a creek, where you can bird watch or pick wild blackberries when in season.
We loved its country setting and close proximity (only 1 ¾ miles) to downtown. Easy to reach historic parks, shops, and award-winning wineries — 70 wineries are within a 5 mile radius of the Inn!
Find recipes used at Inn at Blackberry Creek at this link, click here.
51 East Main offers five well-appointed apartments in the 1890 Whiteside Building. These luxury condos are spacious with full kitchens, spa bathrooms and bedrooms. Ideally located in the heart of downtown Walla Walla on historic Main St.
We stayed in the Homeroom Suite decorated in warm colors. The Homeroom Suite has one bedroom with a king-size bed, one queen-sized sleeper sofa, and one bathroom and accommodates up to 4 guests.
There is a fully equipped contemporary kitchen with oak floors and green granite countertops, a dining room, cozy electric fireplace in the living room perfect for gathering and watching TV/movies on the flat-screen television. The spa bathroom has a large walk-in shower, white subway tiles and a marble sink.
Spacious, clean and central to tasting rooms & restaurants & shops!
WHERE TO DINE?
There are lots of great places to eat amongst the Top Wineries Walla Walla.
TMACS is at the top of our list! TMACS is a downtown hot spot with modern interior seating, a full bar, and patio. Proprietor Tom Maccarone has a passion for delighting customers with artfully presented plates that are delicious. TMACS offers a range of cuisine from house-made pastas, savory meat and seafood dishes, using the freshest of local produce.
Photo courtesy of TMACS
Every dish presented to us, we savored. Highly recommend: Indonesian Ribs with chili, coconut, peanut, micro greens, citrus & the Pappardelle Bolognese with milk-braised beef & pork ragu, fresh thyme, parmesan
If you’re craving authentic Mexican food… guacamole, a righteous taco and wicked margarita, you’ll want to stop here for a bite. Some of the best handmade corn tortillas I’ve ever had!
If you don’t have a long time to grab a bite, swing by Graze for house-cured pastrami, paninis, homemade soups, artisan sandwiches, fresh salads.
Get a picnic at Cugini Deli – great selection of cheeses and deli meats.
If you’re in town on a Saturday, stop by and visit the local Farmer’s Market at Fourth and Main. Be sure to stop at the Baa Baa cheese stand for a tasting!
How to Get Around?
Contact Ray Culbreth at Dvine Wine Tour to give you a wine tasting tour.
Tra Vigne: Visit this store at 115 East Main St. filled with antiques and wine barrel furniture and buy a memorable lazy susan for your dining table – made from a wine barrel!
Plan Your Trip!
Helpful sites to plan your trip to Walla Walla:
Events – Find out what’s happening in Walla Walla:
Global Adventuress thanks everyone in this article for wonderful Walla Walla hospitality and hosting us during our stay.