The Wine Lover's Travel Guide to the Walla Walla Wine Region: Top Wineries, Hotels & Things To Do
Last Updated on August 20, 2023.
In a quiet corner of southeastern Washington State, the compact city of Walla Walla has been a darling among wine lovers for decades. The wine industry is a major driver of tourism in the area—the city is home to around 120 wineries along with a wide array of hotels and restaurants that cater to Winetravelers. The industry is so important here, in fact, that the local community college even offers associate degrees in enology and viticulture.
Walla Walla sits at the heart of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, home to nearly 3,000 acres of vineyards—some of which are in neighboring Oregon. The region is particularly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, though Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc are also well represented in the region.
While red rules supreme in this AVA, you’ll also find a handful of producers bringing out Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling.
If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll need to fly to one of the area’s airports and rent a car. Walla Walla has its own tiny regional airport (Airport Code: ALW), with regular connections to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.
The closest international airport is in Spokane, just under a 3-hour drive away. Alternatively, you can fly to Portland, Oregon (a 4-hour drive from Walla Walla) or Seattle (4.5 hours away). While you can experience much of Walla Walla on foot, and there are enough tasting rooms downtown alone to keep you busy, you’ll need a vehicle to really get a feel for the region and its vineyards.
If you don’t have a designated driver in your group, you’re best off joining a wine tour or hiring a driver for the day. Roads2 Travel offers private and completely customizable transportation. We recommend selecting some of the wineries below and booking the route with them for a day of your choosing.
Downtown alone has around 40 wineries & tasting rooms to choose from, most of which are on Main Street and on surrounding roads. Many of the city’s historic buildings have been revamped and now house wineries—popular options include Seven Hills Winery, one of the oldest in town, which is housed in a historic wood mill, and Elephant Seven, where visitors can taste Rhone varietals in a converted feed stable from 1905.
The Walla Walla Airport District is another great spot for winery hopping, with over two dozen wineries, cideries, distilleries, and breweries spread across a selection of World War II-era buildings in the northern part of town. Must-visits include Dunham Cellars, which occupies a refurbished airplane hangar, and Northstar Winery, where you can create your own unique wine by signing up for a blending experience. You’ll also find an ever-changing selection of fledgling wineries in the area that are participants in the Port of Walla Walla’s Winery Incubator Program.
There are plenty of options in the surrounding countryside, from Walla Walla Vinters in the eastern reaches of town to the Rotie Rocks Estate, just over the border in Oregon. You can even sample student-produced wine at College Cellars on the Walla Walla Community College campus.
Don’t leave town without paying a visit to Caprio Cellars, one of only a few wineries in Walla Walla with its own estate vineyards.
Winetraveler Tip: The tastings at Caprio are always free, although you’ll probably end up wanting to bring some of their fantastic Bordeaux blends home with you.
While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Pepper Bridge Winery, which features its own gravity-flow facility that uses the earth’s natural force to move grape juice and pulp to tanks and then on to the barrels, without the need for pumps. Pepper Bridge supplies grapes to Amavi Cellars nearby–if you want to rub shoulders with local winemakers, visit Amavi in the early evening, when they offer a happy hour with pizza, beer, and—of course—wine.
Situated in Walla Walla’s historic Pastime Café building, Passatempo Taverna offers an Italian-inspired dinner menu of antipasti and pasta along with pizza and steaks, with most of the ingredients sourced from local farms. The wine menu leans Italian, with a few Washington options for good measure, though this downtown spot is best known for its innovative cocktails.
Owned by Tom Maccarone, who grew up in Walla Walla, T.Macs has become a bit of an institution since it opened up its doors in 2005. Stop by for lunch or dinner to try one of the beautifully presented (and tasty) dishes on offer—and make sure to save room to try some of their celebrated desserts.
In the heart of the city center, the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center has been a Walla Walla landmark since it first opened back in 1928 and offers classic rooms within easy walking distance of restaurants and wineries. A few blocks away, The FINCH is a contemporary alternative, featuring midcentury-revival décor in a revamped old motel.
If you want to be in the heart of wine country, Cameo Heights Mansion in the nearby community of Touchet is a fantastic option, with classic, individually decorated suites with views out over the surrounding vineyards.
While it’s hard to argue that wine is Walla Walla’s biggest draw, there’s plenty to do in and around town for when you need a break from drinking.
If you’d like to learn about local history, stop by the Fort Walla Walla Museum, which features exhibits on everything from agriculture to Victorian-era fashion.
The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is also worth a visit–the on-site museum features displays and artifacts pertaining to the Indigenous Cayuse people of the area and missionary settlers who came to the region on the Oregon Trail.
While there are a few easy trails at the Whiteman Mission, travelers wanting to tackle a more strenuous hike will find no shortage of options in the nearby Umatilla National Forest.
All images in this guide courtesy Walla Walla Valley Wine & Richard Duval Images.
Written By Margot Bigg
Margot Bigg is a freelance writer and editor specializing in travel and culture. Her stories have appeared in publications around the world, including National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Rolling Stone, Lonely Planet, Afar, VegNews, Slate, Sunset, Robb Report, Roads & Kingdoms, VICE, The Times of India, and The Oregonian. She’s the author of Moon Living Abroad in India, Moon Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur, and Moon Spotlight Delhi and a co-author of Fodor’s Essential India, Fodor’s Oregon, Fodor’s Pacific Northwest, and Fodor’s Best Road Trips in the USA.