Walla Walla Wine Country

For many people traveling or at home, the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine heralds a compliment to a delicious meal, a relaxing conversation with friends, or a solitary contemplation of scenery. Experiencing the food and wine of a region is definitely an important part of travel.

Do you remember certain travel experiences because of the cuisine and beverages you experienced?

Walla Walla, Washington, and wine! Aside from the alliteration, the area provides a great environment for more than 100 wineries. Walla Walla sits in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in the southeastern corner of Washington State. Driving along Highway 12 as you travel east toward Walla Walla, you see beautiful structures perched on the gentle hills: these are wineries. You almost feel like you are in Italy.

Italian immigrants brought their wine-making tradition with them when they settled in the area beginning in the mid-1800s. Vines from these origins still exist in the valley today. The Walla Walla Valley has more than 1800 acres of grapes.

The native American name Walla Walla means “many waters.” The convergence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the moderate climate help create ideal conditions for raising grapes. The many waters flow down from the Blue Mountains to help provide irrigation.

In the town itself, there are nearly 30 tasting rooms. The city’s historic downtown is charming with up-scale restaurants, boutique shops, cafes and the tasting rooms. Beyond downtown, visitors will find beautifully kept historic homes. Streams wind through some of these neighborhoods.

The city has a rich and diverse arts scene with art studios, public sculptures, galleries, and theatres, and the longest continuously operating symphony west of the Mississippi River. The Walla Walla Foundry is well known for casting fine art in a variety of materials.

Recently, we tried one of the many wines produced in the area from the Canoe Ridge Vineyard. The label states that their estate vineyard was named because of comments made by explorers Lewis and Clark in 1805. As the story goes, the two adventurers were on the Columbia River and thought the nearby ridge looked like an overturned canoe.

The Cabernet Sauvignon we sampled is described by its maker with recognition of its environment, stating: “Our vineyard’s unique location gives this wine deep color in the glass which leads to aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, toffee and warm spice. In the mouth, our Cabernet Sauvignon is round and chewy, with an elegant structure, suggesting a great potential for aging.”

I’m not a wine expert, but this cabernet tasted really good!

Waterbrook is another Walla Walla winery in the Columbia Valley. Waterbrook was one of Walla Walla’s founding wineries. Its name is drawn from the Nez Perce Indian dialect for Walla Walla, meaning “flowing water.” Waterbrook describes one of their premiere wines: “Each year, our Melange Noir is the first wine that our winemaker John Freeman blends. This well crafted red wine blends Washington’s finest red varietals marrying the aromas and flavors of plum, black cherry and chocolate. This 100% barrel aged wine leads to a rounded palate and a lingering toasted oak finish.”

Well, I know I liked it! Maybe it was the chocolate influence!

Walla Walla offers a delightful opportunity for novices like me to learn about the wine-making industry and enjoy the fruits of the vine.

Consider a trip to Walla Walla Washington wine country for a very relaxed, laid-back experience. If you can’t get there in the near future, bring some wine from the Columbia Valley to your table!


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