Walla Walla, wine wine, weekend weekend

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By Travis Mayfield

If you aren’t a total wine snob,  a trip to the Napa Valley can be intimidating. A wine weekend in Walla Walla however is truly accessible for anyone! We make the trek every year. Feel free to copy our itinerary or create your own. But no matter what you do enjoy yourself, meet new people and indulge!

Friday Midday: Sneak out of the office in Seattle by noon to ensure you beat bridge/freeway traffic. We go through Yakima, Tri-cities and on to Walla Walla. There are several wineries on the way into town. We usually stop at L’Ecole No 41 and Woodward Canyon. It takes about four hours to get into Walla Walla if you don’t stop too often.

Friday Evening: Settle into the house you rented for the weekend (use this website, prices range from $100-$500 per night. Usually we go with another couple and split a two bedroom for $200 a night). 

After you are unpacked and refreshed head into downtown for dinner at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen.  Be sure to make reservations in advance though because this place is packed Fri/Sat nights. We were there a few weekends ago and I ordered the Duck Raviolo and describing it as ‘divine’ wouldn’t be doing it justice.

Take your time at Saffron, enjoy the company, take recommendations from the staff and don’t hurry out. However once you are finished walk a couple of blocks to the Colville Street Patisserie for coffee and dessert. I’d say you’ll have to choose between the many flavors of gelato, the hand crafted pastries or the savory baked goods...but we didn’t we ordered one of each and shared amongst our group!

Once you are totally full you should roll back to the house, uncork one of the bottles of wine you bought earlier in the day, relax, plan which wineries you’ll visit tomorrow and enjoy some conversation or a good board/card game.

Saturday Morning: Wake up early and head to Clarette’s Restaurant for breakfast. It looks like a renovated Denny’s or Family Pancake House, but you’ll thank me for the recommendation. Order anything (and everything) but I must tell you the pumpkin pancakes I had were honestly a big part of one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in many years. The vanilla whipped cream and big fat sugar crystals all over those pumpkin pancakes really put them over the top.

Usually we divide up the wineries we want to visit geographically around Walla Walla. Last time we went just south of the city first. We hit (and recommend) Va Piano, Sleight of Hand and Beresan Winery.

Beresan can stack up with patrons, that’s why going early is recommended. Any Gonzaga graduates be sure to mention that at Va Piano, the owners are GU alum and if you went to Florence you’ll recognize all the Fr. Bruno art. The wine at Sleight of Hand is tasty, but the labels are true works of art. Enjoy all the details and be sure to ask about the inspiration for each.

Saturday Midday: Take a break from the wine tasting and sober up a bit with some lunch. There are a number of very good (and authentic) street taco trucks in Walla Wall. We highly recommend Taco Monarca. Order one of everything on the menu and you’ll thank me later. Be sure to add Walla Walla sweet onions! If you can’t find Taco Monarca ask any of the staff at the wineries you are visiting for their taco truck recommendations.

Saturday Afternoon: Hit another ‘region’ of the city. Walk around downtown or head out to the Walla Walla Airport where there are dozens of wineries packed in very tightly. If you stay downtown be sure to stop by the new Charles Smith Wines tasting room (I bought a ‘Boom Boom Syrah’ shirt and a case of the wine too). Also say hello to our friends at Rotie Cellars (we joined their wine club last time we were in town). If you head east of town my recommendations include K Vintners (the original home of Charles Smith Wines) and aMaurice Cellars.

Saturday Evening: Most tasting rooms close between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. This gives you plenty of time to make it leisurely back to the house for a power nap (after all that wine you’ll need it) and a Diet Coke. 

For dinner I recommend either Whitehouse-Crawford (white table linens) or Brasserie Four (think jeans and slip ons). Either way you’ll need advanced reservations. I really enjoyed Brasserie Four’s Copper River Salmon Tartar (but the season is short and the menu changes a regularly).

After dinner stroll the downtown city streets and look for live music venues if you are so inclined (there are many and they changed by the weekend so ask around).

Sunday Morning: You’ll probably need some coffee to get going. I am usually ready for a nice skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks by this point in the weekend so we stop by the Starbucks in the heart of downtown. This also gives you a chance to walk to any other wineries downtown you missed yesterday. But I’d recommend not sticking around much later than 11:00 a.m. You are probably a little tired and you have four hours in the car ahead of you.

Sunday Afternoon: To help break up the drive home here are a couple of (non-wine) places you can stop: 

               -Chukar Cherries factory in Prosser (they are liberal with the samples, so enjoy!)

               -The Dairgold Dairy Fair in Sunnyside (did someone say ice cream?)

Sunday Evening: Pull into your driveway, order pizza delivery, unpack the car and go to bed early.

Monday Morning: Brag about your amazing weekend to all of your co-workers!

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General Advice: Go late spring or fall. With the summer we’ve been having though, a hot weekend could be a nice change too.  Winter can be freezing (not to mention driving over the pass can be dangerous) thought beautiful. Check the Whitman College calendar to be assured you aren’t going on a big weekend for students/parents (unless you want to fight the crowds). Reserve your house and both night’s dinner locals at least 2 weeks in advance.

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