In the last decade the fame of Washington’s Walla Walla region as a viable American wine destination has boomed in grand style. Of its 100 or so current wineries, many have been awarded international accolades for their unique-tasting reds and whites, while others have been hailed as an all-new breed of vineyard that’s set to take the traditional image of wine tasting by storm. Today, the region is best known for its cabernet sauvignon and merlot reds, while the loess-heavy soils and lengthy growing season have made it a favored spot for a whole range of other varieties, from syrah to chardonnay. This pick of the five best wineries within reach of Walla Walla town includes some of the region’s best-loved and most accomplished establishments.
One thing’s for sure, this is a winery with a difference. Void of all the usual stiff-upper-lip etiquette and typical quietude of wine tourism, the owners here are loud and proud, with a blaring record player and a super sociable vibe to accompany the tasting. The wines aren’t bad too, and Sleight of Hand is oft-touted as one of the up-and-coming gems of winemaking in Walla Walla (that is, despite having only started in 2007!). Be sure to try the winery’s flagship label, the Archimage red, along with the slightly unusual Black Circle cabernet sauvignon.
As one of the pioneers of winemaking in the Walla Walla region, L’Ecole no 41 remains a staple of the tasting tour here. The current generation of brewers carry with them more than 30 years’ experience in the craft and pride themselves on sustainable farming practices that capitalize on the unique terroir of the Columbia Valley. The various reds and whites produced here have also received countless accolades from industry-leading critics, including regular inclusions on the prestigious Wine & Spirits top 100 list.
This sustainable and small-batch winery enjoys a beautiful location on the hills of the Walla Walla River banks near the gushing Yellowhawk Creek. It’s famed for its bespoke and luxurious amenities, and guests staying here will enjoy the use of an outdoor swimming pool and stylish bar, along with a dedicated tasting room that’s open from 10am every day. Of the wines, it’s the merlot and malbec reds that are perhaps the most-coveted, while Basel Cellars also produces a number of claret and cabernet varieties.
Garrison Creek remains one of Walla Walla’s most specialized wineries, using the meticulous technology of gravity flow to produce reds and whites that are largely untouched by the hands of modern machinery. In terms of output this means only around 1,000 cases are produced each year here, while each individual bottle is hailed for its carefully crafted flavor and terroir-driven finish. On-site, guests enjoy regular tours of the beautiful brewing house, along with magnificent panoramas of the nearby Blue Mountains.
The vineyards of the aMaurice winery take advantage of the unique air flows and soil compositions of the higher Walla Walla Valley to slow ripen grapes in way that can only be done on the hillsides near Mill Creek. This makes for a series of unique tasting wines, from the full-bodied malbec to the light and fluffy viognier red. That said, visitors here should not expect any of the bells and whistles of a luxurious winery, because they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead, the stoic tasting room and simple service indicates that aMaurice is all about the wine!