From the elegant lobby of the Marcus Whitman Hotel to the downtown streets filled with tasting rooms and eateries, Walla Walla is a perfect Pacific Northwest weekend getaway. Since our first trip to Walla Walla a few years ago, we have continuously talked about returning for the wine, the weather and the golf. We finally made the trip this fall when the Wine Bloggers Conference #WBC18 returned to Walla Walla. The Blogger’s Conference brings together nearly 300 bloggers whose focus is on wine and wine related topics. This was WBC’s second visit to Walla Walla, what a great choice!
On our first visit, we were surprised that this little town was home to so many tasting rooms and even more surprised at the variety and quality of the restaurants. We reminisced fondly of the best burger my husband had ever eaten and another meal that left us simply swooning. Our golf experience a Wine Valley Golf Club and the tasting rooms surrounding the city were another reason we couldn’t wait to return.
Getting there is half the fun
Getting to Walla Walla is part of its charm. We live in Oregon so driving was a no-brainer. The drive was breathtaking as we meandered along the Columbia River for a major portion of the trip. Others flew to Portland or Seattle and then onto the Tri-Cities area airport, but driving is by far the best way to see this beautiful part of the country. There are strategic stops along the way beginning with an overnight stay in Portland. We’ll save that for another post. Our next stop was lunch in Hood River.
Hood River is a year round destination for people who love the outdoors and craft breweries. There are breweries galore including the most famous, Full Sail. We have eaten at Full Sail many times. This visit we chose to revisit a brew pub at the top of Hood River that gave us a glorious view of the town and the river. Lunch at Big Horse Brew Pub was terrific, the beer was excellent. The beet salad was full of rich, earthy flavors and the burger lived up to its hype.
Following lunch and after a short walk around town, we headed to our destination. Long before you arrive in Walla Walla, wineries begin to pop up everywhere. On both the Oregon and Washington side of the Columbia River, you will spot some of the most famous wineries as well as small, boutique labels. High on the hill is Chateau St. Michelle, welcoming us to some of the most abundant grape growing land in the country. Our anticipation was heightened with each winery that marked the countryside. Along with the wineries, the landscape is dotted with turbines, an amazing image that helps highlight the Pacific Northwest’s commitment to conservation.
We were so excited to be back in Walla Walla and could not wait to check in and start walking around the beautiful downtown. It is a wine lover’s dream come true. Tasting room after tasting room line the streets, separated only by an occasional restaurant or shop. The conference we attended gave us the opportunity to taste many of the wines served in these tasting rooms so we browsed the town’s other offerings to get familiar with the array of options for our readers.
Our first dinner in Walla Walla was a return visit to TMac’s. This is one of those restaurants that provides a exceptional dining experience and a great meal. Our server was a student of wine so our conversation centered around our purpose for being back in Walla Walla as well as his own recommendations for wine pairings. Our dinner was exceptional, from start to finish. Neal’s filet was perfectly prepared and I could not have hoped for better scallops, served artfully with perfectly flavored cous cous. This is a dining experience we will remember and look forward to revisiting each time we visit Walla Walla.
After a lovely breakfast included with our stay at the Marcus Whitman, we checked in for the conference. The opening reception was not until later in the evening so golf was the order of the day. It was colder and windier than we hoped it would be, but nothing was going to stop us from a round at Wine Valley. Oh my… what was cold and windy in town was nothing short of brutal on the course. Bundled up in a warmest gear, we hit the links. Our previous visit had been one of our favorite golf experiences, this one was memorable for a very different reason. It simply beat us up. As time passes, we can look back fondly, but not that day. We were just happy to be done.
Later that day, we returned to Red Monkey, where Neal fondly reminisced about the best burger he had ever eaten. The burger did not disappoint. This is a no-frills sports bar that serves up great bar food, burgers seasoned with “monkey seasoning” and fries cooked just right.
With all the golf and eating behind us, we dove into the conference for the next two days, tasting local wines that were served with pride of terroir that was evident in every pour, every description and every story we heard from winemakers, winery owners and staff. It was our honor to be among these craftsmen and women for whom wine is more than a business, it is a life’s passion and commitment.
If weekend travel and wine are among your pleasures, Walla Walla is a great destination. It’s a beautiful drive, a welcoming community and a perfect way to spend a weekend, anytime of year. For more information, contact Daylan Gibbard at [email protected] or (509) 730-7766