walla walla wine country

Walla Walla, Washington: Sunshine, Wine, and Batman

Four days in Walla Walla in July: A cute town with lots of shops and great restaurants, a Batman legacy, and more wine than you can shake a cork at.

 

Washington may be the Evergreen State, but half the state is not green at all. Eastern Washington is full of rolling hills, canyons, tumbleweeds, lakes, orchards, and wineries. As wine tasting is our favorite sport, we’ve explored quite a bit of it, but not all. I had been to Walla Walla once for a one night trip for the annual Onion Festival a few years back. It was a quick trip, and I was looking forward to seeing a bit more.

Every summer, hoards of Western Washingtonians pour over the Cascade mountain passes to Eastern Washington in search of sunshine. This was exactly our mission on this trip. We found a rental house with a pool on HomeAway, and our group of 8 friends was excited for a poolside holiday. Turns out, Walla Walla is a cute town that has a lot to offer. Come for the sunshine, but stay for the food, wine, and scenery.

 

 

Day 1: Roadtrip from Seattle to Walla Walla

Walla Walla is about a 4.5 hour drive from Seattle. We left Seattle on Wednesday morning at 9:00, after rush hour died down. I estimated our lunch pit stop time to be about when we were passing through Prosser, which ended up being correct. We stopped for lunch at the Horse Heaven Saloon in downtown Prosser.

But before we got to Prosser, there were dinosaurs in Granger.

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I’m all about a good roadside attraction. There isn’t a lot going on in Granger, which is probably why they created a dinosaur park to attract tourists. It’s worth a stop if you are into that sort of thing.

In Prosser, The Horse Heaven Saloon was small, dark, and delightfully air-condtioned.

horse heaven saloon prosser
Image from http://www.horseheavensaloonprosser.com/

The food was pretty damn good. Paddy and I shared the nachos, which came with a beer cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was really tasty and a nice change-up from traditional nacho cheese. The chips were house-made. The menu is mostly pub grub, but all done really well with a bit of extra creativity. Our friends enjoyed their burgers and sandwiches as well. We would recommend this lunch stop if you are passing through Prosser.

rolling hills near walla walla
Rolling hills outside of Walla Walla

Finally just outside of Walla Walla, we made one last stop at Woodward Canyon Winery, because we can’t help ourselves.

Woodward Canyon Winery, Walla Walla
Woodward Canyon Winery, Walla Walla

The host at Woodward Canyon gave us an overview of Walla Walla’s wineries, along with some restaurant recommendations. She suggested that if we only have limited time to wine taste during our visit, that we should go to the wineries on the south side of Walla Walla, as that area is the most scenic. Noted.

Woodward Canyon’s wines were a bit on the pricier side, but we did purchase a bottle of their less expensive “Pizza Wine,” a red blend with a whole lot of different types of grapes involved.

We finally met up with our friends in Walla Walla in the late afternoon. Our rental house was as described and the outdoor pool was as glorious as we had hoped. We spent the evening in the pool.

 

Day 2: Exploring Walla Walla: Shops, a historical museum, and Batman.

Here’s a little-known fact: Adam West, the star of the 1960’s Batman series, grew up in Walla Walla. The town of Walla Walla is so proud of this that they have an Adam West Day every year in September on Adam West’s birthday.

If you’re a Batman fan and can’t make it to Walla Walla on Adam West Day, don’t worry. You can visit a copious amount of Batman items and artifacts at the Kirkman House Museum. Paddy is a huge Batman fan, so this was a must see for us.

Kirkman House Museum
Kirkman House Museum

The Kirkman House Museum is a restored 1800’s mansion previously owned by the Kirkman family. We were given a guided tour by a very nice lady of the entire mansion and all its historical Kirkman family and 1800’s era artifacts. It was all very interesting, but the highlight was definitely the Batman room.

Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum
Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum. Shark repellent!
Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum
Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum

The climactic moment in the Batman room was when the statue next to the Bat Phone triggered the wall to the “Bat Cave” fire poles opened. Alas, there was no Bat Cave, but there was a good photo op with the poles and the Bat Phone.

Bat Phone at the Kirkman House Museum
Paddy on the Bat Phone at the Kirkman House Museum
Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum
Batman room at the Kirkman House Museum

If you are a Batman fan, or into historical museums, the Kirkman House is worth a stop. Open Wednesday through Saturday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Sunday 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Admission $7.00, cash preferred.

We spent another hour or two walking around downtown Walla Walla. There are many fun shops to explore with gifts, antiques, clothing, and toys. If you have a sweet tooth, Brights Candies is an old fashioned candy shop that has many kinds of candies and excellent fudge. The Hot Poop record store had a funny name and a large inventory, but their prices were a little outrageous. I did find a fun disco record there though.

Brights Candies, Walla Walla
Brights Candies, Walla Walla
Walla Walla
Bright colored shop in downtown Walla Walla

If you enjoy wine tasting, there is a tasting room in between almost every other shop in downtown Walla Walla. If you are staying in town and don’t want to worry about driving, this is probably the best place to wine taste that I’ve been in Washington. You can walk to all the tasting rooms and restaurants and taste as much wine as you want without having to worry about transportation. There are more tasting rooms for local regional wines than anyone could ever visit in a day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, because it was 95 degrees out, and because pool.

 

 

Day 3: Southside Vineyards and a delicious dinner

We were ready to taste some more wine, and see some grapes growing. For me, part of the fun is visiting the vineyard and seeing the actual grapes growing in the sun. Most vineyards allow picnics as they don’t serve food, so you can make an afternoon of it and enjoy the wine and the scenery. In addition, tasting rooms are a great place to chit chat with a local host and find out recommendations and info on the area.

We followed the advice of our host at Woodward Canyon and drove out to the south side. Our first stop was the Castillo de Feliciana vineyard, which is actually just over the Oregon border and not in Walla Walla. It is only a 15 minute drive from town.

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Castillo de Feliciana has a Spanish theme, from the tasting room architecture to the music to the grape varieties grown. It was a gorgeous vineyard, and the hosts told us to go sit out on the patio while they brought each tasting out to us. We sat and enjoyed the vineyard views of the countryside and Blue Mountains.

Views from Castillo de Feliciana patio
Views from Castillo de Feliciana patio

Our favorite wines were the Miercoles (“Wednesday”) red blend, the Rose of Tempranillo, and the 2015 Garnacha. We purchased a bottle of the Rose and the Garnacha. I think the tasting fee was $10 per person, waived with bottle purchase.

Castillo de Feliciana also serves sangria in the summer if you feel like spending some time and having a picnic. There are plenty of patio tables to picnic at, and the Spanish music piped outside really sets the mood. Bring some tapas and hang out for an hour or two with a glass of your favorite wine after the tasting.

We decided to go to one more vineyard, and chose Va Piano. Va Piano is an Italian style vineyard (we just went to Spain, why not go to Italy too?) in a cluster of many vineyards back over the Washington border.

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Va Piano had grapes growing almost right up to the front entrance of the building, frosty air conditioning in the tasting room, and a very friendly host. The tasting fees were higher here but the wines are high quality. Tasting fees are waived with purchase.

I am not normally a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but the Va Piano 2018 Sauvignon Blanc was my favorite white of the bunch, and a really nice refreshing summer wine. We ended up buying a bottle of the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2016 Syrah. We got a taste of the rich and smokey estate Syrah, which was not in our budget, unfortunately. It was really, really good though. We did not care for the Chardonnay here.

We had a picnic at the large, shaded table outside the tasting room, and our friendly host provided complimentary water.

grapes at va piano winery
Grapes growing at Va Piano Vineyard

If you are really into wine tasting at Walla Walla Valley vineyards and want to make a day of it, there are several tour and transportation options. You can join a tour for the day or hire a private tour driver for your group. I would recommend booking a few weeks in advance in the summer, especially for a weekend. Options can be found here: https://wallawalla.org/listing-category/wine-tours-transportation/

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, as it was 96 degrees and we’d had enough walking around in the heat for the day.

 

Later that evening, we went out for dinner. We only went out to eat once on this trip as we like to cook together at our rental house to save money (and a lot of us like to cook). However, there are a lot of great restaurant options in Walla Walla, and it took us a bit to narrow it down to one choice for our dinner out.

We opted for Hattaway’s on Alder, and were not disappointed.

Hattaways on Alder Walla Walla
Hattaways on Alder in downtown Walla Walla
Hattaways on Alder Walla Walla
Delicious cocktails at Hattaways on Alder in downtown Walla Walla

Everything was oustanding: the service, the cocktails, the food, and desserts. It was very difficult to decide on an entree. Our host at Va Piano vineyard told us that he was still thinking about the chicken and grits dish he had ad a week or so before. I also have a hard time saying no to a good duck breast. Paddy and I ended up both going with the grilled pork collar with smashed potatoes, black garlic crema, and charred tomato chimichurri. We shared the duck pate appetizer as a starter.

duck pate appetizer at Hattaways on Alder, Walla Walla
Duck pate appetizer at Hattaways on Alder, Walla Walla
Grilled pork collar at Hattaways on Alder, Walla Walla
Grilled pork collar at Hattaways on Alder, Walla Walla

The pork collar was very smokey, and the black garlic was a delicious compliment. The charred tomatoes added a nice acidic element to balance the heavy pork.

Our friends had a variety of dishes, and we covered close to everything on the menu. Everyone was very happy with what they ordered. Our friend who took our Va Piano host’s advice and ordered the chicken and grits dish was not disappointed.

Pan seared halibut cheeks at Hattaways on Alder, Walla Walla
Pan seared halibut cheeks with grits with tomato confit, manchego cream, and BBQ butter at Hattaways on Alder

A few other restaurants that we were interested in but did not get to try on this trip:

Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen

Soi 71 Noodle House

Brasserie Four

 

Day 4: Palouse Falls excursion

Our last full day in Walla Walla led us out of Walla Walla for the morning to Palouse Falls, an hour drive north of Walla Walla.

The drive to Palouse Falls from Walla Walla is through rolling hills of wheat fields. You can take a couple different roads from Walla Walla to get there. The most direct is highway 125/Lyons Ferry Road, which has a lot of windy twists and turns in the beginning. If you are prone to motion sickness, this might not be the best route for you. The other direct way is highway 12, connecting with the 261 in Lyons Ferry. The latter goes through a small town or two, and is longer but a bit less twisty.

We took highway 125/Lyons Ferry Road, which was pretty but did make me a little queasy, despite sitting in the front seat. The drive was only about an hour, and there was still plenty of parking available when we got there. We took highway 12 back.

*Note: Palouse Falls is a state park, which requires a Discover Pass to park there. There are no places to purchase a pass at the park, so buy an annual pass or day pass prior to your trip.

From the parking lot, walk down through the tiny campground to the cliff to view the falls.

Palouse Falls
Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls is beautiful, but dangerous. For more about our day trip to the falls and what to expect, read our full post here.

Snake River leading to Palouse Falls
Snake River leading to Palouse Falls
Palouse Falls trail
Palouse Falls trail

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, because pool.

 

 

Walla Walla was a fun summer trip. It is a nice town with great summer weather, fantastic restaurants, and our favorite spot in Washington State so far for wine tasting. There are many beautiful sights to see nearby and fun shops to explore in the town. There is far too much wine to taste in one trip, so Paddy and I will be going back on our own to pick up where we left off.

Walla Walla has several hotel options in the downtown area, and many AirBnb/Home Away rentals as well. Bonus if you can find a vacation rental with a pool!

 

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