written by Everett E. Cummings
It is this time of year when the brooding dark fruit, the languorous vanilla and the rich earthy notes of a holiday red wine awaken something in your dormant wanderlust and put the small wine warren of Walla Walla on your spring schedule. For most Oregonians, Walla Walla, in the southeastern corner of Washington, is far enough away to feel like a journey yet close enough to make a long weekend trip.
Early May each year, Walla Walla buzzes with lovers and wine lovers pouring into the tasting rooms downtown and driving out to the vineyards in the rolling hills as they climb up into the Blue Mountains to the east. The annual Spring Release weekend, May 6 through May 8, is one of the signature events for the town and one of the most intriguing for oenophiles anywhere.
In all, Walla Walla Valley has its own AVA, more than 120 wineries in the valley and more than thirty tasting rooms downtown. You can split the weekend into sipping in vineyards or swirling in downtown tasting rooms.
Barrel out to Kinhaven Winery for its luscious carménères or its light viogniers. If the weather is pleasant, sip wine outside under the modern lines of Kinhaven’s pergola or inside its cozy tasting room.
Make a point to visit Bledsoe Family Winery in its beautiful tasting room in downtown Walla Walla. The estate-grown cabernet, or Bledsoe’s new syrah or Oregon-grown pinot noir crafted by winemaker Josh McDaniels are, alone, worth the trip to Walla Walla.
If you prefer something more intimate for the weekend, book your lodging at Eritage Resort seven miles north of downtown and enjoy your own selections of wine from your patio as you overlook vineyards and the Blue Mountains in the distance. Oysters on the half shell and dandelion flower fritters are on the menu at Eritage’s restaurant. Inside your room is a fireplace and soaking tub for added relaxation and de-stressing.
The cool new place in town, The Finch, is a modern take on style and fun. Its spaces adorned in the artwork from local artists, The Finch blends well into Walla Walla but stands out as an exceptional place to stay when you’re in for the Spring Release.
The Walla Walla General Store is a great find itself. An unexpected shop of Simon Pearce glass, Thicket jewelry and Treuleben leather wallets and purses, the shop provides a good opportunity to get on your partner’s dance card for the weekend.
You may only be out to Walla Walla once a year, so make it special by dining at places such as Passatempo Taverna, Brasserie Four or Hattaway’s on Alder. All of these venues serve local wine and exceptional food from regional farms to get a little extra sense of terroir on your trip.
Bledsoe Family Winery
Hattaway’s on Alder
Walla Walla Spring Release