First in a three-part series
Even if you don’t live in Washington, you may be familiar with Walla Walla, they’re pretty famous…for their onions! Oh, those Walla Walla Sweets! Washington also happens to produce some world-class wine. Previously named one of the friendliest small towns in America by USA Today and Rand McNally, Walla Walla ranks as a top location for wine tasting. Lucky for us, Wine Country is only a short road trip away. Join us for the first in our three-part series for some of the best Walla Walla has to offer!
Planning your Experience
For those of us who don’t live in Walla Walla, the first step to any trip is, of course, the planning. Since wine tasting looks a little differently these days, you’ll want to spend more time on it than usual to ensure a good experience. Since we live close to Woodinville and the SODO Urbanworks Wineries, we focused mostly on vineyards and wine tasting rooms unique to the area.
Our top tips:
- Pick your wineries. For the best experience, you want to limit the number of tastings you do, three to four seems to be about right most people. If you decide to try too many, you won’t be able to discern the flavors or quality of the wine anymore. I am definitely guilty of planning too many tastings in a day, and also therefore buying wine I later regretted. Oops. Not this time!
- Make Reservations. Currently, many tasting rooms require reservations to ensure compliance with state-mandated capacity requirements and to have adequate spacing. As of this writing, tastings must happen outside, further limiting capacity, especially at smaller places. If you want to visit specific wineries, you will want to book in advance.
- Be courteous with your sit time. Some of the reservations will have a time limit such as a 45 or 60-minute visit. Due to covid restrictions, each table and area needs to be cleaned between guests. And of course with the reduced capacity, it’s just necessary so everyone gets to taste the amazing wines.
- Factor in travel time. When making your appointments, give yourself enough time to drive between vineyards, and definitely plan time for snacks and lunch.
- Buy wine. Normally we would say set a budget, and of course we always advocate staying within your means. That being said, the wineries, restaurants, and related businesses need support right now, so if you can, buy wine!
Overall, it took a bit of planning to puzzle together appointments, but we ended up with a fantastic itinerary! Keep reading to see where we tasted on the first day of our trip!
We timed our arrival in Walla Walla for a private tasting at Figgins Winery. We made our reservations as soon as we decided to go to Walla Walla, they book up fast! They confirmed our reservation and let us know how they’re handling tastings. After the previous group finished, the host greeted us at our car and invited us inside. FIGGINS, in the same family as the famed Leonetti Cellar, is an ambitious, single vineyard project. We loved the Estate Red and Figlia, which means “daughter” in Italian for winemaker Chris Figgins’ two daughters. We also tasted three wines from the Toil Oregon line, showcasing the Pinot Noir grape from the Willamette Valley. Fantastic, knowledgeable wine host RaeJean told us stories of the family history, and about the new tasting room to be built next year at the estate vineyard. As a professional pilot, I also happen to think it is pretty cool that Chris Figgins flies his taildragger to the vineyards!
A couple of years ago, I learned about Aluvé from a fellow Air Force C-17 Globemaster pilot and have been wanting to visit ever since! We were delighted to meet owners and winemakers JJ and Kelly Menozzi, both retired Air Force pilots (F-16 and KC-135 respectively). The Menozzi Estate Vineyard surrounds the tasting room providing beautiful scenery. Situated at a slightly higher elevation, the estate vineyard’s cooler climate produces balanced wines and the traditional winemaking style highlights the unique terroir. In addition to the great cabernet, estate blend and chardonnay, it was fun to see a Sangiovese Super Tuscan in the lineup! The Menozzis have created a magical winery, with incredible attention to detail. We loved everything from the beautiful tasting room and cellar perfect for winemakers dinners, to the colors in the labels, and the “fanciful combination” of Italian words to make “Aluvé” or “Winged Grape” in reference to their two loves, flying while serving our country and great wine. Their enthusiasm and energy make us want to move to Walla Walla and start a winery!
After we finished at Aluvé, it was still early, and we weren’t quite ready to head back to the VRBO. From my planning, I knew that Tranche was open later in the evening for glass or bottle pours, so we decided to check them out. I really wanted to try their rosé after hearing good things about it from our friends at Decanted Podcast (another great tip: listen to their podcasts on the drive to Walla Walla). When we arrived, we found beautiful sprawling grounds, perfect for an outdoor glass, or picnic. We ordered two glasses in reusable to-go cups and found our spot on the lawn to listen to live music. As expected, the rosé was fresh and delicious. Clear sunny skies, wine, and live music – the perfect way to close out the first day of our trip.
Whew! What a great first day of our trip to Walla Walla! Although it took a little more planning than normal, we loved FIGGINS, Aluvé, and Tranche! As things change so rapidly right now, we definitely suggest checking the wineries websites and social media to get the latest.
Follow us on social media and stay tuned for the next part in the series!