This appellation crosses the border into Oregon in the southwest corner of the state. Walla Walla Valley’s winemaking capacity is starting to rev up. More than 24,000 acres are now on line and an additional 2,300 is expected to be cultivated the summer of 2000. This boom is bringing tourism to the area to accommodate upscale wine visitors. The town’s first luxury hotel in 50 years is coming on line soon. The Whitman Towers will feature 200 guest rooms and a high-end restaurant.
This area generates many of Washington's best Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons, some of which can be tasted on casual tours at Canoe RidgeVineyard (509-527-0885). This boutique winery is located in Walla Walla's historic Engine House - built in 1905 as a garage and maintenance facility for the town's streetcar and interurban train system. The building's brick walls and 18-foot-high ceilings provide the ideal environment for producing and aging wines, as well as a unique wine tasting room.
A few miles west in Lowden is the L'Ecole No 41 Winery, originally a schoolhouse built in 1915 in Walla Walla's Frenchtown district. This winery's label - a watercolor depicting the schoolhouse - was designed in 1984 by the founders' eight-year-old cousin after a contest was opened to all relatives under grade six. (A ironic note: the winner, Ryan Campbell, is now becoming an architect). Wine tastings and tours of the schoolhosue, where vintage books still adorn the original library, are available by calling 509-525-0940 or visiting www.lecole.com.
Newcomers Cayuse Vineyards (509-526-0686, www.cayusevineyards.com) and Waterbrook Winery(509-522-1262, www.waterbrook.com) have opened tasting rooms in town, and Seven Hills Winery(formerly of Oregon, 877-777-7870, www.sevenhillswinery.com) will soon occupy Walla Walla's newly restored Whitehouse-Crawford building in the heart of downtown.
Locals suggest...The skies over Walla Walla turn brillian shades of red, green, blue and yellow every May when the Hot Air Balloon Stampede takes off. Nine local wineries open their houses for tours and wine tastings. Other event activities include ethnic dancing, local cuisine, arts and crafts and more. Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce, 509-525-0850,