Fall Wine

Washington Wine Levels Up

An escape to wine country never looked so good.

By Sean P. Sullivan, Allecia Vermillion, and Allison Williams Photography by Brooke Fitts and Amber Fouts October 10, 2022 Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Wine sampling breaks out of the tasting room at Kinhaven Winery.

East and west, Washington’s epicenters of great wine are in the throes of change. These days a getaway can mean an afternoon in an entirely new neighborhood of Woodinville, or a long weekend of tasting menus and sleeping off that buzz at a well-appointed resort in Walla Walla. The trappings may get fancier, but as ever, the wine remains central.

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Fun Walla Walla Tasting Rooms / Oenophile Walla Walla Tasting Rooms
Local Bottles We Loved This Year

Further Reading

Deep dives into Washington wine country.

Walla Walla

Tasting Rooms: The Best Hangs

These wineries set the table—or patio lounger by the firepit—for visits as scenic as they are tannic.

Valdemar Estates brings a dash of old-world flavor to Washington.

Valdemar Estates

Though they’ve been in Walla Walla since only 2019, Spain’s Valdemar family traces its Rioja winemaking back more than a century. Here a 58-foot-wide water wall forms the backbone of an extensive patio. Inside, inclusive measures mean QR codes linked to sign language videos, wheelchair accessibility at every table, and menus written with neurodivergent readers in mind. 

Caprio Cellars

Plenty of wineries face the undulating Blue Mountains east of Walla Walla, but a 360-degree patio at this estate producer also delivers vistas west, almost to the Tri-Cities. Tastings and accompanying seasonal bites are both complimentary, with winery dogs Rosco and Roxy patrolling around firepits indoors and out.

Rôtie Cellars

A mound of stones out front is a fitting welcome to the Rocks District AVA in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, just south of the Washington border. Behind a short bar in an angular tasting room designed by Seattle architect George Suyama, Rôtie staffers pour signature blends with unmistakable Rocks flavors.

Foundry Vineyards

Nearly 20 years after creating an art-making foundry in Walla Walla, Mark and Patty Anderson added a winery to the mix, turning a downtown space into equal parts sculpture park and tasting room. Attendants serve a slate of mostly organic wines and pet-nats in a courtyard ringed with abstract and whimsical artwork.

Tranche Estate 

So far out in the foothills it feels like the French countryside, Tranche boasts patio seating and a firepit beneath a shady grove—a welcome sight after vineyard fatigue sets in. Family-friendly free music performances liven weekend nights April through December, and tasters can add an ATV property tour. —Allison Williams

Walla Walla

Tasting Rooms: The Best Pours

Ready to geek out on Washington wine culture? Here’s where to sample the full breadth of its abilities.

Grosgrain Vineyards widens the wine spectrum.

Grosgrain Vineyards

Winemaker Matt Austin will blow your mind with a sparking pet-nat made with underdog lemberger grapes, then present a grenache that whispers of Rocks terroir, while most wines from that AVA are more of a full-volume bellow. The tasting room’s a study in bohemian chic, but the bottles offer proof of how much Washington wine has evolved. 

Lawrelin Wine Cellars

Veteran winemaker Kendall Mix might pour a four-year vertical of his own cabernet or syrah—something you’d expect to find in the private room of a steak house, not a trim tasting room in the heart of Walla Walla’s downtown. But Lawrelin releases its bottles after an astonishing 10 (or more) years of cellaring. Here, every wine is a library wine. 

Woodward Canyon

Some of the valley’s founding wineries don’t do tastings. This cabernet titan, founded in 1981, is a glorious exception. The property’s reserve house samples its current releases, plus the occasional estate pour. It’s the easiest entree into one of the first-generation winemakers who put Walla Walla on the map—and the garden outside welcomes picnics. 

Itä Wines 

Five incubator wineries sit on airport grounds; their occupants hone the leading edge of what this region can do. In her tiny berth’s tasting room, winemaker Kelsey Albro Itämeri might pour a Walla Walla Valley pinot noir, as well as side-by-side tastes of 2020 sémillon made with the same grapes—one aged in oak, the other in stainless steel.

Now incubating: our next big names. 

Doubleback Winery

Sure, Drew Bledsoe brings “local boy turned NFL quarterback” star power to the winery he founded with his wife, Maura. But fame aside, Doubleback’s wine showcases the best of Washington’s third-wave cabernets, exceptional bottles that originate in four estate vineyards. Winemaker Josh McDaniels is firmly on the valley’s vanguard. —Allecia Vermillion

Talking Points

10 Local Bottles with a Bit of Backstory

Remember dinner parties? Gift your host a bottle with some built-in wine knowledge.


Devison Vintners 2021 Sauvignon Blanc $28

This is the best sauv blanc to ever come out of Washington. Peter Devison’s approach involves puckering acidity, outrageous minerality, and a mouthful of tart citrus and tropical fruit flavors. 

Smak Wines 2021 Autumn Rosé $20

Fiona Mak’s airport incubator winery makes nothing but rosé. Smak fashions a bottle to reflect each season, tweaking the varietals and fermentation methods accordingly.  

Savage Grace Wines 2019 Cabernet Franc Pollard Vineyard $40

Winemaker Michael Savage loves to flout every stereotype of Washington wine, creating low-alcohol, low-oak, low-intervention, single-vineyard wines with a voice. Cabernet franc is his muse. 

Board Track Racer 2020 The Shift $26

Mark Ryan Winery’s been planting new vineyards destined for its top-tier labels. While those vines mature, they’re used for the winemaker’s entry-level project. For now at least, that means full-throttle wines at low-gear prices. 

DeLille Métier 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon $30

Finding truly great Washington cabernet for $30 can be a challenge. But after 30 years of unerring quality and consistency, it’s safe to consider DeLille a standard-bearer for the region.

L’Ecole N° 41 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon $32

The label is memorable, with its picture of the historic schoolhouse where the winery is headquartered. But it’s not just window dressing: This Walla Walla stalwart always (over-) delivers on cabernet goodness. 

Two Vintners 2018 Syrah $25

Most winemakers try to source syrah from a single vineyard—maybe two. Then there’s Morgan Lee, who assembles grapes from a disparate cast of top sites across the Columbia Valley. Offering this supergroup syrah for just $25 is a total flex. 

La Dive House Orange Wine $21

Ferment white wine grapes with their skins—as you do when making a red—and you’ve got orange wine, the indisputable top seller at La Dive. The Capitol Hill wine bar imports its own private (and pretty) label from small makers in Europe.

Hoquetus Wine Co. 2020 Syrah $50

Winemaker Robert Gomez used to play guitar with a traveling circus. Now he makes melodic wine in Walla Walla Airport’s incubator program. Bottles stand out thanks to labels by artist Cameron Cox. 

Estate Syrah $42

Mineral-rich syrah from the valley has earned lofty reviews, but not everyone is convinced...yet. This is 750ml of certainty, with notes of violets, gravel, and blueberry. —Allecia Vermillion and Sean P. Sullivan

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