Top 10 Wine Tour Tips for Walla Walla Wineries

With over 60 wineries vying for your attention, and your dollars, you know you can’t attend a wine-tasting weekend in Walla Walla without a plan. I’m here to help. These 10 tips can help you prepare for a weekend you won’t forget.

1. Get a map. While Walla Walla isn’t a large town, the wineries are spread out over a large distance, and some are not easily marked. You can get a map by contacting the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce at 509-525-0850.

2. Pick only 10 wineries to visit, per day. After about 5 wineries, the palette needs a rest, which leaves you with one good session in the morning and one in the afternoon. If you need help choosing which winery to visit, consider visiting the Walla Walla Wine Alliance Web site at www.wallawallawine.com.

3. Skip the newer wineries. This is only my opinion, of course, but I feel that many new wineries often rush to sell their wines before they have aged as well as they might. This means tastings can be bitter, acidic, sulfite-laden affairs that can wreck your palette. It’s best to skip the grand-opening weekends.

4. If you have a winery you particularly like, or a winery that produces a type of wine that you particularly like, visit that winery first. You might be tempted to place this winery last on your touring list, to end the day on a good note, but this rarely works out well as your palette is much more forgiving at the end of the day than the beginning. Why waste a good wine on a wrecked palette?

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5. Eat a good breakfast. A wine tasting trip can quickly become a drunken spree if you don’t eat a good meal before you head out the door. Try Clarette’s on 15 S. Touchet, near Whitman College and the Travelodge. The lines can be long, though, so make sure to go early.

6. Don’t be afraid to spit. It’s true that professional winemakers often spit out mouthfuls of wine during tastings. Don’t feel that you have to swallow everything you’re given in order to be polite. You’ll only wreck your ability to discern truly good wine.

7. Break for lunch. Yes, you’ll be nibbling on crackers and bread and cheese while you’re touring, but man cannot live by bread alone, and your feet and legs need a break if you’re going to hit those five wineries in the afternoon. Sit down for a salad and some water. Try Merchant’s on Main Street for a great Greek salad with dolmas.

8. If you like it, buy it. Don’t forget that wineries host these lavish events in order to sell wine. Admission, at this point, is often but things aren’t likely to stay that way if consumers don’t reciprocate by buying the wine at the discounted rates available. ‘Nough said.

9. If you choose not to buy, jot down some tasting notes on that winery for future reference. This will help you plan in future years, and help you to remember which wine to buy the next time you’re out to dinner.

10. Sign up for mailing lists. This is a great way to help extend your wine weekend into the future. Wineries often give deep discounts to club members, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about upcoming events. Also, many Walla Walla wineries, by tradition, keep their vintages small and sell to list members first. This means list members are often the only ones with the chance to buy certain wines. Membership is often free, and it’s a great investment at that price.