A Quest for Excellence

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“As a graduate and former instructor at Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology and Viticulture, I love to see when dreams come to reality. This itinerary is full of wineries started by my students, and I couldn’t be more proud of their success.”


If you are looking for a unique place to stay, I recommend The GG. Within walking distance of downtown, they offer artfully themed rooms and fantastic food. The GG is a premier destination for travelers who appreciate a life well lived.

8:00 AM: Start your day at the classic Walla Walla breakfast haunt, Bacon & Eggs. They boast locavore breakfasts, morning cocktails, a wall of hot sauce and Victrola espresso. And they have the best biscuits and gravy I have ever had! BAKED IN A BUTTER BATH, their biscuits are crunchy outside and soft on the inside – be sure to add an egg on top.

10:00 AM: Now it’s time to head out to the L’Ecole N° 41 School House and start your tour! We are one of the original wineries in Walla Walla, third in fact, and celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. As one of the most decorated wineries in the Valley, we strive to stay at the forefront of sustainable farming and handcraft quality wines that start in the vineyard. I was an intern at L’Ecole No 41 then after a few years making wine in Woodinville and instructing at the Walla Walla Community College, I returned as winemaker. Reservations are recommended.

11:30 AM: For your next stop, make a reservation at Smoky Rose Cellars. They source every grape from the Walla Walla Valley AVA and its close-knit community of grape growers. Owner, winemaker Josh Roznowski graduated from the Enology & Viticulture (EV) program and along with his wife, Jodi, and sister, Amy, they craft great reds, whites and bubbles. The old-world winemaking techniques are alive and well at their charming tasting room & winery. Reservations are recommended.

12:30 PM: After your first two wineries, head back to town for lunch at the storied Green Lantern Tavern. “The Green” is the preferred meeting place for many a thirsty winemaker, Whitman College students and well, pretty much every Walla Wallan. It’s a casual hangout with cold beer, a multi-season patio, and consistently good food. The fries are a must with sides of both fry sauce & ranch.

2:00 PM: Time to head downtown to Moonbase Cellars. Owner, winemaker Drew Pauk along with his wife Laine proudly showcase wine made from premier vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley including multiple sites within the coveted Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA. Drew paid attention in class, and it shows in his wines. His connections in the Valley have landed Moonbase some excellent fruit, and he is making outstanding wines. Reservations are recommended.

3:30 PM: For the day’s final tasting(s), explore the Airport Incubators. Established in 2000, the Port of Walla Walla founded this project to provide new winemakers with a low-cost location to start and build their businesses. All five of the incubators are filled with EV program alumni, and all express their own styles. Try Carménère and Orange wine with Brad Binko at Eternal Wines, there’s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at Golden Ridge Cellars with Michael & Cindy Rasch and two different Semillons at itä wines with Kelsey Albro Itämeri. Robert Gomez at Hoquetus Wine Co is crafting Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Nouveau-style wines and don’t miss a visit with Fiona Mak at SMAK Wines to sample a rosé for every season.

5:30 PM: Because it takes a lot of good beer to make good wine, finish your day at one of the local airport breweries Burwood Brewing or  Quirk Brewing for a cold one before heading back downtown for dinner.

7:30 PM: Be sure to stop into one of my favorite dinner spots, Crossbuck Brewing. Located at the gateway to downtown Walla Walla in the old train depot, it offers great beer, food and since it shares the location with sister restaurant Walla Walla Steak Co., you can order from both menus!

Extra Credit Visits to Current Students & Alumni

I also love to taste what the students are up to at the EV Program. At College Cellars of Walla Walla they showcase student-grown and made wine. The school crafts a broad range of different wines and styles, from sparkling to port, there is something for everyone. You can also meet the students that run the tasting room. Reservations are recommended.

Located across the Oregon border, Ducleaux Cellars is a “garagiste” family-owned winery making prodigious wines from their estate vineyard Belle Roche and others. Led by one of the Valley’s few woman winemakers, Toby Turlay, and husband, Chris Dukelow, are so much fun to hang out with! If you can sample the pét-nats, DO IT, and their blends are fantastic! Reservations are recommended.

Wander with Marcus Rafanelli 1