Great Wine & Rich History
An itinerary with recommendations from Cameron Kontos, Owner & Winemaker at Kontos Cellars
This itinerary was a part of WWander Walla Walla Valley Wine in the fall of 2019.
Welcome to the Walla Walla Valley! This region is filled with great wine and a rich history. As 6th generation residents in Walla Walla, with 7th generation children, the Kontos family has been part of it all – the first bank in the Northwest Territories, the first railroad in the area, 3 generations of wheat farming, and now 2 generations of winemaking. The focus of this itinerary is all about celebrating the history in Walla Walla.
Start your day with a reservation for breakfast at Maple Counter Café, where the Nagler family brings three generations of restaurant experience to the table, as well as great breakfast food. Fill up and grab some coffee to get ready for a day of exploring Walla Walla and tasting wine!
For your first winery stop, make a reservation at L’Ecole N° 41 for a tasting. If you drove into town from the west, you’ve passed this classic Walla Walla winery, housed in an old schoolhouse. While you are tasting, check out my cousin Ryan Campbell’s art on their original label.
Next, walk over to Woodward Canyon and ask them about how far back their family goes in Walla Walla. It is possible you will talk to Terry Farley, who worked for my dad at Fort Walla Walla Cellars for several years. Don’t forget to make a tasting appointment!
As you make your way back into town, stop in for a tasting appointment at REININGER Winery, and learn about their long local history. Chuck Reininger & his wife founded the winery in 1997, and he has a great understanding of the geological history of the Walla Walla Valley, which provides the foundation of the great terroir and wine here.
To delve further into the history of Walla Walla, there are a couple great museums that you can choose from – Whitman Mission National Historic Site and Fort Walla Walla Museum. Our family came to Walla Walla via Dorsey S. Baker, who moved here in 1858 from Portland, and played a pivotal role in establishing the railroad from the Wallula Gap to Walla Walla. There is a train engine at Ft. Walla Walla that is the original one that Dorsey Baker used on the Rawhide Railroad that he built.
Head downtown for lunch at YAMAS Greek Eatery, located on 1st Avenue. They serve great Greek dishes. With Kontos family roots in Greece, it is a fitting spot to grab a bite before heading over to the winery.
After lunch, make an appointment and visit us at Kontos Cellars to try the wines. Feel free to email or call to see if I can be there to take care of you. At Kontos Cellars, you will taste through our lineup, focused on Walla Walla Valley grown wines.
Next, walk down to another seven-generation Walla Wallan family’s winery – Spring Valley Vineyard for a tasting appointment on their patio. When you walk out of our tasting room, take a right and you’ll be there. You’ll find the names of their family ancestors on the bottles of wines you taste.
After you are finished tasting, I recommend taking a stroll through downtown. You can walk by Baker Boyer Bank , which was founded bymy Great Great Great Grandpa Baker. Afterwards, walk down Main Street to Whitman College, taking in all the historic, original buildings of Downtown Walla Walla along the way. Make sure you take the time to meander around the Whitman College campus as well – it has beautiful buildings and grounds. The school was founded in 1859.
Finish off the day with dinner Walla Walla Steak Company & Crossbuck Brewing, which is housed in an over century old train depot. There you will find original tiles, chalkboards and even a train car outside. Whether you are in the mood for an upscale steakhouse lunch or a burger and beer on the more laid back Crossbuck Brewing side of the restaurant, you won’t be disappointed.
Disclaimer: Please note that currently most Walla Walla Valley wineries are recommending that guests reservations to ensure social distancing and the best wine experience. Browse wineries and make reservations here.