Visit: Walla Walla Valley & the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater

Where obsessions take root.

Visit: Walla Walla Valley & the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater

Where obsessions take root.

By Margot Bigg

While the Walla Walla Valley AVA shares its name with a town in Washington, about a third of its area — and almost half of its grapes — are actually located in Oregon. To get a full sense of the appellation, you’ll need to visit both sides: bustling Walla Walla, Wash., and the agricultural powerhouse of Milton-Freewater, Ore.

State outline of Oregon with the Walla Walla Valley highlighted
Downtown Walla Walla Photo by Richard Duval

Start your Walla Walla trip with a visit to Vital Wines, a nonprofit that supports the well-being of area vineyard and winery workers, pro-viding substantial funding to a local bilingual free clinic. Occupying an old schoolhouse, L’Ecole No. 41 offers visitors the chance to taste its Cabs, Merlots and Syrahs in what once served as a local classroom. Keeping with the education theme, head over to College Cellars to sample wines made by students of Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology and Viticulture. Alternatively, become a student yourself by signing up for a DIY blending experience at Northstar Winery — you’ll even get to bottle, cork and design a label for your creation. Just down the road, Caprio Cellars offers free food-and-wine tastings in a hilltop tasting room overlooking an estate vineyard, while nearby Yellowhawk is the only winery in Walla Walla to focus exclusively on the bubbly stuff, which you can sample in your own poolside cabana, weather permitting.

On the Oregon side of the border, Rotie Cellars’ Rocks Estate pours Syrahs and Syrah blends inspired by France’s Rhône Valley, while Zerba Cellars offers smooth reds and whites along with the occasional port-style dessert wine. If you’re in the mood for beer, Dragon’s Gate Brewery crafts a variety of boozy Belgian-style ales at a 10-acre estate.

The Rotie Rocks Estate
Dusted Valley

In the heart of downtown Walla Walla, Brasserie Four offers a Parisian-bistro experience, serving up French classics such as beef bourguignon and bouillabaisse, along with cheese plates, charcuterie and even escargot. For a quick picnic, Graze whips up massive made-to-order sandwiches and salads at both its drive-thru and downtown Walla Walla locations. Passatempo Taverna is a great option for dinner, with handmade pasta dishes that rely on locally sourced ingredients — pair your dinner with a glass of house wine on tap. Save room for one of the many creative flavor combinations at Pine Cone Creamery, Walla Walla’s own small-batch ice cream shop.

In Milton-Freewater, local favorite Patty’s Mexican Restaurant serves up fresh barbacoa tacos. For something sweet, check out Petits Noirs, where you’ll find everything from nougat and hot cocoa to chocolates designed specifically to be paired with wine.


If you like history, you’re in the right place. You can learn more about what life was like in this rural part of the Northwest with a trip to Frazier Farmstead Museum, which preserves the history of the area in a beautifully maintained 1892 farmhouse. Then pop over to Fort Walla Walla Museum, which showcases 17 pioneer-era buildings and thousands of artifacts. The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is worth visiting for Oregon Trail buffs; news of an 1847 massacre that took place here was a catalyst for the establishment of the Oregon Territory. In the mood for something more active? You’ll find over 715 miles of hiking and biking trails in the nearby Umatilla National Forest.


Smack in the middle of downtown Walla Walla, the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel is the best-known place to stay, featuring classically furnished rooms in the city’s tallest building. If your tastes run more contemporary, head over to The FINCH to find bright, modern rooms in a refurbished motor hotel. If you’d prefer something a bit more bucolic, there are plenty of great options on the outskirts of town. Open seasonally, from spring through early autumn, The Barn B&B is an intimate option, with just seven suites, each with its own private Zen garden and outdoor shower. Eritage Resort is a sleek alternative, with spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the surrounding countryside. The Inn at Abeja is another good option, offering a hodgepodge of individually deco-rated suites and cottages on a small working winery.

WINE TRAILS Downtown Walla Walla

There’s so much to see and do in this world-class wine destination, but don’t be overwhelmed. Start with a walking tour of Main Street, where you’ll find close to a dozen boutique tasting rooms, and ask the friendly winemakers where their favorites are in town. Most are within a few miles’ drive of downtown, in the country-side amidst the town’s famous rolling wheat fields. Don’t miss Foundry Vineyards’ sculpture garden and art exhibitions paired with wines made from fruit sourced throughout the state. Also taste the 100% estate-grown blends at Plumb Cellars wine bar, with its flagship award-winning Bordeaux-style blend, Damn Straight.

This article appears in the 2023-24 Oregon Wine Touring Guide. Order your free copy today.