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Walla Walla wows with fine wine and beautiful views

Walla Walla offers abundant wineries and stunning scenery. An example of both is Walla Walla Vintners. Photo courtesy of Visit Walla Walla

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Walla Walla means "many waters," but these days, the charming Eastern Washington town is better known for its many wines.

The once-sleepy town of 32,000 is drawing winos - er, tourists - from far afield. The New York Times has taken note. Some say it's poised to become the next Napa Valley, in fact. But at the moment, it's still a lot smaller and more reasonably priced.

If wineries are its biggest attraction, though, Walla Walla also boasts acclaimed restaurants and beautiful scenery - and it's a great place for bicycling and golf, among other recreational activities.

Herewith, a guide to some of the niceties of what locals call "the town so nice they named it twice."

On visits to Walla Walla, if you talk to other tourists, you learn two things: Many are from Western Washington, and many if not most are there because they enjoy wine.

You don't have to wait till you arrive in town to start tasting, as you'll drive by several wineries on the outskirts. A great place to start sipping is L'Ecole No. 41 (, the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley. L'Ecole has a long history of award-winning wines and critical raves, and the winery occupies a 1915 schoolhouse.

Walla Walla is pretty much surrounded by wineries and filled with tasting rooms. Even the airport doubles as a sort of winery mall, with more than 20 options within walking distance.

Equally rich in reds and whites and more picturesque is Walla Walla's downtown.

A simple way to dive into the range offerings is simply to wander through the charming downtown, which has so many tasting rooms that you could easily overindulge within a single block. Focus your self-guided tour along Main Street and Second Avenue, and pace yourself.

A fun downtown stop, whether or not you like wine, is the charming Studio 202 (, a gallery/tasting room showcasing wines by Ardor Cellars - whose 2012 Stoney Vine Syrah was named number-one syrah in the state by Seattle Met magazine - and Alleromb, which focuses on showcasing the terroir of its wines, plus art by a rotating lineup of locals.

If you haven't had enough yet - or on another day - take a short drive east of the city to College Cellars (, the winery of the Walla Walla Community College's Center for Enology and Viticulture. There are some great values, and the students staffing the tasting room have lots of information to share.

A bit further east is Walla Walla Vintners (, named 2016 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest. Located just west of downtown, the winery is in a lovely rustic setting against the backdrop of the Blue Mountains.

So popular is wine in Walla Walla that the area's premier golf course is named for the town's favorite beverage. Wine Valley Golf Club ( was number five on Golf Magazine's list of "Best New Golf Courses in the Country" and number two on GolfWeek's list of "Courses You Can Play in Washington."

Walla Walla is a great place for cycling - with challenging rides in the Blue Mountains and leisurely ones on rural farm roads and paved trails - and is known as a paradise for birders in the spring and fall.

And the town has of late become nearly as famous for its restaurants as for its wineries. Among the many fine-dining options are Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (, lauded for its Eastern Mediterranean fusion cuisine, and the much-hyped Passatempo Taverna (, which offers seasonal Italian fare and a celebrated cocktail selection.

For breakfast, Bacon and Eggs ( has generous portions of classics and Mexican favorites. And for lunch, Cugini Italian Import Foods ( is reasonably priced, quick and delicious.

Visit Walla Walla Visitors Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily, April-November; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday-Sunday, December-April, 26 E. Main St., Walla Walla, 509.525.8799,

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