Walla Walla Valley: a tale of two sides of a valley

By on August 16, 2015
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Casey McClellan of Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla, Wash., also planted McClellan Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley in 2003. The vineyard is L.I.V.E. and Salmon-Safe, and it produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Casey McClellan of Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla, Wash., planted McClellan Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley in 2003. The vineyard is L.I.V.E. and Salmon-Safe, and it produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

It is quite easily the most famous wine region in Washington – and one of the least-known wine regions in Oregon.

The Walla Walla Valley has captured national fame and international acclaim for its top-shelf wineries, starting with the two oldest: Leonetti Cellar and Woodward Canyon Winery. Since Woodward Canyon launched in 1981, more than 100 wineries now operate in the valley.

The Walla Walla Valley is relatively cool compared with other areas of the Columbia Valley (particularly Red Mountain, the Wahluke Slope and the Horse Heaven Hills), and the region has a relatively small amount of vineyard acreage.

Perhaps surprisingly, more than half of the vines are planted on the Oregon side of the valley. Seven Hills Vineyard, planted in the 1980s, was among the first, and others have followed. Not far away is The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, the first American Viticultural Area within the Walla Walla Valley (and entirely in Oregon).

Because of the fame of other Oregon wine regions, few think of the Walla Walla Valley in terms of being in Oregon. The Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton and the massive Willamette Valley all come to mind while talking about Oregon wine. The Walla Walla Valley is not top of mind, perhaps because most of the acreage on the Oregon side is owned by winery owners on the Washington side.

That is slowly changing, and with Willamette Valley Vineyards recently purchasing land in SeVein (a development that includes Seven Hills (east) Vineyard), the perception could well improve more quickly.

Here are several Walla Walla Valley wines we’ve tasted recently in our blind judgings. Click the arrow to move through and read them.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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