The fun in Walla Walla, Washington’s quintessential wine-tasting destination, begins in its historic downtown. There, you’ll find about 30 tasting rooms interspersed among shops, cafés and restaurants, many in century-old brick buildings. Among these, Rotie Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery and Browne Family Vineyards stand out as highlights. But you can barely walk a block without passing another spot to sample. Then, when you’re ready for wine tasting among Walla Walla’s vineyards, head south to J.B. George Road, home to Amavi Cellars (pictured above), Pepper Bridge, Va Piano and others. Or head west toward Lowden, where the highlights include Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole No. 41, the area’s second and third modern wineries. Both date back to the early 1980s.

Local trivia: Gary Figgins established Walla Walla’s first modern winery, Leonetti Cellar, in 1977. The brand is now part of Figgins Family Wine Estates, led by Gary’s son Chris Figgins. Unfortunately, Leonetti does not offer a publicly accessible tasting room.

Beyond wineries

The opening of two restaurants in downtown’s renovated train depot, following a massive renovation, re-energized the area’s dining scene. Of these, Walla Walla Steak Co. offers a dark, intimate setting. Meanwhile, its sister establishment, Crossbuck Brewing, is bright and casual, as a brewpub should be. Among downtown’s most-respected restaurants, Passatempo Taverna (rustic Italian), Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen (southern European/northern African) and Brasserie Four (French) bring international influences to the table. The area is also home to Whitman College, Walla Walla University and a community college. And, befitting a college town, several casual options are available in and around downtown.

Eritage Resort, which opened last summer on a 300-acre vineyard and wheat farm north of downtown, brought an element of exclusivity to the area’s lodging scene. It offers 10 rooms, with 10 villas under construction along its manmade lake. Meanwhile, other options range from the historic (Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center) to the romantic (Cameo Heights Mansion) to the serviceable (a few national brands are represented). You can also find attractive options on Air B&B and VRBO.

Walla Walla is about 270 miles southeast of Seattle and 250 miles east of Portland. Alaska Airlines serves Walla Walla Regional Airport (ALW) with flights from Seattle. Also: Alaska waives baggage fees for mileage-plan members for up to one case of wine, and offers other benefits, in select wine regions, including Walla Walla. Alaska and Delta Airlines both serve Tri-Cities Airport (PSC), about 50 miles west of Walla Walla. Map it.

Photo: Courtesy of Pepper Bridge Winery.