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Walla Walla, Wash.

The Walla Walla Valley is a place where scenic beauty, incredible wineries, enticing restaurants and small town charm come together to create an experience you’ll want to share again and again -- especially with your four-legged friend. 
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photos by Julie Austin
As we roll into Walla Walla, Washington, I’m excited to see what the region has to offer a new visitor like me. Yes, it’s my first visit to Walla Walla and I can’t wait to embark on our food, wine and Fido-friendly adventure!

Our first order of business is to check-in to our digs at the lovely and dog-friendly Marcus Whitman Hotel. Built as a labor of love by the community in 1928, the 133-room Marcus Whitman—named in honor of an early missionary who helped establish the region—was and still is one of Walla Walla’s most popular gathering places, with a fine dining restaurant, four tasting rooms, an art gallery, conference center and even an outdoor, grassy play area for your pooch, complete with potty station. The rooms are nothing to sniff at either, with plush beds (including one for Fido), comfy down pillows, premium linens, a 40-inch flatscreen TV and free WiFi.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Walla Walla, the Marcus Whitman is within walking distance to more than 20 wine tasting rooms, but today we are headed to the Airport Region. The Walla Walla Valley is divided into six regions, each home to dozens of wineries; hence the name, the Airport Region is located near the airport and is our first stop for the day, starting with Dunham Cellars.

In just over three decades, the Walla Walla Valley has emerged as one of the the premier wine destinations of the world—and one of the first on the scene was Dunham. In fact, when Dunham’s first vintage, a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon was released, it was deemed one of the finest wines made in Washington by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. CityDog Magazine’s favorite (of course) is Dunham’s delicious Three Legged Red, which features “tri-pawd” Port on the label. Another favorite is Four Legged White, featuring winery dog Maysy. Speaking of Maysy (Port has since passed), she and fellow winery dog Sadie greet us upon arrival. At 12 years old, Maysy is the matron of the two, so she hangs with us while we sample wine and Sadie, Thya and Ziggy play chase on the beautiful grounds.

Next, we mosey over to Adamant Cellars, also located in the Airport Region. Established in 2006, Adamant’s winemaker and owners, Devin and Debra Stinger, are passionate about and dedicated to crafting outstanding wines—and once we start tasting, this could not be more true.

Before our next wine tasting, it’s time to get some food in our bellies, so we swing by Olive Marketplace & Cafe, located in downtown Walla Walla. The place is hopping for lunch, so we grab our sandwiches to go—a Turkey Club with smoked bacon, fontina, tomato, greens, avocado and basil aioli on seeded wheat bread and the Italian Salami with fontina cheese, pepperoncini, tomato and lettuce on a french roll. In addition to delicious sandwiches, Olive offers a menu of salads, pizzas, pastas and more plus cheeses from across the Valley, prime cuts of meat, hand-crafted sausage and savory cured salumi as well as fresh-baked cakes, pies and other sweet treats and an espresso bar serving locally roasted coffee from Walla Walla Roastery (which is located next door to Dunham Cellars, by the way).

With lunch in hand, we head to Va Piano Vineyards (“va piano” means “go slow” in Italian), located in the Southside Region, where the bulk of the vineyards are located. The estate is gorgeous, with a Tuscan style tasting room, surrounded by lush vineyards—and best of all, there’s a picnic table on the perfectly manicured lawn! Winery dogs Duke, a four-year-old Australian shepherd and Lucy, a two-year-old border collie mix, join us for some sunbathing while we enjoy our sandwiches. Sated, we step inside the tasting room (where dogs are also welcome) and start with a delicous Sauvignon Blanc.

Next, we move on to Saviah Cellars, where winemaker and owner Richard Funk is there to give us a tour followed by wine tasting. As we’re enjoying a fine Tempranillo, Rich tells us about a nearby vineyard where a feral dog has lived, year-round, all alone, for two years. Farm workers feed him, but he keeps his distance, not trusting humans. We’re more than curious, so we hop in Rich’s truck and head to the vineyard, and sure enough, there he is (pictured above at the top of the page)! We toss him some treats and lo’ and behold, find out he doesn’t have a name—in two years, no one has named him, so we name him Hank.

With Hank on our minds and in our hearts, we head to our final winery of the day, Bergevin Lane, where we are met by founding partner Annette Bergevin, tasting room manager Julie Myrick, and winery dogs Paco, Fergie and Cody—it’s a pawty! Paco has quite the personality—a big-dog-trapped-in-a-little-dog-body personality, to be exact. Chihuahua-rat terrier mix, he is clearly the boss. Cody on the other hand is a little dog trapped in a big dog body. Part German shepherd, part border collie, six-year-old Cody is a shy girl, but luckily she tolerates us taking her picture. Min-pin/Chihuahua mix Fergie is the baby of the bunch, perfectly happy to be held the entire time in Annette’s arms.

We hate to leave a party, but we don’t leave empty handed. With a bottle of Calico Red in hand (a tasty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot), we head to dinner at local favorite Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, which turns out to be one of the most amazing meals I’ve had in a long time. Owners Chris and Island Ainsworth and their Rhodesian ridgeback Elvis are there to greet us and as soon as we are seated, Island starts bringing us delectable dish after delectable dish. She’s created a special tasting menu for us, starting with lamb and beef tartar, followed by octopus, grilled asparagus salad, beef cheeks, orecchiette and roasted lamb, each paired with a delicious wine (my favorite is the Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé ). Of course, a dinner like this is not complete without dessert and Island presents us with housemade strawberry cream cheese ice cream and a flourless chocolate torte.

The next morning, we explore nearby Bennington Lake. Bennington is the perfect place for people and pooches to enjoy the great outdoors without having to get out of town. The area includes more than 20 miles of trails through open grasslands and wooded areas set against the backdrop of the Blue Mountains. It also includes Rooks Park, an 18-acre park with picnic tables, playground, volleyball court, horseshoe pit, BBQ grills and more—best of all, dogs are welcome at the lake, in the park and on the trails, but be sure to pick up a map at the US Army Corps of Engineers Mill Creek Office (3211 Reservoir Road) to find the designated on-leash and off-leash areas.

On our way back to town, we swing by Wags to Whiskers, Walla Walla’s premier pet store, where we load up on dog treats from the bulk treat bar. While Thya and Ziggy enjoy their treats in the car, we sneak off to Brasserie Four—as soon as we walk through the door of this fine French restaurant, we know we are in for a treat of our own. We start with escargots in garlic butter, Assiette de Fromage (a selection of imported cheeses) and Caesar salad, followed by Steak Frites (hanger steak with fries and cognac black pepper cream sauce). Stuffed, the waitress still manages to talk us into dessert—chocolate mousse with a dollop of creme freshe. Oh my! It’s worth noting that while the restaurant’s interior is not dog friendly, the lovely outside patio is and well behaved dogs are definitely welcome.

This was my first visit to Walla Walla, but it’s not my last. From the incredible service and accommodations at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, to the amazing winemakers who shared their wine with us, to the wonderful restaurateurs who showcased their food, Walla Walla is definitely a dog, wine and food lover’s destination! 

To see more photos from our visit to Walla Walla, click here.

More Information
Marcus Whitman Hotel
6 West Rose Street, Walla Walla
Rates start at $140; $35 per pet fee

Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen
125 West Alder Street, Walla Walla

Dunham Cellars
150 East Boeing Avenue, Walla Walla

Adamant Cellars
525 East Cessna Avenue, Walla Walla

Olive Marketplace & Cafe
21 East Main Street, Walla Walla

Va Piano Vineyards
1793 JB George Road, Walla Walla

Saviah Cellars
1979 JB George Road, Walla Walla

Bergevin Lane Vineyards
1215 West Poplar Street, Walla Walla

Brasserie Four
4 East Main Street, Walla Walla

Wags to Whiskers
301 East Main Street, Walla Walla

Bennington Lake
3211 Reservoir Road, Walla Walla
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