A Drive Through Southeast Washington's Wine Country

These days, it’s not the wine causing all the buzz in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. It’s the new crop of creative, farm-fresh food.

From Walla Walla, we took a half-hour drive north along Highway 12, past rolling wheat fields sprinkled with white clapboard farmhouses, and arrived in Waitsburg around dinnertime. The three-block strip lined with towering oaks and 19th-century brick buildings is all Norman Rockwell charm. True to its small-town vibe, the locals were tremendously friendly, although, curiously, many recommended a place with a decidedly un-small-town-sounding name: the Jimgermanbar, a spare, low-lit lounge in the center of Waitsburg. The food menu was handwritten on two rolls of butcher paper mounted on the white-washed walls. Owner Jim German specializes in classic cocktails, yet he's more than happy to make the standards. But it's more fun to give him a starting point (Campari, for instance, or Oregon's own Aviation Gin) and let him work his magic. Believe me: You'll sleep like a baby afterward.

Day 3

Waitsburg to Dayton, Wash.
10 miles
Waking up to sheets of rain the next morning, it was tempting to stay put inside. But we weren't about to let a little vintage Northwest weather keep us from Monteillet Fromagerie down the road.

The cheese shop is set on a 32-acre ranch (farmstays are also available), and when we drove up, the herds were being watched by a trio of enormous, snowy-white Great Pyrenees guard dogs. Inside the tasting room, Joan and Pierre-Louis greeted us warmly and began unwrapping some samples. Like Brandon, the aspiring dentist turned vintner, the Monteillets took a roundabout route to their profession. They spent 20 years working a 2,000-acre wheat farm that Joan's family owned in the area, then purchased their own plot of land and began experimenting with making cheese. Their Cardabelle Chèvre oozed a creamy, molten river when we cut into the rind. My favorite, Le Roi Noir, was a soft-ripened chèvre dusted with edible flakes of pure gold—just the right amount of bling for this laid-back scene.


The Tastes of Walla Walla

The Maxwell House
701 Boyer Ave., Walla Walla, Wash.
doubles from $160


Petits Noirs
622 S. Main St., Milton-Freewater, Ore.
chocolates from $2

Brasserie Four
4 E. Main St., Walla Walla, Wash.
entrees from $10

La Monarca
901 W. Rose St., Walla Walla, Wash.
tacos from $5.50

119 Main St., Waitsburg, Wash.
small plates from $4


Gramercy Cellars
1825 JB George Rd., Walla Walla, Wash.
free tastings


Walla Walla Valley Farmers' Market
4th and Main St., Walla Walla, Wash.

Salumiere Cesario
20 N. 2nd Ave., Walla Walla, Wash.

Monteillet Fromagerie
109 Ward Rd., Dayton, Wash.

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