PART II: Walla-Walla or the Yakima Valley
1. When traveling, what kind of natives would you most like to encounter:
a) Artsy college-town types
b) Salt-of-the-earth folk
2. Who is more your style of leading actress?
a) Gwyneth Paltrow: Smart and sophisticated
b) Francis McDormand: Wise and down to earth
3. What kind of digs do you dig most?
a) A historic hotel, a plush inn or a bed-and-breakfast
b) Who cares? It's all about the wine for me!
4. What kind of footwear best fits your overall sense of style?
a) Strappy high heels or polished dress shoes
b) Rugged hiking boots or sensible walking shoes
5. Wine varieties that interest you most include:
a) I've got my eye on reds -- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah
b) Whatever the winery does best -- red or white
If you answered "a" to most of the questions, you'll likely prefer Walla Walla, the state's most popular wine region; boutiques, restaurants and wine bars jam the revitalized downtown of this energetic college community. You can stay in the ornate circa-1928 Marcus Whitman Hotel after a day of touring among the region's 100 wineries and 1,200 acres of vineyards. Red wines snag the most acclaim, with bold Syrahs especially emerging as the wine to watch. Outdoor lovers can hike or bike the Blue Mountains, 20 miles east of town.
If you answered "b" to most questions, consider a trip to Yakima Valley, home to 11,000 vineyard acres and nearly 80 wineries. Specializing in Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, most of wineries hug a 60-mile stretch of interstate from Yakima to just past Prosser, and include well-known Hogue Cellars as well as boutique wineries and family- run operations. Though responsible for growing more than one-third of the state's grapes, the hardworking area is not known for quaint wine-country amenities and charms. However, the city of Yakima is just 30 minutes from hiking, camping and kayaking opportunities in the Cascade Mountain Range, allowing travelers to easily combine outdoor pursuits with wine-country discoveries in one trip.