Northstar winery

Guests sample wine and await their meal at the Harvest Dinner at Northstar winery in September 2017.

Sunset Magazine has dubbed Walla Walla the best “Wine Town” in its 2018 Travel Awards.

The lifestyle resource for living, dining, drinking, traveling and entertaining across the country’s 13 Western states, plus Canada and Mexico, announced its annual awards today on Sunset.com.

The 2018 Travel Awards: 44 Best Travel Destinations & Gear of the Year recognition continues to fortify Walla Walla’s position in the upper echelon of wine destinations worldwide, according to Visit Walla Walla PR firm DVA Advertising & Public Relations.

“This is something we’ve been working on for quite a while,” said Ron Williams, executive director of destination marketing organization Visit Walla Walla. “We believe in Walla Walla, and we’re super excited Sunset has recognized us with this honor.”

The community will be included in the August issue of the magazine.

“Widely known for its wheat and sweet onions, Walla Walla is also gaining recognition for its 120 wineries and tasting rooms, many of which occupy restored early-20th century buildings,” the piece said of Walla Walla. “Show up at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen on any night of the week, and you may find it filled with young winemakers ­behind some of the best Cabernets and Syrahs in the country.

“Chefs have followed the grapes, and the combination has energized this once-­sleepy community. The introduction of nearby Eritage Resort — a 10-room refuge slated to open this summer, with lakeside villas to come — is bound to seal the deal.”

Each year, Sunset’s Travel Awards showcase must-stop places and experiences in lodging, dining, cultural tourism, outdoor adventure and other categories.

Its array of categories include Best Beach Town, Best Hotel/Resort for Families, Best Luxry Camping and Best Girlfriends Getaway Destination/Spa.

To be considered for an award category, participants must complete an entry with location information, questions about excellence in respective categories and no more than 10 photos representing the entry. A fee to participate is also assessed and for this year’s awards was $300 or $400, depending on the timeline of entry.

Winners are selected by the editorial staff based on relevance to the Sunset audience (50 percent); newsworthiness (20 percent), uniqueness (20 percent), aesthetic appeal (5 percent), and convenience and feasibility (5 percent). More than 100 entrants were reviewed for the awards.

The entry emphasized Walla Walla as the unofficial capital of Washington wine country, with more than 120 wineries, a nationally recognized culinary scene, and outdoor recreation, art, history and a deeply rooted agricultural industry.

Among the highlights noted in Visit Walla Walla’s application: the opening of Eritage Resort & Restaurant, which officially made its debut last Friday; the new Barn B&B under construction off Stovall Road; renovation of the former Red Lion Inn; the opening of La Quinta Inn & Suites; the completion of the new Doubleback flagship headquarters and launch of the Bledsoe Family Winery label; the openings of new wineries, including Baron’s Winery and Armstrong Family Winery, and the addition of The Saint & The Sinner; and the upcoming opening of Walla Walla Steak Co. and Crossbuck Brewing.

Walla Walla had been a runner-up in the Best Food Town category during the Sunset Travel Awards in both 2015 and 2016.

Williams said the popularity and reputations of other towns that qualify in the category make this year’s win a “tremendous honor.”

“This award is one to be shared and celebrated by the very people — from the wineries, winemakers and growers, to the restaurateurs, retailers and residents — who make Walla Walla such a vibrant community and who truly made it possible,” he said in a prepared statement.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.